University of Amsterdam
Marijn Freud is a 25-year-old student from Amsterdam, Holland and already has a master's in American studies, with her main interest in American politics. She has been to America twice before, to Chicago and St. Louis, for 10 days each. She had originally planned to travel in America for three months, but instead took this opportunity to live here for a year.
Adapting to new surroundings has been difficult for Marijn, but the transition wasn't that rough, although there were some cultural differences that were very strange to her at first. She noticed that Americans had a sense of "openness" that wasn't present in Holland. For example, in America it is relatively easy to begin a conversation with a stranger; however, she finds that it is also much harder to form a deeper connection with someone. She sometimes feels odd calling people "you" because of a linguistic difference between Dutch and English. In Dutch there is a formal "you" and an informal "you," and so sometimes she feels disrespectful calling people "you," however she then realizes she is not being disrespectful at all.
For Marijn, being older than the vast majority of students at Smith has been a challenge, as she finds she does not share the same interests with many of the younger students; however, she soon adapted and made friends, especially with the other AMS students.
Marijn says she was surprised that classes were "only one hour and 20 minutes." In Holland she usually had classes once a week for three hours. She likes Smith's classes better, though, because she says by the third hour of a class she became pretty drowsy. For Marijn, some things have remained the same: while she expected there to be some differences in class discussions, in reality they proved to be quite similar to those at home. She says that it seems like there is more work here, but in Holland the professors consider that students are living alone and working, which is "a whole other life next to" their studies. She also notes there is a lot of reading here at Smith.
Marijn does not have a clear idea of what she wants to do after this year is over. She says she's using this year in America as an "extended thinking-about-what-I-want-to-be period" and she feels like she wants "to be 100 things but at the same time none of them." She thinks right now that her ideal job would be something that combines journalism and politics, though she has not decided whether she wants to come back to live in the United States. Marijn says she will always go back to Holland because of her friends and family, however she thinks she will probably have to stay in America to have a job that lines up with her studies and her interests.
Lastly, Marijn recommends "Don't Skype too much!" She says that while Skype is necessary while studying abroad, she has noticed that people who Skype too much "aren't focused on being in the actual place and don't make a lot of connections." In Marijn's words, instead of just physically being in that space, everyone should try to actually "be there."
By Emily Paruolo '17, Global STRIDE Fellow