Category Archives: Spring 2018 Issue XI: Every Picture Tells a Story

From the Archives: Mai 68 Beyond the Gates of Reid Hall

Within the walls of the idyllic Reid Hall, which once served as the academic center for a number of graduate and undergraduate American university groups in Paris, Smith students were busy making their year in France a memorable one. The year was 1968, and Smithies had been enriching their academic experience by participating in the Junior Year Abroad program for more than four decades. Though most likely embarked on the journey expecting to improve their French or gain first-hand appreciation for another culture,  few would have anticipated bearing witness to events which would later be printed in history books. For beyond the tranquility of Reid Hall’s picturesque courtyard, excitement and turmoil brought on by students not unlike themselves had brought the city to a standstill. Sometimes, a picture cannot convey the whole story.

On May 10, 1968, days of student unrest in Paris reached a fever pitch: an estimated 20,000 student demonstrators had accumulated at the Sorbonne (the former University of Paris). As daylight faded, something changed: rather than gathering their belongings and disbanding for the night, students gathered rocks for launching at the police and began erecting a barricade of overturned cars, a monument to their steadfast commitment to the cause. Once given permission to launch an assault, police forces set off an hours-long, brutal struggle, during which hundreds sustained injuries as “passers-by as well as demonstrators were beaten by the police.”  

Though the streets were cleared briefly, the crisis intensified. Political supporters of the movement’s leftist demands launched a march of solidarity with the students, who reoccupied the Sorbonne. Battles with police continued. Millions of workers hung up their uniforms and declared a strike. A week later, France was essentially closed down by the threat of revolution.

Twenty-five students enrolled in Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program in Paris were caught in the chaos of the revolution during the 1967-1968 academic year, a year which, according to the “Report on the Junior Year Abroad” from the Office of the Registrar, “progressed smoothly enough […] until May when the student uprisings and strikes in Paris and France caused some inconvenience but no serious danger to the group.” Though the students were first permitted to finish their exams, all were urged to leave the country via emergency transportation and funds. Students were also implored, as the report continues, “to use good judgment, caution, and restraint and were instructed not to go into the Latin Quarter,” where many riots were taking place. A letter from program director Andrée Demay takes on a tone of reassurance, stating that “[t]here is no panic whatever” and, regarding her students, that they “are not in a mood to expose themselves to danger.”

Eventually, though not until after Smith students had evacuated, the crusade presenting such danger began to lose momentum as labor strikes were gradually abandoned, students were formally evicted from the Sorbonne, and resistance to anarchist revolution diminished support among non-student groups. In a memo received by Smith President Thomas Mendenhall from the Information Service on Study Abroad, Vice President Harry Epstein acknowledges that, although “the government nearly fell as a result of the student revolt,” the effort had “pretty much run out of steam by early June.” Despite apparent defeat, perhaps amplified by the reelection of French President Charles de Gaulle, some reforms were spurred by the movement, having encouraged French society to employ introspection in reassessing itself and its values.

Posters on the walls of the Sorbonne, 1968

As the 50th anniversary of the protests approaches, we remember a bold endeavor which, according to a New York Times remembrance of the 40th anniversary, “did not aim at human perfectibility but only at imagining that life could really be different and a whole lot better.”

Although the Smith Juniors in Paris do not appear to have taken part in the protests alongside their French classmates, they bore witness to a branch of one of only a handful of truly global efforts for social change.


Junior Year Abroad Program, Smith College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Paris files 1927-, Box 1132.

Junior Year Abroad Program, Smith College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Association of Former Juniors in France records, Box 1133 and 1134.

Office of President Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, Smith College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Series III: Academic Programs, Box 2 & 4.

“Protests Mount in France.”, A&E Television Networks,

Steinfels, Peter. “Paris, May 1968: The Revolution That Never Was.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 May 2008.


Amanda Carberry ’21 is a prospective Government major with a strong interest in languages, the World War II era, international human rights, and the study of history as it relates to foreign policy today.  She hopes to travel and study abroad in the near future. She is also an avid writer, having self-published a novella, and looks forward to having the opportunity to refine her writing abilities during her years at Smith.


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Dora Bruder’s Secret

The film, Le secret de Dora Bruder (Dora Bruder’s Secret), was imagined and realised after the biographical novel, Dora Bruder, written by Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel prize for literature.  Captivated by a single image and the associated missing persons alert, Modiano documents his quest to find traces of a young Jewish girl who went missing in Paris for several months during the German occupation of France.

