Yuanyuan “Sheena” Liu AMS ’12, from China, is a current student in the American Studies (AMS) program at Smith College. The highly competitive one-year program is open only to international students and is designed primarily for those who plan to teach some aspect of American culture or institutions.
Sheena spends many hours in the Sophia Smith Collection and Yale Divinity School’s special collections researching Smith’s early relationship with Ginling College, the first university to grant bachelor’s degrees to female students in China. This “sister college relationship” between Smith and Ginling is what inspired Sheena to come to Smith. In addition to having access to the school’s archives, Sheena wanted to “experience life at a women’s college.”
In addition to inspiring a fellow AMS student to create a documentary film based on her research, Sheena will present her findings in her AMS diploma thesis, Ginling: Empowerment and Challenge. Her thesis explores how, in early 20th Century China, learning the English language empowered Ginling girls in breaking gender stereotypes while also challenging their identities as virtuous Chinese women.
Sheena’s AMS project will also allow her to complete her PhD program at Beijing Foreign Studies University. As soon as she graduates from Smith’s AMS program in May, Sheena will return to her university in Beijing to defend her dissertation and earn her PhD.
Sheena earned her undergraduate degree in English Language & Literature from Yantai University and, after completing her PhD program, hopes to find a teaching position in China. She would like to teach English language, the comparative linguistics of English and Chinese, or the theory behind teaching the English language in China.
On top of the many hours spent researching the Smith/Ginling relationship for her thesis, Sheena has taken Smith courses in gender psychology and American society and culture. She is also working with the International Advancement office doing research and planning for the office’s upcoming trip to China. She also loves Paradise Pond and has found the time to make friends on campus. Sheena enjoys Smith’s “tightly connected community and professors who are always willing to help in making a young woman’s dream come true.”
When asked if she’d like to share anything with international alumnae, Sheena said, “Once a Smithie always a Smithie!” She looks forward to a relationship with alumnae where they’ll act as role models and “big sisters” for soon-to-graduate students, and hopes to fill the same role for future generations of Smith students.