ILR International Travel Grant

Eyup S Erdogan

Eyup Serdar Erdogan

MILR '18

ILR International Programs


There is a famous saying in Turkish that can be translated roughly in English as “One language is one person, two languages are two persons.” As it can be quickly inferred from the saying, learning another language not only gives you a chance to communicate in another language but also changes you by creating a concrete different personality who can see the world from a completely different perspective. Since starting my master’s program in Cornell’s ILR School as an international student, I have had my challenges to master the English language at an academic level. Despite these language challenges, I decided that I should benefit from both Cornell’s and the ILR School’s multi-cultural environment and the ability to apply a language course towards my degree and try to learn another foreign language, so I enrolled in a Spanish class for the Fall 2017 semester.
I selected Spanish because it is usually an officially recognized language in international institutions such as the European Union, the UN, the ILO, and many others. Beyond that, Spanish is the official language in 20 countries and is spoken by more than 500 million people.  Thus, I realized that learning Spanish would give me a substantial leverage in my career, especially because I have always worked in an international environment, and I plan to work in an international environment in the future.
Learning a foreign language requires a great deal of time and effort, especially in Cornell, since the language classes are exceptionally prominent and demanding. By the time I started attending the classes, I realized that I should travel to a Spanish speaking country since practicing in a native country has a significant effect on the learning process.  I was delighted to learn that the ILR International Travel Grant Program supports foreign language learning as well, so I applied to the program, and I was given the great opportunity to spend my winter break in Colombia. My experience in Colombia was great; I took additional Spanish classes, and most important of all, I had to use Spanish in the everyday life, which pushed me outside of my comfort zone and gave me a chance to practice the language significantly.
During my stay in Colombia, I also had the chance to learn about the history of Colombia and Colombian arts and culture, and I made a lot of Colombian friends. Learning a language also involves learning about a completely different culture, and living in Colombia and being a part of the life and culture was such a unique experience.  Additionally, at the end of my stay, I was very lucky to be able to fulfill a childhood dream: I visited Peru and specifically Machu Picchu, which is one of the sacred cities of Inca Civilization. Through this experience, I also had an opportunity to discover the history of South America and the life and civilization in the pre-colonialist era. 

Once again, I want to express my gratitude to the Cornell ILR School for supporting my efforts to learn Spanish.  Thanks to the ILR International Travel Grant Program, I was given the opportunity to improve my Spanish and learn a lot about South American culture, which really expanded my horizons.