Elsa Wilson, ILR BS '06
Elsa is Senior at the ILR School. Now a fluent speaker in Japanese, Elsa traces the origins of her affair with the language to the Cornell Falcon program when she spent a whole year studying in Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan.
It was a very challenging experience especially at such a young age. Elsa says that it tough adjusting to her new environment – both academically and socially. But as she began to familiarize herself with the language and her surroundings, she was better able to integrate herself both at high school and with her host family. Elsa took an active part in athletic events and was in fact transferred out of the track team since she was faster than then men’s team!
Elsa pursued this interest in Japan on her return to the US through the Cornell Japanese program. In the fall of her junior year, Elsa attended Stanford’s Kyoto Center for Japanese Study. It was an intense program, during which she took up two classes in Japanese, one in economic and one in history.
Looking back on her international experiences she feels that it has broadened her sense of cultural awareness. Japanese culture being the antithesis of the US culture allowed her to experience some the challenges of living in a society consumed with expectations on appearance, behavior and conduct.
From an 18 year old teenager in the US with all the freedom and ability to make your own decisions, to being a student at Yatushiro City high school in Japan, Elsa recalls the lively debates with her host family about cultural differences the way of life of a teenager in the US as opposed to the expectations of a Japanese teenager.
Her international experience has definitely made an impact on Elsa. She believes that she is a lot more patient in communicating with students whose native language is not English. This comes from the difficulty that she experienced in Japan as she tried to gain fluency over the language. She also has a greater admiration of students who leave their home country and everything that has been familiar to them in order to pursue higher education in a completely unfamiliar setting in another country such as the USA or the UK.
Looking ahead Elsa sees herself perhaps spending a couple of years in her career in Japan. But she knows she’s always going to be coming back to the USA – there aren’t any pick up trucks or country music in Japan to keep her there!
- Elsa Wilson