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   Date: 5/1/11 Bookmark and Share

A Global Perspective

Global Studies profiles of AMS students:

Julie Ramage, of Paris

Lise Smout, of Leuven, Belgium

Andrea Clausen, of Hamburg, Germany

Anne-Catherine Berrut-Marechaud, of Geneva, Switzerland

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 is publishing their profiles in an occasional series.

An Interview with AMS student Hanna Goetze, University of Hamburg

By Adrienne Horne'14, Global Stride Fellow

Hanna Goetze GR, American Studies Diploma program

Once upon a time, Hanna Goetze, a graduate student in the American Studies Diploma Program, was enjoying the scenic views and rolling hills in her small village of Sarbuettel, Germany. She appreciated the varying landscape, the cow farms speckling the country side, and the natural beauty of the willow trees. And whenever the welcomed seclusion became confining isolation, Hanna and her mother could make the one-hour drive to Hamburg and enjoy a day of shopping and concerts.

Now, on a brisk morning in Northampton, Massachusetts, Hanna finds herself sitting on the cool stone steps of Smith’s Neilson Library. Hanna has spent the past few months writing papers, bonding with fellow students, and further acquainting herself with Smith.

Channeling a blend of European chic and American trends, she fits perfectly with her surroundings. Not until her German accent bubbles a quick, “Hello, I’m Hanna!” would one suspect she was from anywhere other than Northampton.

“I thought it would be a good way to deepen my knowledge and explore different things that I could not take in Germany,” Hanna says of her decision to enroll in Smith's American Studies Program, which encourages foreign students to apply for an exchange semester here. In Germany, Hanna explains, there are many required courses in set disciplines. But here “you can mix it up. You can take film classes or something—or politics. It’s different, so that’s what I wanted to do.”

The atmosphere in American classrooms “is very different from Germany,” Hanna says. Here, “you’re more encouraged to say something in class and participate. In Germany, you can just sit there and chill and just wait until it’s all over." She laughs, then adds, "here you have to say something.”

As a result, people feel less self-conscious, and it's easier to speak up in class, she says—not what she expected at an American institution. “I thought it might be more...not ‘uptight,’ but...that you have to say super-smart things. It’s really not that way.” She laughs again.

Still, Hanna finds that there is more pressure in terms of workload. “I think here, your studies consume you more, but not in a bad way.” In Germany, she was accustomed to the European norm of taking four or five classes that each met once a week. Here, she finds that she is “constantly” reading and doing homework.

Also, there are differences in the level of student involvement on campus. Hanna has noticed that most people at Smith are involved in one or more social activity. In Germany, she notes, there are very few extra-curricular activities and social lives are kept separate from the university.

Life in America is also much different from that in Germany, she says a bit hesitantly. "America’s kind of, like, cultureless.” She quickly adds, "I don’t mean that [in a bad way]! But because it’s so young it doesn’t really have a long history. It’s kind of like: Okay, people came over here, we had to do something with the land, so we just put up some houses and established some rules, you know? And in Germany, there’s definitely more historic background.”

Certainly, there are many differences between Germany and America, the University of Hamburg and Smith. But like any other college student in the world, Hanna has been thinking a lot about the future. She hopes that the American Studies Diploma Program will not only improve her language and understanding of American culture, but also open her up to the world of networking with Smithies.

After she returns home and finishes her studies in Germany, she is required to complete an internship as part of her degree, and she is considering interior design or film. “When I’m done with everything, I have to pick a job,” Hanna laughs. She has no idea yet what that might be. "We'll see," she says, ready for any and every adventure.

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