By Paris-Soir – Paris-Soir 31 décembre 1941, Public Domain,

The film  records the places that Modiano was able to link with the very short life of Dora Bruder. The places depicted in the film are her homes, her schools, parks where she might have spent time, and cinemas that she very likely frequented; these places are her traces and her imprints on and in Paris. During the period of time in 1941-1942, Modiano is unable to find any evidence of her existence. Since unfortunately the stories of so many young lives involved in the Holocaust tend to be intimately invaded, Modiano chose to not invent or surmise her activities or her whereabouts. In this way, Paris, and the places where she spent time during her months as a fugitive are hers and hers alone–they are her secrets that nobody, not the Gestapo, not the French government, not even her parents would know. The film is a visual interpretation of of the known places and spaces of Dora Bruder, but it is not conjecture. The film serves to depict that though this young girl died in the Holocaust, her traces on this city (Paris) will never be lost, that she is not forgotten, but also that she has right, even in death, to her privacy and to her secrets.

Translation of voice over at the end of the film taken from the narrator of  Patrick Modiano’s text:

“Saturday September 19…the city is deserted, as if to mark Dora’s absence.   Since then, the Paris where I tried to find her trace has remained as empty and silent as that day.  I walk through the empty streets. For me, they remain empty, even in the evening, at the hour of traffic jams, when people hurry toward the metro stops. I can’t help thinking of her and feeling an echo of her presence in certain neighborhoods. The other evening it was at the Gare du Nord. 

I  will remain ignorant of how she spent her days, where she hid herself, with whom she spent her time during those winter months when she first ran away and during those several weeks of spring when she disappeared a second time.

That is her secret.

 A simple and precious secret that assassins, regulations, authorities of the so-called occupation,  bureaucracy, prison, detention camps, History, and time—all that sullies and destroys—will not have been able to take away from her.”     (Translation by Janie Vanpée)

The Promenade Dora Bruder in the 18th arrondissement in Paris commemorates both Dora Bruder’s life and Patrick Modiano’s hommage to her brief, and unknown, passage through the streets of the city during the Nazi occupation.


Ray Van Huizen ’20 is a junior at Smith College who is currently abroad in Paris, France for the year. They are a double major in French and Sociology. They are interested in how theoretical and practiced sociology might be introduced to the general public through the use of film and other modern visual aids. After Smith College, Ray plans on continuing their education with a PhD program in the field of Queer Theory and Gender Studies.





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The Story Begins When He Left

One summer day, I roamed the streets of Paris and stumbled upon an art museum showcasing the art exhibit “Émigrer.” The differentiation in the spelling of immigrant caught my eye as I was accustomed to seeing the word spelled with an I ( “immigrer”), in efforts to discuss the experience of arriving to a new country. However, it was clear that the exhibition’s purpose was to emphasize the artists’ feelings regarding the experiences of departure from their home country, an experience that is often disregarded and unexplored.

I wandered through the museum observing every piece of art, and I was moved by a sculpture of a man carrying a thin suitcases. I was instantly fascinated by this piece because it highlighted the effects of transitioning to a new country through simple body language. In the sculpture, though the person is only carrying two suitcases, his posture suggests that they weigh him down. The caption for the sculpture adds a metaphorical dimension to the weight the figure carries: “Men without luggage or homes have had to lighten themselves and turn their familiar objects into memories, stories, and images.”

I could not help but envision that his story began when he left. When he opened his mind to the idea of leaving and did not look back. When he stuck all of his favorite photos and objects into a suitcase and headed for France. Initially, I had observed the physical burden of carrying suitcases but I had not considered the emotional burden of carrying memories and pieces of your heritage. The sculpture depicted an invisible baggage, an emotional versus physical burden that weighs us down in different ways.

It was this caption that struck a chord. I, myself, am a first generation immigrant, as I am the child of immigrants. My parents were born in the Dominican Republic and as a result, my life has not always followed a “typical” American trajectory as I have also been influenced by the ideals and cultural values my parents instilled in me. Seeing this picture, I could not help but think that my parents may have carried the same burden with them as they aimed to create new lives for their family in America. The sculpture in this picture tells the story of those before me and the experience of others to come. Today, I cherish this picture as it has helped me understand the complex emotional burden my parents and others emigrating have faced as they departed their home countries.


Nichole Rondon ’18 was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She is currently a senior at Smith College majoring in Psychology and French Studies. At Smith, Nichole sought out opportunities to explore minority issues on campus by writing for the school newspaper. She also did so in her overseas experiences in Kenya and France, where she promoted the issues of women and immigrants respectively. She is known as a traveler, an activist, a thinker and intersectional feminist. She is inspired by the world, its diverse people and the sudden societal push and embrace of intersectionality.

