University of Hamburg
"I ended up here by accident," Andrea Clausen said when asked why she chose Smith College. Until one of her professors at the University of Hamburg recommended that she apply to Smith, Andrea initially did not plan to study abroad, let alone want to. After high school, Andrea spent some time in Canada and had planned to stay in Germany after high school thinking, "this is enough [study abroad] for now." From the start, Smith has been "a bucketful of surprises" for Andrea. After being accepted into the American Studies Diploma (AMS) program, Andrea did not even realize that Smith was an all-women's college until she researched it online from her home in Husum, Germany. Nevertheless, she has felt welcomed here and is happy that she landed at Smith, as "everyone makes a great effort to make the transition as easy as possible," Andrea says smiling.
Once she gets out of "the Smith bubble" and takes a bus to Amherst or to the mall however, Andrea gets a different taste of "the real United States," where she feels like more of a stranger. Smith already feels like home to Andrea, but when she experiences the U.S. at large, Andrea does not feel like the individual is really recognized since the country is so big, as compared to Germany where she feels more a part of the community. Furthermore, Andrea says that in Germany it is "easier for her to judge whether someone is being friendly or unfriendly." Most of the time she does not think of the U.S. and Germany as having very many differences, as they are both industrialized nations; however, every time she gets on the bus and leaves Smith to experience the general U.S.-American society, she notices the differences.
Andrea's friends were worried that she would become "prude" by living in the U.S. for the school year. "Prude" people—the common stereotype that Germans have of Americans in the U.S.—go to church every Sunday, they don't believe in same before marriage, and they never take their clothes off in public. But for Andrea, "a lot of these things were disproved during convocation." Along with the stereotype of U.S.-Americans being prude, Andrea says that it really changed her "being in a community where it is all of the sudden ok to be religious." In Germany religion is not something that people really talk about, whereas here religion and going to church is more popular and accepted among young people. Another stereotype that holds true for Andrea is how sweet all of the food and drinks are here: "a lot of things are very, very sweet here…and they're sweet in Germany, but even sweeter here." (The thing Andrea misses most about Germany is the bread.) Andrea's main interest of study at Smith is graphic literature—not the superhero kind. As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words, and for Andrea, the world of graphic literature contains many messages. But like her coming to Smith, Andrea came across graphic literature by accident when a friend recommended a cool class in the subject. While Andrea likes writing short stories, she does not feel like she understands the art of graphic literature enough to attempt writing or illustrating her own graphic novel.
After graduating from Smith's American Diploma Studies program, Andrea will work for a comic publisher in Berlin this summer until October. Then she will return to Hamburg University to finish her final semester and thesis of her undergraduate studies. For now, Andrea will hopefully enjoy her life here at Smith, along with the other surprises that it may have to offer.
By Katie Paulson-Smith '14, Global STRIDE Fellow
As part of the Global STRIDE fellowship, the fellows interviewed and profiled international students in the college's graduate program in American Studies, to help familiarize them with people who have made cultural transitions.