It’s a fact well known to many current and former HWS students: the bonds they develop with their professors frequently last long after the grades have been assigned. Just ask Katharina Herrmann, an international exchange student from Bremen, Germany who spent the fall 2015 semester at HWS.
During her stay in Geneva, Herrmann signed up to take “Ghettoscapes,” a class taught by Associate Professor of Africana Studies Marilyn Jimenez. The course takes an in-depth look at the place of the ghetto in the American imagination, with a focus on films and literary texts that explore the imagery of the ghetto and its role in modern American society.
While attending the class, Herrmann became fascinated by the lives of Latinos in New York City. After the semester was over and Herrmann returned to Germany, the subject continued to resonate for her, and she and Jimenez began a cross-Atlantic conversation. Undaunted by a lack of source material available in Germany, Herrmann decided to do her bachelor’s degree thesis on East Harlem.
“Professor Jimenez was a great professor and we kept in contact. She sent me articles that I was not able to retrieve from Germany and was a great support in being open for questions surrounding the topic and my research question,” Herrmann says. With continuing guidance from Jimenez, Herrmann completed her thesis: “Tropicalizations in East Harlem — Community Murals, Agency, and Nuyorican Cultural Citizenship.”
Herrmann is not the only international exchange student who has been mentored by Jimenez. “I have been an adviser to several international students over my 40 years at HWS,” she says. “As an immigrant myself, I think I understand the cultural adjustments they go through.”
Like other HWS professors, Jimenez recognizes the value that international exchange students bring to an American campus. “They have always been an asset to the Colleges,” she notes, adding that though many of our students study abroad, international students allow HWS students to have sustained contact with people from other cultures on campus. Each year, HWS welcomes about 20 to 30 international exchange students representing about 10 different nations.
Jimenez says international exchange students arrive at HWS well-prepared. She says they discover that an HWS education offers small class sizes, individual attention, strong faculty engagement and areas of study and research that complement their educational experience at home. The experience helps to foster personal development.
Herrmann, whose thesis passed with flying colors, is now in a master’s degree program at Bremen University in Germany. She has not forgotten the lessons learned at HWS or the support she received from her professors here. “I have spent my academic career at three different universities and I have seldom met professors that were more enthusiastic and passionate about what they do than the professors at Hobart and William Smith,” she says.