profiles of AMS students:
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 is publishing
their profiles in an occasional series.
Annecca Smith '15, Global Stride Fellow
GR (left), and Lisa Kuzel GR, American Studies Diploma
Studying abroad requires a
lot of work, but the benefits are immeasurable—probably why
so many Smithies love it. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to
forget that foreign exchange students also visit the United
Lisa and Liesa both attend Hamburg
University in Germany but are visiting Smith this year as
exchange students in the American Studies Diploma Program.
We caught up recently about differences in schools and culture
and they offered some tips for anyone going abroad.
A bachelor’s degree in
Germany requires three years of study, but you must pre-declare
a major and minor before entering the university. In the
German university system, “your studies are a lot more your
own concern and you have to figure out how you’re organizing
[them],” explained Liesa Ruelhmann, who is here studying
to become a social sciences and English teacher.
And in Germany,
more students work multiple jobs because the school workload
allows more time, added Lisa Kuzel, who is studying American
studies and German language and literature.
and sense of college community were also quite a change for
Liesa and Lisa. In Hamburg, only about 1 percent of students
live in university housing, while most others are accustomed
to a 30- or 45-minute commute. On-campus life isn’t filled
with organizations and clubs as at Smith, so students there
have to seek out activities and groups.
are almost always asked about “culture shock,” but Lisa and
Liesa said neither of them has found it extreme. “Americans
talk more to strangers,” according to Lisa, “but you could
argue it’s not being friendlier, it’s just entrenched polite
Liesa said she’d heard that “the
difference between the East and West coasts of the United
States is bigger than between the East Coast and Germany.”
In German university-track schools,
students begin studying English in elementary school (sometimes
as early as first grade) so the language barrier for many
exchange students is not an issue.
For Smithies planning
to study abroad, Lisa and Liesa offer advice that can be
summed up as “Don’t be afraid to try new things.”
“You have to look for [activities you like],” said Liesa, and be proactive. She
added that it’s important to understand that when people laugh about something
you do or say (which will happen) it isn’t in a mean way.
A big university like
Hamburg University has its advantages, said Lisa, but it
can also be frustrating when problems occur. “The faculty and administration never know who you are,” so
you have to explain everything from the beginning every single time.
interested in studying abroad, in Hamburg or elsewhere, visit the Global Studies
Center, where the Office for International Studies is located, and stop by the
International Student Organization (ISO) to talk to some of the many international
students on campus.
And those wanting to study in
Germany might heed Liesa’s
claim: “Hamburg is the best city in Germany!”