Naomi Leweck’s favorite study topic as a psychology major is empathy.
“We live in the global age,” Leweck said. “ If you don’t know anything about other people you can’t feel for them. If something is completely foreign, you can’t relate. Political, social and economic issues can be solved through empathy.”
Originally from Germany, Leweck is a product of the global age: her mother, Kazuko Hayashi Leweck, is Japanese, and her father, Klaus- Juergen Leweck, is German. While they may be from opposites sides of the globe, one locale links this family together: The University of Southern Mississippi.
Leweck’s parents studied at Southern Miss in 1980. Her dad was a marine biology major and her mother was a student at the English Language Institute. They married and moved to Germany, where Naomi grew up. When she decided to go to college in the U.S., her parents encouraged her to attend Southern Miss.
She said they were happy she chose to go to college where they have so many great memories together.
“My parents met here at an international student event,” Leweck said. “The students were cooking a meal together and they were both assigned to wash vegetables.”
Travel is a passion of Leweck’s; she has travelled to more than 10 countries, including Spain, Austria, Poland, Brazil, Great Britain and Norway. She is fluent in German, English and Japanese.
After spending 10 months in a Texas high school exchange program, she knew she wanted to continue her education in America.
“I love the American mentality. You live in the moment and are very openly welcoming,” Leweck said. “It’s easy to make the first step in here. Germans are a little more reserved when it comes to strangers.”
She has also travelled across America; from Los Angeles to New York and many cities in between. But she fell in love with Southern culture.
“People are very polite here, very Southern,” she said. “I still have to get used to the way people speak though, the twang is different and sometimes hard to understand.”
This is Leweck’s first semester at Southern Miss. She transferred from a community college in the same town as her exchange program. She said it’s been a great experience so far.
“I went back to square one, didn’t know anything about Hattiesburg,” she said. “Everyone is really helpful. The classes are a little harder, which I like. The downtown area is beautiful.”
Her future plans seem natural for someone with such a diverse background: She wants to continue her studies in graduate school and focus on multicultural and social psychology.
“Psychology is the study of the mind,” she said. “Cultural influences can change the way minds work. Values are changed due to your culture. The way you interpret things from your environment changes depending on the culture.”
Leweck has made many friends through international student events, much like her parents did 30 years ago. They plan to visit her soon, and are excited to stroll through the campus that started it all.
“They are very eager to visit,” Leweck said. “It brings back so many memories.”