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Sabine Milger and Rosalin Happe

University of Hamburg, Germany

Sabine Milger and Rosalin Happe

Sabine Milger, a graduate student in the one-year American Studies (AMS) Diploma Program this year, didn't know what to expect of a women's college before coming to Smith. She and fellow AMS graduate student Rosalin Happe, both of whom graduated from the University of Hamburg, Germany, had lived abroad before, but the American college experience—and a women's college, which they hadn't seen in Germany—was very different from their undergraduate experience.

It didn't take long, after their arrival at Smith last August, to realize just how different Smith is from Hamburg.

Course load, for one thing. In Hamburg, a normal course load is eight to 10 classes at a time, but with much less work per class than at Smith, they explained.

Also, faculty-student relationships are much closer at Smith, where students are encouraged to talk directly with their professors when they need help, instead of being referred to a tutor.

Milger and Happe are both impressed with the freedom in the Smith curriculum. In Germany, after selecting a major and minor during the first year of undergraduate study, it is difficult to change, and the majority of classes are within those fields.

Both women also enjoy the community at Smith, with its lively campus life. In Hamburg, very few students live on campus.

Milger and Happe both miss aspects of home. Both students miss their friends and families, of course, but Happe is particularly reminiscent of Hamburg, her hometown. Milger, a dedicated athlete, misses her gym and weight room, as well as Hamburg University's dining halls, which are open all day and serve a variety of dishes at all times.

While at Smith, Milger aims to further her goal of being a sports and ESL [English as a Second Language] teacher. She competes on the Smith Pioneers swim team and appreciates all Smith sports, regularly watching lacrosse practice. Seeing her teammates around campus and eating meals together helps draw the team closer, she notes.

Happe's main academic focus is on American contemporary literature. Some of her favorite authors, she says, are all the rage in the American Studies Department at Hamburg: Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Powers, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Happe goes to the gym every day to practice yoga, and joined the Smithy choir. As a participant in multiple activities on campus, she appreciates the breadth of resources and opportunities, such as the gym and German language lunch tables, and the German Culture Club.

Both women hope to return to Smith after completing their AMS program. First, Happe plans to return to Hamburg next year to finish her master's degree.

And Milger? "I love Smith," she says. "I want to stay!"

By Bailey O'Connor '16, Global STRIDE Fellow