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The Eiffel Tower: A Change in Perspective

Having grown up in the suburban crossroads between farmland and strip malls that is Northern Virginia, the move to Paris was dizzying, to say the least. I entered the city a little too confident of both my French proficiency and my ability to navigate the almost mythic metropolis. It was delectably exhausting to spend nearly every day tasting rich cheeses, scuttling through labyrinths of metro stations, and marveling at renowned monuments, while I could only understand 70 percent of the language. One aspect that epitomizes Paris’s identity is its relationship to the Eiffel Tower. They are quasi synonymous for each other. It is possible to see the Iron Lady from every neighborhood in Paris, given the right elevation or angle; you don’t really have to be close to the tower to witness its bold and heavy armature crisscrossing the sky. Because of this presence, I dare say that everyone who has visited Paris has their own anecdote about the Eiffel Tower, and admittedly, one of my own favorite memories is a little stereotypical.

It’s no secret that I live for romantic comedies, so it was no surprise when, after less than a month in Paris, I told my host family that I had met a French man and that we were going on a date…to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the sommet of the tower, one of the tallest structures in Paris, was incredible—the Seine glazed by the yellow city lights; the bulbous spires of Sacré-Coeur swathed in their signature emerald green glow; and beyond the city limits, the shadowy hills of the suburbs that both seem to cradle the city center. With the September wind tousling the scarves, hair, and jackets of the tourists around me, I felt incredibly satisfied, having fulfilled the dream that American students of French desire.

Yet the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is a little disappointing, because it lacks one thing—the Eiffel Tower itself. It should be obvious, but I found it strange to see all of Paris   without its most famous landmark, the monument that reminds you that you are in Paris. It is for this reason that I prefer this photo, the one I took from below, the one that didn’t cost me 16 euros for an 81-story elevator ride. This was one of those views that surprised me as I walked through the streets in Paris—there are so many exciting things to see at ground level that I never realized I was practically next to the Eiffel Tower until the glint of steel caught my eye. Personally, I was so focused on gathering information for my Parisian architecture class and keeping my eye out for somewhere to get a snack that, when I turned the corner, I was astonished to see the Eiffel Tower hovering over me. I loved the way the graceful form of the tower was amplified by my low angle and I noticed how the perspective of the residential buildings on either side of the street echoed the tower’s triangular shape. I saw the little wisp of sky off the pinnacle of the tower, reminiscent of a flag waving in high winds, and I quickly took the picture before the clouds concealed the patch again.

At home, I worked on editing the photo. Since I wanted to highlight the juxtaposition between the buildings and the almost white sky, as well as to draw attention to the delicate and heavy angles of the tower, I chose to filter the photo with black and white. To this day, I’m pleased with the final product because the dwarfing perspective is still powerful enough to make me remember all of those times when I would be going about my day only to unintentionally turn onto the right street, look out of the right window, walk up the right hill, and be reminded that I am in Paris.



Rosemary is from Northern Virginia and transferred to Smith from a large co-ed school on Long Island. At home, Rosemary has a 5-year-old pug named Boo Radley who loves visiting Smith and romping around the gardens on Upper Elm. Rosemary spent the academic year of 2016-2017 studying at the Sorbonne through the Smith in Paris program and hopes to go to graduate school where she will specialize in Shakespeare.

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The photograph Afternoon was taken on a quintessential Parisian Sunday afternoon, where it is common to see people outdoors apparently ‘doing nothing’, though actually actively relaxing and socializing. On these typical afternoons, friends and family walk, read, and lounge around in picturesque public spaces. My friends and I were excited to engage in such an effortless activity by the Seine river; our whole study abroad experience was ahead of us. I of course had brought my camera, and the day was beautifully lit.

The group of people in the photograph struck me for multiple reasons, though when I took the picture these had not yet been resolved consciously. The first thing I registered was the visually compelling layout of objects (even their own figures), which they had curated most likely without much thought. What inspired me the most about the scene I stumbled upon was the strong barrier between them and me, on a cultural and circumstantial level; the products laid out before them were not yet familiar to me, and their gestures and concerns were foreign to me, not to mention who they even were! Recalling the moment, I did spend quite some time framing this photo, using a 35mm canon film camera, which shoots in color. As the seconds passed, I believe I became more excited and determined to materialize not just what I was witnessing with my eyes, but the entire moment, the ambiance, the concept of a Sunday afternoon in Paris. Taking this picture from a bird’s eye view allowed me to spend more time than usual figuring out the composition, as I was surely out of their view. Also related to the time factor is the fact that I was shooting in film, and would neither be able to check the shot after snapping it, nor be shooting a second picture of the same thing (this was a rule of mine I was pretty strict about back then). Once I got the film developed, I was astonished at the sharpness, the broad range of values, and the colors, these often split into light and dark by the intense afternoon sun. I had also flattened a scene which in reality was a moving scene with live figures.

