The Global Stride program
allows to apply their stipends
toward study-abroad costs or intensive language programs.
As part of the Global Stride scholarship, 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.
The Gate will
publish their profiles in an occasional series.
Katie Paulson-Smith '14, Global Stride Fellow
Andrea Clausen GR, American
Studies Diploma program
“I ended up here by accident,” said
Andrea Clausen when asked why she chose Smith. 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. Andrea had spent some time
in Canada after high school, and planned to stay in Germany
afterward. "This is enough [study abroad] for now,” she
thought at the time.
When she was accepted for Smith’s American Studies
Diploma (AMS) program, Andrea did not realize that Smith
was an all-women’s college until she researched it online
from her home in Husum, Germany. From the start, she says,
Smith has been “a bucketful of surprises.” Nevertheless,
she has felt welcomed here and is happy that she landed at
Smith. “Everyone makes a great effort to make the transition
as easy as possible,” Andrea says, smiling. Whenever 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,” she says, in which she feels like a
Smith feels like home to Andrea.
But when she considers the U.S. as a whole, Andrea does not
feel that people are recognized as individuals, because the
country is so big compared to Germany, where she feels part
of the community. Furthermore, in Germany it is “easier for her to judge whether
someone is being friendly or unfriendly,” she notes. Most
of the time she does not think of the U.S. and Germany as
having many differences, both being modern, industrialized
nations. However, every time she gets on the bus and leaves
Smith to experience general American society, she notices
Andrea’s friends in Germany were worried
before she left for the U.S. that she might become a “prude” here. “Prude” is
a stereotype among some Germans, describing Americans’ behaviors
of going to church on Sundays, sexual conservatism and public
modesty about their bodies. But for Andrea, “a lot of these
things were disproved during convocation.”
Andrea also welcomes the atmosphere
in the U.S. of “being in a community where
it is all of the sudden okay to be religious.” In Germany, she says, religion
is not something people talk about openly, whereas here religion and going to
church is more popular and accepted among young people.
One American stereotype
that holds true, though, 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.)
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 on 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 plans to work for a comic publisher
in Berlin next summer. Then she will return to the University of Hamburg to finish
her final semester and thesis of her undergraduate studies.
For now, Andrea will
remain ready for more surprises at Smith.