An Interview with AMS student Louise Fudym, of the University of Paris IV-La Sorbonne

Louise Fudym, American Studies Certificate Program

Louise Fudym, American Studies Certificate Program

For Louise Fudym, who is at Smith this year as a student in the graduate American Studies Certificate Program, it is not her first study-abroad experience.

Two years ago, Louise spent a year in an immersion program at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom as a student in the Erasmus Program, the European exchange program that allows students to achieve the equivalence of a year of study in another country.

At first in the U.K., her first time immersed in English, she found the language to be the greatest obstacle. She chose English because of its importance as a world language, but immersed in the language, she discovered her love for it.

With mastery of the language came a better understanding of the culture and she began to develop friendships with local people. Very self-conscious at first, she gradually gained self-confidence, which she now brings with her to the Smith College.

Today, living in Northampton and immersed in the culture of an American liberal arts campus, Louise finds it easy to start up conversations with Americans. Her successful experience learning English has made her eager to pursue another language, Italian, this year at Smith. Added to the years of German she took in secondary school, Italian will be her fourth language.

Louise’s experiences living and studying abroad have made her aware of the importance of learning other languages. “It’s something just to touch a language because then you have a greater freedom to understand the world better,” she says, “and as you gain more awareness of the world around you, you become a global citizen.”

It’s important to view the world with an open mind, she notes, and to see the flaws in one’s own histories. “You make comparisons and you are able to be more critical of your own country and background.”

Education in the United States is an amazing experience, Louise says. She is especially sensitive to the differences between her university in France, Paris IV-La Sorbonne, and a liberal arts college like Smith.

“At Smith, there is a practical dimension in college education, [students are] more inclined to speak up in class,” she describes. “In France, you sit and listen to the teacher speak.”

Louise appreciates the rich, involved student life at Smith, with its many organizations—a rarity in France.

“We go to school, then we go home,” she says. “There isn’t much student interaction.”

There are no dormitories at Paris IV, Louise notes, and she is enjoying the house community that comes with Smith’s house-style residences. “Houses are a great way to meet people,” she says. “One of my goals is to find close friends here.”

Louise’s offers a list of advice for Smith students planning to study abroad:

  • Try your best to make new friends.
  • Hang out with native speakers.
  • Avoid staying with the same group of international students;
  • study abroad for a full year;
  • read the local news in the local language;
  • and, most importantly, practice the language a lot before leaving home. Read the language, write the language, and speak the language.