Memories of time and place are vividly engrained in my mind, and seeing this picture from time to time, I recall not only aspects of that one day—the sun, the ice cream we all bought, the warm stone people sat on for hours—but of a more complete experience of France. This picture has, for me, two stories: there is the story of my life on that day, the events that lead to this moment where they caught my eye from my elevated position, and then there is their own story, which is fascinating in its unanswered questions. Who are they all, and why are they together? Why the seemingly large age differences? What brought them to the Seine today? What languages do they speak? For me, this photo evokes mystery, awe, and contemplation, as do most photographs of people.


Megan Carrera-Raleigh ’18  is a 22-year-old student at Smith College, a middle child, and a cat lover. She has studied French, Film, Art and Psychology while at Smith, and is prepared to pursue painting in the near future. She was born in Panama City, Panama, to parents from Panama and New Hampshire, USA.  As a French speaker, she was invested in deepening her understanding of the language itself through experiences abroad, in France. Paris is where she took the photograph “Afternoon”.

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Explaining the Joke

I have a weird love-hate relationship with translation jokes. On one hand, that little rift between languages makes me chuckle. I think back to myself in the old days, a clueless kid who only had half of the riddle. It reminds me of how far I’ve come as a person.

On the other hand, how good a joke is doesn’t just depend on the joke. Jokes are inherently social. Whether you’re sharing one on the internet for likes and comments or telling one to a friend, there is a certain satisfaction you glean from being able to cause laughter. Because so many of my friends are American (read: non-Chinese speakers), they don’t get why I chuckle.

All jokes are inside jokes in some capacity. They rely on some sense of community. Translation jokes like this one are only funny to people like me who have hopped between two specific languages, and that reminds me of the weird position I’m in. Instead of bridging the gap between two cultures and languages, I hang between them, suspended, never fully inside of one or the other. I am the overlap of a Venn diagram that doesn’t exist outside of me and a handful of other people. My family, families like mine, and some friends.

Once upon a time, I lived in a monolingual world. It was as long ago as any fairytale. My experience overseas hasn’t just given me another language. It has fundamentally changed the way that I think, the way that I communicate, share, even laugh. I’ve always loved words and how they connect people, but now they are much richer. I can’t even remember what it felt to live with a singular language housed in my brain. Language connects, but it also separates, sometimes even isolates.

In the past, this picture would not have made me laugh. Aside from the fact that I probably have developed a worse sense of humor than I had at nine, there’s also the fact that I have changed in a way that is not quantifiable. In a way, it’s just like a joke–when you explain it, it becomes less funny, less potent, less correct. The exact combination of words always slides out of your grip.

Even so, I try.

The translation here is funny because the Chinese isn’t meant to indicate direction. Many Chinese sentences, such as this one, end with a word that roughly means “to” in order to indicate movement or purpose. English has no equivalent.

When I first saw this sign, I laughed and snapped a picture. I barely thought about it. The thought process had become part of me. There was no purpose in that, no movement of thought. I saw the words and they clicked.

Occasionally, I remember who I used to be. A little kid who was scared of anything foreign, unwilling to assimilate into the unfamiliar world around me. A little kid who didn’t find my thoughts reflected in the new language I was learning. But I don’t think about that so much anymore.

There is a thoughtlessness in languages. In jokes. And that is part of what makes them elegant and beautiful.

Of course, that’s just part of the story.


Xiaoxiao Meng ’19 is a Comparative Literature major and a Translation Studies Concentrator.  She has spent half her life in the United States and the other half in China. This makes for a lot of terrible self-reflection on identity, culture, and the difficulty of explaining how good real soup dumplings are to American friends.




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Embracing Imperfection

When I first arrived in Germany, I immediately noticed the overwhelming number of flower shops. Around the corner, on a quiet sideway, or even in a train station, I always could find stores full of colorful and vibrant blossoms. And locals loved to decorate their homes with various flowers — especially on their balconies, which greatly beautified the street view. Those little terrace gardens seemed integrated into the traditional style of homes not only in Germany but also in other European countries, such as France and Switzerland. Tourists love to take pictures of themselves standing in front of those traditional houses with little flower boxes by the windows.

Once I had lived there longer and observed my host mother spend a great amount of time working in her mini garden on the balcony, I realized that flowers are not just decorations but an integral part of the life of local residents. After all, gardening takes a lot of time and energy: those fragile plants cannot survive without constant attention. But there is another difficulty that I considered to be more troubling: No matter how much effort you put into prolonging the life of flowers, they still die pretty quickly. The sorrow of this inevitable loss, this sense of powerlessness when watching their transient lives end, had prevented me from using any flower to decorate my own home back in Shanghai. I used only greenery to fill the open spaces of my apartment, which, although still perishable, can at least last longer than evanescent flowers.

