Exchange student stepping into new Tiger role, literally

With children yelling and fans eagerly waiting for the next play, the tiger mascot runs across the sidelines, intensifying the already excited fans and students. Behind that costume is none other than a 16-year-old girl from Yokohama, Japan: Erii Sawada. 

Sawada is a foreign exchange student and jumped on the opportunity to come to America. “Everything is different,” Erii said. From food, to environment, to people, her senior year has flipped upside down.

Her hometown, Yokohama, is about one hour south of Tokyo by train and is one of the biggest cities in Japan. It is expansive, with buildings around every corner, Cedar Falls is a huge change for Sawada compared to Yokohama. “It’s beautiful,” Sawada said about her home. 

Sawada said she never expected to be placed in Cedar Falls, where she would later become the mascot, the face of Tiger Nation, as well as a varsity cross country runner. “The people, the nature here,” are what Sawada said she loves about living in Cedar Falls. There is no football team, mascot or cross country team in Yokohama for her to be involved in. 

Although Sawada faces many challenges in her adjustment to Cedar Falls, perhaps none is as trying as the stink of the mascot costume. “It smells so terrible, but one of the cheerleading girls gave me some perfume and now it’s better.” 

She continues to be the mascot at every home football game because, “It’s just fun.” Even though it becomes stressful for her at times, she relies on her sweet tooth for motivation when she needs a boost. “Eat a candy,” is what Sawada said she does when she starts to get overwhelmed.

Her teammates say that she is doing a great job in her new roles as the tiger mascot and cross country teammate. “She’s a ball of joy,” Ella Hertz, fellow cross country teammate, said. 

Student, mascot and runner are all things that may describe her, but they only scratch the surface of Sawada’s strength, sense of humor and bright personality. 

“Be active,” she said. “If you want to do something, then do it.”

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