Emma Visser | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages

Emma Visser

Emma Visser

Class year: 
Potsdam, NY
St. Lawrence Orchestra, Research Assistant in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Lab, Biology Teaching Assistant

I grew up in the heart of the North Country splashing in the Raquette River in the summers, collecting sap for maple syrup in the fall and playing ice hockey with my siblings on that very same river. My mom taught me sign language before I could speak, which jumpstarted my journey. However, it was when our family moved to Braunschweig, Germany on sabbatical when I was 9 that I became aware of my passion for language. It was the immersion that allowed me to make meaningful connections and to attain fluency. After a taste, I couldn’t give it up. Our family hosted multiple foreign exchange students after coming back to the US. I eagerly returned to Germany to study during my sophomore year of high school. While there, I joined an orchestra in Berlin, playing my violin. After much practice, I was selected to join the group of musicians to perform in Argentina. As much as I relished this experience, I encountered a sense of lost opportunity when I could not communicate with the locals.

As I finished up high school, I continued to become more aware of how important language is to me. I searched for a university that would encompass my interests in science, language and music. Although I wanted to be farther than 15 minutes from home, I could not find a place that offered a program in neuroscience, a high caliber orchestra as well as rigorous abroad opportunities. I knew from experience that I learn about other cultures best by immersing myself. While other schools did provide the opportunity to pursue my interests for science and music, my decision to attend St. Lawrence rests on its presence off-campus: around the world.

St. Lawrence has provided me with abroad experiences that have enriched my life and shaped my goals. As a neuroscience major, I wanted to test my career choice with a real world experience in the healthcare field. The St. Lawrence Kenya Program expanded my understanding of healthcare to a more global perspective. Both inside and outside of the classroom, this program confirmed my enthusiasm for my chosen field.

As my undergraduate studies progressed, I began to see the important connection between language and healthcare. I decided to prioritize Spanish. In spite of studying French in high school and learning German, I had doubts about my ability to acquire Spanish. The prospect of participating in St. Lawrence’s Spain Program spurred me on. Through the support and dedication of my professors in Spanish, I became conversant during these four short years. With their encouragement, and despite my reservations about succeeding in university coursework completely in Spanish, the work paid off. My experience in the Spain Program was life changing. Once again I was given the tools (language skills) to see the world from a new perspective. I fell in love with the Spanish way of life through their people, music and food.

Both of these experiences have allowed me to affirm and narrow my goals. As a senior, I plan to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience, ideally in a Spanish speaking country. Learning about healthcare delivery systems in Kenya and immersing myself in Spanish culture have opened my eyes to a wider world. I have put my Spanish skills to work in my local community through tutoring and take every chance to strike up a conversation with those I meet.  St. Lawrence opened the doors for me to explore neuroscience in the real world and learn develop not only fluency, but a passion for Spanish.