But then, while I was in Germany, I constantly came across florists on the street, and I found it hard to move my eyes away from the pure beauty and liveliness of these blooming flowers. I finally conceded and decided to buy a few to put in my dorm room. I chose some pink roses and white daisies at first, and I felt my room immediately brighten. Every time I opened the door, the sight of my flowers brought me joy. This was the beginning of a transition in my attitude toward not only flower decoration but also something beyond that.

Later on, I added some yellow carnations, and when tulips were in season, I brought in their various colors once in a while, and even decorated the Smith Center at the university with colorful tulips. Still, I did feel sad when the flowers began to fade and finally wither away, and I pondered the meaning of blooming—“If only they knew their tragic ending from the very beginning!” I said to myself. How can they embrace their destiny and still express joy so wholly and genuinely?

I couldn’t help but reflect about myself. I realized I had the tendency to not even start something if I thought I could not do it perfectly well. This may be an extreme version of my motto as a “pessimistic optimist,” but I did adopt this perfectionist-leaning belief, which often held me back from unpredictable novel attempts. When applied to language learning, my perfectionist mindset disturbs me, as I have to admit the fact that I may never reach the same fluency as the native speakers. No matter how hard I have tried, I will always speak with a certain deficiency. I will never reach “perfection.”

Studying in Germany and using a third language was yet another endeavor to force myself to step further out of my comfort zone and “destabilize” my life. I have always believed in the meaning of destabilizing one’s regular life, and this time, it proved worthwhile as I learned to embrace the eternal imperfection of life. That is, I was forced to express myself even in a broken way. Before being in Germany, I had always faltered when it came to speaking German, since I had less time to prepare and I feared making mistakes. “I’m not ready.” I always told myself, and failed to realize that I could never be ready unless I took the first step and started speaking more freely. In Germany I began to communicate with all kinds of people and to learn how to bear the embarrassment of making mistakes and the fear of exposing my weaknesses. I thought about the courage of my fragile yet stubborn flowers and entered the uncharted wilderness of a language that is foreign to me. Once, I was afraid that when I spoke up, people would think me rather dull if I could not convey my ideas clearly or made stupid grammatical mistakes. But if I waited until I got every gender and adjective ending in German perfectly correct before starting to speak, I would never be able to voice even one single sentence. Desire to communicate won out: I learned to cast aside my worries about others’ opinions of me and clumsily began to build my German one phrase after another.

I used to ask myself, why should I start something if I could never reach perfection? By the end of my stay in Germany, I finally realized that the premise of this introspective question was wrong — and my wilted flowers knew better than I did. The purpose was never to be perfect but to start, to bloom, to step into the turbulence of life, and to give the best that one can with the gift of life.


Tianhua Zhu ’18  is currently a Senior, majoring in both Government and Linguistics. Looking at the intersection between the two majors, she is interested in the politics of language and seeks to understand the language of politics. She participated in the Smith Program in Hamburg in Spring 2017 and took advantage of the great opportunity to travel around several countries in Europe. Originally coming from Shanghai, China, she would like to accumulate more international experiences and bring together distinct perspectives echoing through the East and the West.

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Flipping Tortillas

Blanca’s kitchen sat in the back of the house overlooking her garden. It was filled with greens and root vegetables that she used for her daily cooking needs. Eggs from a local farmer sat on the counter. Peppers hung drying in the window. Fresh cheese made by a neighbor lay in the fridge. The embers of the wood-burning stove radiated warmth through the space.

In the spring of my junior year of college, I studied public health and traditional medicine in Chile. For my independent practicum, I designed a project on the relationship between occidental culture and mental health perceptions in an indigenous Mapuche community. I moved to the small town of Carahue, Chile with an Airbnb reservation, a single contact at the nearby hospital, and an advisor two hours away by bus. This was not my first time living in someone else’s home, but this was my first time entering a new place alone without anyone I knew by my side. I was a complete stranger.

To welcome me to Carahue, my Airbnb host, Blanca, told me we would make dinner together. She began to mix eggs and spinach from her backyard in a large mixing bowl. She poured it into a frying pan on the stove. The eggs bubbled. She picked up the pan and, with a flip of her wrist, she sent the Frisbee-sized omelet of egg and spinach into the air. Tortilla, she said.

