Dana Hall alumnae take on the world

Multiple perspectives. Those are what Social Studies teacher Alexandra Seimon identifies as the root of all problem solving because “if you don’t understand the shoes that someone else is standing in, then you can’t feel their pain, and you cannot problem solve.” This is why the administration approached Ms. Seimon to become the advisor of the Global Scholars Program, a program that encourages students and faculty to broaden their view of the world. Even though this year’s sophomores are the first who can receive the Global Scholars Certificate, Dana Hall alumnae Alexis Crayton ‘13 and Sophie Hall ’13 prove that students from Dana Hall have always thought globally.

Alexis Crayton ’13 travelled to Dalian, Beijing, in January, as a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. Her interest in China began in Ms. Dao Wu’s Mandarin class and eventually grew into a major at Wellesley College, where she double majors in Chinese and Biology. According to Alexis, her course of study did not really feel like a major until she “went to the country and interacted with the people.”

Sophie in GermanySophie Hall ’13 attends Skidmore College and is continuing her studies in psychology in Germany through the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) of Freiburg. Her experience has been greatly influenced by the people of Germany, especially her roommates. She is currently living in a flat with four girls from Germany, four from Austria, and one from China. Despite coming into contact with people from various parts of the globe, Sophie explains that she is always meeting someone who has a connection to home: “It’s a small world, but it’s pretty big.”

Alexis’s days in Beijing began with a breakfast of dumplings, morning exercises, and then classes at eight o’clock. Students met for “xio ban,” small class, similar to homeroom, and then “da ban,” or big class. The program was an intensive immersion experience: students were expected to learn 50 new Mandarin characters every day and take an exam every Friday. The only day the students really got a break was on Friday,where the day ended early after exams and students presented skits that expressed everything they had learned.

The program was not all studying; Alexis said it was the people that really made her experience great. She says, “when you’re looking at a different culture, you have to keep an open mind; people’s ideas of China were not mine, and that was okay.” She explains that many of her friends experienced a great culture shock because they wanted the country to be more like the US, “but it’s not, because it’s China.”

Of course, there are always a few cultural differences, such as seeing a chapter in her textbooks titled, “How to Find a Good Spouse.” Although different from her life at Wellesley College, Alexis shares that because she was learning a language, “different things can get lost in translation,” and it was important to withhold judgments as a foreigner. Alexis will be traveling to China again this summer through a Critical Language Scholarship.

In another part of the world, Sophie finds that Germany not only has better bread and more convenient public transportation than the Unites States, but it also has a free education system. Sophie says, “I plan to get my masters and doctorate in psychology because it’s free, and Germany has a cohesive clinical and psychology program that American schools don’t have.”

In Germany, Sophie takes field trips and attends German-taught classes in European politics, literature, and economics. “My favorite class is my propaganda class because my teacher, for lack of a better word, is very German,” Sophie says with a chuckle. She begins class with “’Liebe Leute,’ or ‘dear people,’ she is very stoic, and wears all black except for bright red lipstick, but she is one of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.”

Like Alexis, Sophie says it is the people that have made her experience memorable. Not to bash American kids, but Sophie describes German students as having a “maturity and gravitas that American kids don’t get this early in life.” She also admits that this may be due to her being the youngest person in her flat.

The one advice Sophie has for studying abroad is to “just do it.” As young women, “we only have a finite time to be selfish and do exactly what we want to do.”  The rising Global Scholars at Dana Hall may find themselves following Sophie’s advice to the letter.

Photos: Alexis Crayton ’13 at the Great Wall of China, and Sophie Hall ’13 in Freiburg, Germany.

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