Student wins award for essays at Oxford

Mikaleh Offerman, News Editor

“Did you know that ‘pants’ actually refers to underwear in England? I did, but I made the mistake of telling some British friends that when I Skype my parents and they’re cold, they’re usually wearing pants,” OBU senior and English major Elyse Kusakabe said.

She spent her 2016 spring semester at Oxford University, and in addition to the subtle culture awareness she gained, Kusakabe recently found out that three essays she wrote during her time abroad received the de Jager prize.

Courtesy Photo

“I simply submitted my essays as part of my coursework, hoping and praying that they weren’t too terrible,” Kusakabe said. “A few months later, I was notified that they had won.”

The essays were originally written for the British Culture course she took at Oxford.

“The first was on the character of Robin Hood, particularly on what made him attractive to audiences in every century,” she said. “I wrote the second on the poet William Wordsworth’s transformation of perceptions of the British landscape. And the third, fittingly, discussed the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century, and how poetry helped spread Anglo-Catholic ideals.”

Kusabake chose her topics from a list provided by the class.

“The last essay that I wrote for this course was actually the most difficult,” she said. “It seemed as if I didn’t have enough sources to make a good argument.”

Although the topics were provided, she faced many challenges to writing.

“I actually spent over ten hours sitting on the same couch as I worked on the essay,” Kusakabe said. “And I also came as close as I ever have to a panic attack.”

For Kusakabe, every essay posed a challenge.

“I constantly struggled with feelings of inadequacy, especially since the Oxford essay-writing process is so independent,” she said. “I always felt as if there were more research I should have done, more revisions I should have made and more time I should have spent in contemplation.”

Because of this, Kusakabe said she was surprised that she had won.

“I couldn’t believe that ten hours on a couch had actually worked, in a weird way,” she said. “I was so sure that my essays were terrible, if not mediocre, but I couldn’t be more shocked or pleased.”

Kusakabe was challenged in more than just her essay writing.

“I always tell people that it was the best time of my life, but it was also the worst,” she said. “I spent so much time researching, writing, traveling, procrastinating and developing a caffeine addiction. I was constantly sleep deprived, cold and stressed.”

Despite the difficulties, Kusakabe said that she is grateful for her time at Oxford.

“But I was also constantly amazed, warmed, and comforted,” she said. “It seemed so surreal while I was there, walking in the living history of the medieval city of Oxford. And it hasn’t grown any less surreal in my memory.”

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