After watching her for a couple of rounds, she handed me the heavy pan and said, Venga, venga. Uno, dos, tres. She exclaimed in surprise as the tortilla spun 180 degrees in the air and landed back into the pan. Una vez más. One more time. Uno, dos, tres. My beginner’s luck had disappeared. The tortilla pivoted in the air and somersaulted half onto the floor and half onto the stove. Blanca tilted her head back, opened her arms, and let out a reassuring belly laugh, a laugh that invited me to join in. She picked up the remnants of my tortilla and pieced it back together in the pan. The next time we made tortillas, Blanca handed me a smaller pan.

Tortilla-making became a biweekly tradition, paired with enjoying a bottle of Chilean red wine while sharing in our daily joys and woes. Blanca also taught me how to knit red roses and craft small felt birds and dolls from local wool. She brought me to the egg farmer and her neighbor who sold cheese. We ate fried fish at the restaurant where only the farmers ate and hiked along the shore in a neighboring town.

Our companionship may have been out of necessity or solely due to proximity, but as I became la gringa de Carahue, Blanca became my guide, my protector and my friend, mi madre chilena. Locals would often ask me, Estás acá sola? Are you here alone? Más o menos, I would reply. More or less. Then, I would tell them that I lived with a woman named Blanca.


Maya Salvio

Maya Salvio is a neuroscience major, Spanish minor, and community engagement and social change concentrator in the Class of 2018. Spring 2017, she studied public health, traditional medicine and community empowerment on an SIT program in Chile. She hopes to study psychiatric mental health nursing next year and is passionate about the need for a culturally competent healthcare system in the U.S. When she is not traveling or doing homework, you can find her with a stash of dried mango on a hike in the Pioneer Valley telling a story.

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463 Steps to Reflection

I first went to Italy five years ago with my high school Latin class. I don’t remember much of it anymore, but I do remember climbing all 463 steps to the top of Florence’s Duomo and being awestruck by the beauty of the Tuscan city below me. I had no way of knowing at the time that I was looking at the place I would call home only four years later, and I certainly didn’t know how much that trip would impact the next few years of my life.

Much to my parents’ dismay, I returned home from my ten day trip with a new goal for my upcoming college search: finding a school with the opportunity to spend a semester in Italy. I had many reasons for eventually choosing Smith, but one of the biggest selling points was the full-year program in Florence. My drive to return to Italy pushed me to study the language for the first two years of my college career. The next thing I knew, I was back at the International Terminal of the Boston airport, once again headed for Italy. However, the circumstances couldn’t have been more different. The first time, I was with some of my closest friends and many of our classmates,  setting off excitedly for the best April vacation we’d ever had. The second time, I was saying a tearful goodbye to my parents, not knowing when I’d see them again, one solo plane ride away from the adventure of a lifetime.

I don’t think it truly sunk in how far I had come in four years until I was about six months into my time abroad. One of my best friends from Smith was visiting me, and we decided to head to the top of the Duomo, a place I hadn’t visited since high school. Back then, I was too starry-eyed to take in any information about the city’s rich history. This time, I was serving as my friend’s tour guide, telling her everything I could remember about the Duomo itself and everything we were seeing in the city below us. Although the view was about the same as it had been four years prior, I was seeing it through completely different eyes. In this particular photo, I had originally only seen the beautiful red roofs that adorn the city’s skyline. However, after six months of living in Florence, I was now seeing the streets I’d walked every day for six months, my bus stop, and, if I squinted, my house. I couldn’t help but look back on the first time that I stood on that observation deck as a tourist. I was sixteen years old, still dealing with braces, low self-esteem, and all of the friendship drama that comes with high school. Only four years had passed, but it felt like a lifetime. All of my experiences, both at Smith and in Florence, had made me bolder, wiser, and more confident than the teenager who had walked those 463 steps all those years ago. As I continued to watch the sunset with my friend, gazing upon the city that I’d begun to call home, I knew that all of the choices I had made and the time I had spent in the Florence program had been worth it.

Kaity O’Neil

Kaity O’Neil is a senior from Norwell, MA, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education and Child Study. She took part in Smith’s JYA Florence program for the 2016-2017 Academic Year.



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My Walk Home

The route home was a highlight of my summer job. I love the noise of cities, but Central London during rush hour is a specific kind of organized chaos that I miss while at Smith. I was working for the British government, and was a stone’s throw away from the heart of Westminster. At 5:30 pm I would pass the Abbey, where there was always a constant queue outside, rain or shine. I would turn left and head towards Westminster, a scattering of familiar landmarks in the background. Taking this route every day, I would look up as I walked towards the train station, craning my neck and weaving through the crowd, before descending onto the platform.

