Exchange student: Shamim Motori, Berlin
Name: Shamim Motori
Home institution: Berlin School of Economics and Law / Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, class of 2020
Period at Mount Holyoke: fall 2018
Why did you choose Mount Holyoke? I came to Mount Holyoke to continue my studies in economics. A friend of mine in Berlin pushed me, insisting that I get out of my comfort zone and study abroad. I didn’t want to leave a place I knew and a life I felt safe in, but I saw that Mount Holyoke was a serious school where I could deepen my knowledge. Also, it looked a bit enchanting, like Hogwarts, so I came.
When I arrived, the German studies department recruited me to be a language assistant after the person who had been hired backed out at the last minute. I enjoyed teaching so much and did well. Now I am considering teaching as a career.
How did Mount Holyoke differ from your previous college experience? In my economic classes in Berlin we mostly studied theory and structures, but at Mount Holyoke, we often studied economics through the lens of current events. I wanted to learn how to write essays and grapple with different points of view, and discover my own beliefs about pressing issues.
My classes here also introduced me to behavioral economics, concepts we did not study at my home institution, and I learned about the interplay of human decision-making and economic outcomes. I also had the opportunity to look at the European economics from a U.S. point of view and understand how citizens from other countries might view those of us who live in Europe.
Were you surprised by anything at Mount Holyoke? My first day I was in the bathroom in my dorm and another student complimented me on my skirt. I was so surprised that someone, a stranger, would be that kind and friendly. On my third day, I asked a student how to get to the gym, and she took the time to escort me there from Blanchard. Kindnesses like these happened over and over again. I felt that Mount Holyoke was a community, a family that took care of one another and was genuinely happy to do so.
How has your perspective changed? The community taught me that being an individual is something quite special. It is okay for me to care about myself — to take time to understand who I am and what I want to do with my life. I will finish my economics studies in Germany, but I will also return home open-minded about possibly pursuing teaching. I don’t have to rigidly set myself down a path. It’s okay to change.
Have you made any lasting friendships with students or faculty? Yes! A great story — Early on I was feeling overwhelmed in one of my classes and reached out randomly on Moodle to another student. I didn’t know who she was or anything about her. It turns out that she will be an exchange student at my school in Berlin in spring 2019. I am Persian and she is Russian, and we’ve become best friends, helping one another throughout the fall semester. Now I am helping her find a flat. I’m so excited she’ll be close.
I’ve loved meeting students from other cultures here, through groups and events. Berlin is perhaps the most international city in Europe, but I feel like I have had more interaction with more people from different cultures here. It has made me want to get out and see the world. Before coming here, I preferred staying home.
Would you recommend this experience to future exchange students? Yes. I plan to write a report urging others to attend Mount Holyoke. I will tell them how they can develop here, away from busy distractions, and concentrate on themselves within a supportive community. They should come, be themselves and let Mount Holyoke happen for them.