Student experiencing Japan through prestigious scholarship

imageAn interest in Japanese culture and encouraging other students to explore the world led to Liz Kalisiak becoming the first-ever SUNY Oswego student to earn a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad.

Of the 1,276 applications last year to the Gilman program, administered by the Institute of International Education, only 392 received scholarships. The $5,000 award assists Kalisiak in her current studies at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

“Since Japan is a very expensive country, I felt that I would need all the financial assistance I could get,” said Kalisiak, a senior double major in biology and anthropology from North Tonawanda. “The Gilman scholarship seemed like one of the more promising awards available for students traveling to Japan.”

The Gilman program “is very selective and awards are partly based on a proposal that students make for a project they will complete upon returning to the U.S.,” said Katherine Quinn, a program specialist in the college’s Office of International Education and Programs.

In her proposal, Kalisiak explained that her experience could help other anthropology majors and that biology (and other science) majors were underrepresented in this program. She promised to develop promotional materials and mentoring opportunities to encourage other students to pursue Gilman and Tsukuba study-abroad opportunities.

“This has allowed me to experience the culture not only by sight and sound, but by taste, touch, and smell as well,” Kalisiak said in a recent e-mail interview. “My adventures over here, even in the short two months that I’ve been here, have really taught me to try everything possible, and try it while you can.”

The overall experience has gone “wonderfully so far,” she said. “The Japanese are very friendly and welcoming people, and I immediately felt at home here.”

SUNY Oswego usually sends four or five students every year to Tsukuba, but the college’s educational ties with Japan date back nearly 130 years. In the 1870s, the Japanese government sent Hideo Takamine to the Oswego Normal School to learn and import the “Oswego Method” of object teaching. The insights he brought back transformed and modernized Japanese education, and Takamine Street on campus honors his legacy.

“I am most interested in learning about Japanese culture while I am here, as well as the Japanese language,” Kalisiak said. “I have done extensive research on the culture over the past four or five years, and I am very anxious to apply my knowledge to a real-life situation.”

Kalisiak plans to return to the United States to study microbiology in graduate school, but she said the experience is providing lessons she will never forget.

“I have surprised myself on so many occasions by liking something I never thought I would—and this applies to every aspect about Japan,” she said. “Just try everything while you can—you never know when you’ll get another chance!”

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(Posted: Nov 17, 2004)