The day this photo was taken, I had a slightly different routine. The persistent summer rain was heavier than usual. Huddled under my umbrella, I wasn’t able to look skywards at my normal view. I stood by the side of the road, waiting for the traffic light to change, when a sticker in my line vision caught my eye. London is covered with weird and wonderful stickers—some political, some not—especially in such close proximity to Parliament. This one stood out more than the others; its colors and its positioning were relevant to the divisive turn British politics had taken.

The one-year anniversary of the Brexit vote occurred around this time. The growing uncertainty over the reality of leaving the European Union had resulted in camps of  ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ becoming more vocal and more divided. People were frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations, with the constant barrage of press coverage, and with the politicians still talking in hypotheticals. When we embarked, no one knew what the Brexit process would look like, and one year later, we’d still had no clarification. My job for the Department for Work and Pensions was impacted by this political gridlock—although pension policies and social benefit systems are not the first things that come to mind when thinking about Brexit, I was quickly learning that leaving the EU would affect every aspect of society.

A year later, and the referendum was still splitting opinion; still generating anger; still providing a platform for not-so-fringe extremist groups. I keep myself updated with UK news when I’m at Smith, and I take an interest in following Brexit developments, yet the omnipresent cloud hanging over London upon my return from the U.S. that summer was an adjustment that I hadn’t expected. Placed at eye-level, this sticker offered a pithy retort to the divisive rhetoric to which I wish I hadn’t grown accustomed, and it made me smile. So, I took a picture, the traffic light changed, and I carried on with my journey home.


Helena ’18 is an international student from West London, UK. A Government major and History minor, she studied abroad during her Junior year in Geneva, and she hopes to continue to live and work abroad after Smith.


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My Bersih Story

“More shots.”

I felt my eyes start to sting for the first time. It was about 1pm when the Malaysian Federal Reserve Unit fired, once again, what was unmistakably tear gas. I started to see white plumes of smoke form in the distance, and I remember reaching quickly in my bag at that moment, for anything that I was told could help counteract the tear gas—salt, towels, masks, etc. It was boiling, the sun was merciless, and there was absolutely no shade. Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud noise and everyone around us started yelling and booing. Another shot of tear gas. People started to pick up and throw stones at the policemen, while others even attempted to jump the barricade, feeling emboldened because of the strength of the crowd. I looked at my father, as he grabbed my arm and said, “run.”

It was August 29th, and I was back in Malaysia for summer break. Although I was born in Singapore, I spent my entire life in Malaysia and am deeply rooted to my Malaysian upbringing. My parents would always tell me that immigrating to Malaysia was one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Furthermore, growing up in Malaysia showed me that living in harmony with a diverse range of races and faces was possible, and living in this sort of cultural kaleidoscope molded me into a very open-minded individual. I’ve always had a passionate attachment to Malaysia and although I have been studying abroad for the past few years, my loyalty to Malaysia has been and always will remain resolute. As I transition through life, I find myself asking, what can I do for my community in Malaysia? What can I bring back and how can I help?

During that summer break, I decided that I would participate in Malaysia’s 4th Bersih rally. “Bersih” in Malay loosely translates to “clean” in English. The Bersih movement was a call for clean, free and fair electoral reform in Malaysia. Over the past few years, there have been many allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian electoral system that heavily favor the ruling political party, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957. Due to this, a huge divide between the government and citizens of the country has deepened. Although the rally was a protest of the last resort, every other attempt to bring about change in Malaysia had been exhausted. There was no other method to redress the grievances Malaysians faced. The only remaining option was to exercise our right to assemble, and for that very reason I decided that I shouldn’t waste it.

The Bersih rally was a time when I truly served the community to which I am connected. Besides being given the opportunity to participate in one of the best movements of change in this country, it gave me the chance to access and participate in this public rally as a means of expressing my relationship with Malaysia. It brought me a sense of national pride as I understood that I was a part of something greater than myself, and I was honored to stand for my nation.

Around 250,000 people gathered in the city capital of Malaysia on the day of the rally. Although I think it’s great that the Bersih rally woke people up to the need for electoral reform, the event consequently resulted in the demonization of the police. I witnessed first hand the violence instigated between the police and other protesters at the rally, the majority  of which was the fault of the police. As a result, many Malaysian protesters were arrested during the rally and have died in police custody over these past months. Worse, the majority of the protesters were Malaysian youth. The police force’s ruthless tactics of firing tear gas and water cannons had placed young people’s lives in danger.

Unfortunately, there has been little change in the way elections are held in Malaysia in the aftermath of the rally, and there are still many allegations of corruption and fraud in the electoral system. However, there is hope: hundreds and thousands of Malaysians are still continuing to fight for change in the country, fighting for their voices to be heard and fighting for their voting representation. And I will join them in this fight for change. I’d readily do it again—and again and again—until we see the positive changes Malaysia needs.


Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia, Dayana believes she is the luckiest girl on this planet. As an Economics and Psychology major in the class of 2018 at Smith College, Dayana hopes to change the way social institutions predetermine failure for social groups. Having witnessed this herself, her goal is to equip individuals with the knowledge that they too are powerful and can achieve just as much as anyone else. As she transitions through life, she desires to discover more about accepting various ways and perspectives of life.


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Dr. Martens: like a Fênix

We left Rio de Janeiro to travel to Belém, then to São Paulo, to Los Angeles, and to San Francisco. We thought that, together, we would go back to Rio within three months. We never did.

An unexpected sense of freedom extended our stay. San Francisco turned into a sanctuary, an ocean in an infinite state of intensity. Our new experiences, from a Bernal Hill first kiss to a camping trip to Big Sur, brought us deep feelings we could never imagine before. Each step taken was a new self-discovery. In 2014, we got lost looking for something we could not name. We fell in love with the rainbows from Castro street.

Oh, San Francisco! We didn’t know you would treat us so well. We challenged the capitalist systems that almost kept us away from the most important explorations of our lives. We challenged the people we left behind, our família, and our own belief system. We could not go back; we had to stay.

We learned English.
We learned that intimacy with a woman is what we have wanted the most.
We found our most valuable resource: therapy.
We went to our first gay pride parade.
We worked as an assistant producer for a short film.
We took placement tests.
We signed up for real college-level classes.
We took acting classes.
We were afraid of taking a risk bigger than ourselves.
We worked hard.

We learned about sexual health education, social psychology, neuroscience, and HIV prevention. We learned how intersectionality impacts the sex-gender system. We worked as a social media manager, sex educator, and English tutor. We read Anzaldúa, Lorde, hooks. We worked for a moving company, dog sitting, and tutoring a high school kid.

We faced the ups and downs of being an activist and dedicating our life and soul to a cause we believe in. We were called white, brown, you belong, you don’t belong. We were excluded when all we wanted was to fit right in. We felt alone around many people. We felt overwhelmed by ourselves.

We achieved the unachievable. We broke the unbreakable. We graduated from a community college as the commencement speaker of our graduation. We earned a full ride to an elite American college. We were homeless, jobless, feeling-less for a whole summer. We explored the complexities of our identities. We started to understand the injustices of this world from multiple perspectives, including one of experience.

We started a new life on the East Coast. Who would have thought we would end up in New England? After questioning all of the consequences of colonization and refusing to be part of the colonizer’s legacy, we ended up in the colonizer’s land. Church, church, church, church.

Hi, Massachusetts! Within all of your amazing opportunities, we felt lost. We struggled. We cried one, two, three, uncountable times. We were scared. We are still scared. We met a lover who made us believe in the most genuine feeling that can ever exist. We got to see the leaves turn: the fall season and all of its beauty. We went biking, we explored Western Massachusetts, and sometimes we forgot that we came from Rio. From Belém. We felt the snow.

We, my pair of white converse sneakers and I, crossed a milestone. We crossed the borders of the state, of love, sex, intellectuality, and intimacy. We found the transcendental. Three months turned into three years. We never went back. We don’t want to.

Is it a new era? Is it an end to a beginning? Is it a change of the seasons?

The rain takes away, refreshes, and cleans everything in the purest way.

It’s 2018 and my steps are still an exploration. A new one. A pair of black Dr. Martens: like a fênix.


Marcela Rodrigues is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar and a Neuroscience student at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. As a sexual health educator and a human rights activist, she aims to combine science and social justice in order to create meaningful changes and a more just society to all.


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Memorias de Una Rosa

I spent the majority of my childhood in rural Guatemala, with my grandmother, my abuela Reina Sical whom I called Rosa,  as my primary caretaker.  After moving to the States, I was not able to attend her funeral.   One photo  I have of her remains a precious link that recalls memories of my beloved grandmother and sparked this narrative tribute to her.


Stefany Alicea is a sophomore at Smith College on the Pre-Med track pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. She is an active participant in the Smith community by holding leadership roles and taking part in school events. She is very excited to work start being Junior Community Health Organizer (CHO) and seeing the way she can take this opportunity to amplify students’ voices.

As a young immigrant from Guatemala,  she is concerned about the way that healthcare access affects remote places.   Her goal  is to make healthcare more accessible to vulnerable populations and to harness the knowledge she will gain from medical school and her computer science degree to help her community. She plans on visiting Guatemala in the coming years to go back to visit her family, and the place where her grandmother rests.

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