Part IV: International Education Week in the Faculty of Arts

Going Abroad with Carrie Smith

Sherilyn Trompetter - 19 November 2019

November 18-22 is International Education Week, which is celebrated in over 100 countries around the globe. During this week, we will be highlighting stories from students (and the Dean of Arts, Lesley Cormack!) who have gone abroad as part of their program in the Faculty of Arts.

All interviews conducted by Sherilyn Trompetter, Senior Officer International, Undergraduate Student Services, Faculty of Arts.

Next, we meet Carrie Smith, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies.

Hi Dr. Smith! Where did you go and what did you do?

I spent one year abroad in Freiburg (Breisgau) in Germany while in my BA program at Bard College (NY). While I did the exchange as part of a group program run out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I chose to go to the university that the rest of the group members were not attending, as it was important to me to have the most authentic experience possible. I studied Germanistik (German Studies) at the university in the fall. Because I had gained extra credits toward my degree as part of my high school IB experience, I spent the rest of the year living, traveling and experiencing German-language culture.

At what point in your academic career did you go?

I went for the 3rd year of my BA program.

Why did you go?

I had always wanted to study abroad at some point in my undergraduate education, as I knew that time spent abroad would give me not only the best possible personal experience but also look pretty good on my resume when applying for jobs or graduate school. But that was before I even intended to study German in my BA program, let alone become a professor of German! I had taken German in high school (and hated every minute of it), and a fluke in registration led me to attend a German course my first semester of studies. I met a professor whose passion for the subject was infectious, and I never ended up dropping the course as I had initially planned--the rest is history. My German, however, was quite weak (high school years spent cramming for tests and not actually learning the language) and I was frustrated by my lack of ability to express myself in the way I wanted to intellectually. Therefore, I felt that study abroad in Germany during that 3rd year was essential to my becoming fluent in the language and culturally literate.

What delighted you about your experience?

While so many things were new and exciting-the food, the people, suddenly dreaming in German-what delighted me most was my new found knowledge about myself. I was barely able to order a coffee and was terribly shy in the language. I still remember in that first week having to open up a bank account in German, and walking out of the bank feeling a sense of elation. I did it! If I can do this, I can do anything! I think that feeling is what has stuck with me to this day.

International Education Week in the Faculty of Arts Going Abroad with Carrie Smith, Chair, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Carrie Smith, Chair of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, on a trip to Italy during her Study Abroad in Germany (PHOTO: Amanda Tillstrom)

How did the experience influence you?

Well, I ended up a German professor! In all seriousness, it showed me who I was and gave me the confidence to take risks in my personal and professional life.

What surprised you when you got back home?

I was surprised by the applicability of the experience to my life at home, from the way I understood and approached differences to my confidence in navigating new situations.

What advice would you have for Arts undergrad students who are considering a study abroad option?

Don't allow yourself to be afraid and stick to what you know. If you can, extract yourself from the familiar and dive in. You will be surprised by yourself, if you are open to it!

Check out our amazing Study Abroad programs here!