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   Date: 1/7/11 Bookmark and Share

A Global Perspective

Global Studies profiles of AMS students:

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 will publish their profiles in an occasional series.

An Interview with AMS student Lise Smout, of Leuven, Belgium

By 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 amazing…there 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 love.

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.

Lise's first 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 final exam. 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.

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