Foreign language professor leads interesting life through cultural experiences
BY ELAINE GEROU
At the age of 27 on Sept. 6, 1988, Anita Süess packed up two suit cases and left her family next to the castle in the vineyard covered town of Weinfelden, Switzerland to come to the United States. She came, not knowing anyone, to teach French at the University of Cincinnati for what was supposed to be only one year.
“I came here for just one purpose. It wasn’t my goal to live in America,” she said. “[But] I met my husband on a plane going to the University of Cincinnati.”
Süess came to earn an American Masters degree and her husband, Shailen Kaushik from India, came to assist in research at the university. Because they were both international students, they ended up bumping into each other often and eventually fell in love, which is why Süess decided to stay in America and thus teaches at Schoolcraft today.
Before coming to the states, Süess earned a bachelor of Translation and Interpretation in Switzerland, a country with four official languages: Italian, French, German and Romansch. She then earned a masters in French Literature in France. Throughout her education, she spent one semester abroad in England, one in Germany, one in Spain, one in Italy and three in France.
She said she hesitated a lot before she decided to live in the States for one year, but knew it would be a great opportunity to teach and develop her fluency in English.
“It’s a completely different world here. It is much more uniform,” Süess said. “In Switzerland, we have such defined different cultures within one country. Just because you change the language, it influences everything—the way people think, the political outlook. It makes it so interesting.”
Today, Süess is fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, French, German and Italian and speaks at least three of them every day.
Impact on Schoolcraft
Süess has been teaching here since August 2006. She teaches both French and German now, but also introduced the Italian program six years ago. Before hiring an Italian professor, Süess taught it by herself for two years.
Süess has also been taking Schoolcraft students traveling abroad for nearly a decade. This May, she is touring Eastern Europe for 12 days, visiting Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia. The cost for anyone under 23 years of age is $3,311, which includes airfare, hotels, a full-time tour director and more. To sign up or to find more information regarding payments, dates, what is included and the itinerary, visit explorica.com and search SuessKaushik-8809. For anyone who signs up before Oct. 31, $100 will be deducted from the price. Suess can also be contacted at asuess@ schoolcraft.edu.
“It was so much fun. She always had ideas of what to do and encouraged us to go out and do something in our free time rather than stay in the hotel,” said Schoolcraft student Samantha Warra who went on the 2015 trip this past summer and also took French 102 with Süess. “She made it seem like it wasn’t going to be scary at all. This was my first time spending the night outside of my house without my parents, and it was completely secure.”
In addition to providing convenient opportunities to travel, Süess also helps Schoolcraft’s international students.
“She is like a mom to me. When I was lonely here, she was guiding me through the steps I would have to go through in order to be a successful student,” said international Schoolcraft student Herman Fokou from Cameron.
Süess is now the faculty sponsor of Fokou’s new International Student Organization club.
“We couldn’t ask for more out of a faculty advisor because she knows exactly what we are going through because she went through that and was able to overcome it,” said Fokou.
Unlike most, Süess was able to experience three different weddings for her one marriage with Kaushik in 1990. They first got legally married in a Cincinnati court in July, then two months later on Sept. 1 in Switzerland and finally a traditional weeklong wedding in India in December with 500 people in attendance. Both international ceremonies were arranged strictly by hand written letters from the United States.
Then, from the births of both Süess’ son and daughter, she made a vow to only ever speak German to them.
“This is the gift I could give my kids; they could be bilingual,” she said. “Why would I not make that effort?”
Her children spoke English to their dad and at school, but also attended a German school in Bloomfield Hills. Süess didn’t even allow American TV at home until they were 12. Instead, Süess taped shows and movies in Switzerland to have them watch. She also had German audiotapes for them to listen to on car rides. This was culturally important because when her children traveled to Europe, they could relate to others.
“I wasn’t going to speak English to my kids. You can’t send a child mixed messages. It has to be one person, one language, and you have to be very strict and committed to it,” Süess said.
She saw that in families who were less strict, the children eventually gave the language up.
“It’s an effort for them to speak German. If I had let them, I would have lost the battle,” she said. “It’s amazing how they speak completely fluently like native speakers and the fact that it was only one person. I’m quite proud of my accomplishments.”
“I love to travel because of new experiences. What defines an interesting life is a lot of experiences, and at the end of my life I want to have experienced as many things as possible because I find it very enriching,” Süess said. “It’s worth the effort; it has taught me so many things. Traveling lets you peek into the lives of thousands of other people—it gives you an inside to another culture.”
Süess travels with her children to Switzerland every year to visit family. She also goes to India regularly, but not as often, and takes various trips elsewhere for fun. Thus far, she has been to almost 30 countries.
Curiosity is what drives her passion. She loves to figure out what everyday life is like in other places and often goes to their supermarkets to find out.
She adds that traveling teaches patience and flexibility while it also opens up new perspectives. Traveling to her is a time to get out of your comfort zone and discover yourself, often boosting self-esteem.
Süess leads by example and inspires others to overcome fears of traveling and the difficulties of learning foreign languages. Although she appears to be just a cute, little lady with an adorable accent, her impact on the Schoolcraft community is powerful and widespread.