Global Studies 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 will
publish their profiles in an occasional series.
Zoë Falk '14, Global Stride Fellow
Lise Smout GR, American
Studies Diploma program
It seems as though fate has
brought Lise Smout to Smith College. Before coming to Smith,
Lise was a student in Leuven, which is the capital of the
Flemish part of Belgium, where she wrote her master’s thesis
on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Now she is in the
place where Sylvia went to school, and she can take advantage
of the unique Smith College archives to learn more about
the woman who inspires her.
It wasn’t always apparent
that Smith and Lise were such a perfect fit. Before
her first visit to the United States, Lise, like many other
Europeans, thought America was not as culturally diverse
or interesting as Europe. “But then I was here and it was
is so much beauty in this country,” she says with a smile.
After a trip to the United States with her family in 2006,
her preconceived notions were
disproved, and she decided to apply to schools in the U.S.
so she could see more of the country that she had come to
Although she hasn’t experienced
much culture shock, she has noticed little
things that are different. For instance, meals are served
much earlier, and there is not the café culture
here that there is in Europe, which is one thing that Lise
says could help the social environment in America. Another
adjustment that she has had to make is the transition from
a co-ed college to an all-women’s college. She
was surprised, she says, because she expected
there might be a little cattiness between girls, but
found that not to be the case. Now she feels that an all-women’s
college provides a safer environment in the classroom for
women to speak their minds.
language is Dutch but she is a fluent English speaker and
can speak French and Swedish. The biggest change
she has experienced is in the educational system. Lise went
to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Catholic
University of Leuven), one
of the oldest and most prominent universities in Europe,
founded in 1425. "Students
were expected to go to classes," she says, "then
during the Christmas holidays we had three weeks to study
and then three weeks of exams." There
was very little to homework during the term, but an intense
The system was excellent for very discipined students, she
says. Hiowever, Smith “urges
you to have the discipline, and they ask you be more on top
of it,” which she thinks produces
a much lower dropout rate.
As a former student representative
for the Catholic University of Leuven, Smout is passionate
about education. She hopes to continue to speak about education,
but she knows that literature is her true calling. “Literature
is really my passion, I don’t see myself doing anything else,"
she says. "Studying
literature and doing research is what I really like to do,
and it sounds awfully boring to some people, but that is
really what I see myself doing for the rest of my life. But,
I still like to think of myself as doing more than one thing.” Lise
is also interested in components that help create
modern literature, such as pop culture and gossip, which
many scholars tend to shy away from. She believes that the
contrast is good, and that those different types of cultures
can influence each other and work together.
Lise has come a long way, from
thinking that the United States wasn’t even worth visiting
to living here and finding that she loves
it. She has come to appreciate the diversity of Smith and
loves how people appreciate the thoughts of others even when
they are very different. She is now an ideal Smithie: a woman
who loves to learn and embrace new ideas.