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.
Kaitlin Burns '15, Global Stride Fellow
Miguel Fernández Porras
GR, American Studies Diploma program
Though Miguel Fernández Porras,
a native of Córdoba, Spain, and an avid fan of table tennis,
has traveled the world and gained proficiency in three languages,
he is currently encountering entirely new territory: a women’s
Those who might wonder how a
male student could be admitted to Smith should know that
though the college educates mostly undergraduate students,
it also offers graduate programs, in American studies, teaching,
exercise and sport studies, as well as the School for Social
Work—all open to
Miguel is enrolled in Smith’s American Studies
Diploma program, which invites students here from other countries
for a year.
Miguel is no stranger to studying
abroad. He spent a year away from the University of Córdoba to study
in Anger, France, in 2007, and recently spent time in Asia.
He went from majoring in translation studies to teaching
Spanish to Chinese students in Rizhao, Shadong, China.
describes France as “quite different” from Spain, but didn’t
have as much of a “culturally shocking experience” as he
did in China. In Rizhao, a small, remote city visited by
few foreigners, “people
on the streets would ask for our signatures,” says Miguel,
us to have drinks.”
This is also not the first
time Miguel has been in the United States. After graduating
from University of Córdoba, Miguel and some of his classmates took a celebratory
trip to America, visiting cities like Washington D.C., Boston, and New York City.
Miguel finds the United States similar to Europe in its diversity. “The states
are like a lot of distinct nations and you can’t really compare Massachusetts
to Texas or California or even Northampton to Boston because they are so different.”
However, he says, there is a
major difference between the university systems of the United
States and Europe. For one thing, “school is so expensive here,” says
Miguel. “The cost of a private university in Spain, generally, isn’t even as
much as public school here.” Miguel was also surprised by the differences in
the format of classes. Most classes are lectures in Spain, but here “you are
more involved and have to work on a daily basis.”
There isn’t as much pride associated with universities in Spain either, he says. “Here
you have this community and you feel so attached to your university. You feel
so proud (and) you buy the sweatshirt that says ‘Smith College.’ In Spain, people
would laugh at you. Only Americans buy the t-shirts,” he laughs, even while wearing
a Smith College t-shirt of his own.
Miguel learned about Smith his
university, where he was a Spanish conversational partner
with several Smith exchange students in the PRESHCO program.
At Smith, he is studying Chinese,
Chinese-American relations, and his required American society
and culture class, in addition to tutoring Spanish in his
The only downside to being a
gender minority at Smith is the housing situation, he says. “I live in an apartment (because) I am a guy
and we are not allowed to stay in houses,” Miguel says, envious of his fellow
(female) American Studies grad students who live in picturesque on-campus houses.
Next year, Miguel plans to apply
to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduate program,
possibly focusing on film studies. First, he must decide
on his thesis research focus—either relations between the United States and China,
or the depiction of Hispanics in film.
Miguel offers this advice to
Smith students considering studying abroad: “Studying abroad
is not all about studying. The best part about it is discovering
new people, new culture, different tastes, and different
ways of seeing things. Try to immerse yourself in the culture
and learn something new… And fall in love, the best tip is
to fall in love!"