Foreign exchange student honored for research completed at ASU

Foreign exchange student Elisa Cardamone is seen in front of a body of water. The sun is low on the horizon and a lit-up city skyline is silhouetted in the distance behind her.

Elisa Cardamone was recently honored by the Global Undergraduate Awards for an essay she wrote while studying abroad at ASU, a paper she completed while on a flight back to her home country of Italy as COVID-19 caused students to have to adapt to virtual learning in the spring.


Plenty of students at Arizona State University go above and beyond what is expected of them in pursuing excellence through their studies, but few can come close to Elisa Cardamone's recent accomplishment.

A paper that Cardamone wrote for one of her classes through the School of International Letters and Cultures was ranked among the “Highly Commended Entrants” at the Global Undergraduate Awards. And she wrote the entire essay on a flight from New York to Rome. Cardamone, an exchange student from the University of Manchester in Manchester, England, had to relocate to her home country of Italy in the middle of the spring semester due to COVID-19.

“Such an award has given me much confidence that my work is valuable, and that applying an interdisciplinary approach to research does improve the quality of the work,” Cardamone said.

She has been writing academically in English for only about three years. “This is without any doubt a way of repaying all the efforts I made, and all the times that I have felt some kind of embarrassment or insecurity for my English.”

Cardamone’s essay investigated how the cultural and social concept of disability came to be created through various artistic forms embodied by different past societies. After Cardamone submitted her essay to her teacher, Francoise Mirguet, an associate professor of Hebrew, she took the initiative to do further research and revise her paper before submitting it to the Global Undergraduate Awards competition.

“Elisa is an extraordinary student! I think she exemplifies a true key to success: to seek opportunities to promote one's work and research, beyond what is offered in class,” Mirguet said. 

Once back in Italy, Cardamone continued to regularly attend Mirguet’s class, “Compassion: A Dialogue Between the Humanities, the Sciences, and the Arts,” via Zoom, even though it was meeting at 2 a.m. in her new time zone.

“Elisa was always there, engaged in our discussions and ready to share her thoughtful insights,” Mirguet said. “Several students reported that Elisa was for them a model of dedication and determination.”

While at ASU, Cardamone participated in a variety of academic and extracurricular activities. In addition to her studies, she also joined the Dragon Boat Club and served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for an elementary Italian class.

“Studying at ASU has undoubtedly been an essential aspect of my success in this competition,” Cardamone said. “Without the flexibility that the exchange program together with the School of International Letters and Cultures offers, I would have not been able to produce such an award-winning paper.”

Ultimately, Cardamone’s essay was ranked among the top eight entrants worldwide out of a pool of 80 submissions, and among the top three for the North America region. She is in her final year of a joint honors degree in archaeology and anthropology and plans to enter a master’s degree program in medical anthropology after graduation. 

Cardamone said that her experience at ASU, including being recognized for her research and writing, has prepared her for the next phase of her studies. 

“Sometimes as undergraduate students, we are undervalued or not considered as relevant as graduate students in terms of research,” she said. “Thus, the very existence of this type of award should make it clear that brilliant ideas can be developed even at the undergraduate level.”

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