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   Date: 1/7/11 Bookmark and Share

A Global Perspective

The Global Stride program allows six first-year STRIDE fellows 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.

An Interview with AMS student Andrea Clausen, of Husum, Germany

By 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 stranger.

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 the differences.

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.)

Andrea’s 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.

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