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The College of Arts Sciences

Elena Wicker: 'I was lucky to find a field of study that I am truly passionate about'

May 23, 2016

Elena Wicker

Near Eastern studies

Ithaca, NY

What is your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?

I am a member of the Cornell Women’s Varsity Polo Team, and I think that being a student athlete has helped me to develop a number of important skills such as sportsmanship, time management, responsibility and teamwork. Playing polo has been an outlet for me to have fun and compete in a sport that I love while pursuing my degree at Cornell. The Cornell Women's Polo Team was the United States National Champions in 2015 and 2016, and I am incredibly proud of my teammates for being able to balance Cornell's intense academic environment and be successful athletes at the same time. It is an honor to have been a part of a team that has such a legacy of success at Cornell University. 

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I came to Cornell intending to major in physics and government, but in the spring semester of my freshman year I took a Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology class that changed my life. After researching archeological sites and ancient civilizations in the region, I fell in love with Near Eastern studies and couldn’t imagine studying anything else. The following summer I enrolled in the Intensive Summer Arabic Program with Munther Younes, and my Arabic studies solidified my decision to become a Near Eastern studies major. I was lucky to find a field of study that I am truly passionate about, and I have had an absolutely incredible experience in the Near Eastern studies department since then.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

I have an incredible support network at Cornell that has advised me and inspired me for the last four years. My family, friends, advisor and professors have all been instrumental in my education. My family and close family friends have been supportive and loving throughout my time at Cornell, assisting me in all of the more emotional moments and celebrating my successes. My advisor, Shawkat Toorawa, has helped me make the best decisions about my education and helped me reach for the stars, whether it was applying for my Boren Scholarship, my State Department internship or for graduate school. My professors opened my mind to new fields and new possibilities, which have inspired me to pursue a more interdisciplinary path in my education. I am thankful to all of these people, because without them, my successes would not have been possible.