First Impressions 8/6/2012
So when I arrived at Schipol (Amsterdam airport), I was a bit nervous to be honest. I really had no Idea what to expect even though I had to write a 12 page paper about the Netherlands before I left. After roaming Schipol aimlessly, I finally found Customs where I got my Passport stamped and ushered down a long hall way to the baggage pick up. After finding my suitcase I was on the move again to find my host father, Geert and brother Vince who were supposed to pick me up. Before you could say Hallo!, I was being blinded by camera flashes shot by my host father and brother. After we met and exchanged handshakes we were then heading to the car and when we got in, that when it hit me. These total strangers where making weird foreign sounds that sounded like a mix of coughing and choking. I did the classic thing; I was shaking my head yes and happily saying "ja" (ya) even though they could have been saying I was going to be sleeping with the chickens tonight. As best as I could, I kindly told them I don't understand much Dutch and you will have to act like you are speaking to a 4 year old. So much for all those hours studying Dutch, but it did come in handy to understand some Dutch words. Thankfully they spoke a little English! Form the airport we headed back to the hotel they had stayed at the night before and we had breakfast. Well to say the least, my first Dutch breakfast was a bit different. Instead of Eggs, Toast, and Bacon (thought they were all there) there was a lot more fresh breads and cheeses. It's a good thing I like them both because bread and cheese is a huge staple of Holland. (along with potatoes)
I was greeted at the door by my Dutch mom Silvia, and host sister Romy. I was served Tea and talked for 20 minutes or so. I finally got the nerve to ask if I could take a quick shower. I'm sure they were thinking "it's about time kid" because a 11 hour plane ride will do that to you! Lunch was much the same as breakfast, but for dinner we went out to a nice Greek restaurant. When we got home I forced myself up the stairs and into bed with all my cloths on. That night I slept like I've never slept before. I went to bed at 8:30 and woke up at 12 in the afternoon. Was I tired???????? NAAA!!!!!!
By the third day I arrived, the jet lag was nearly gone. Also, I had the opportunity to go out and play veotbal, or soccer with Vince and his friends. After riding my bike for what seemed like 20 miles (everyone in Holland gets around by bike. There are 3 times as many bikes as cars.) we arrived at the voetbal field. I hoped off the bike and guess what I see?????? A real castle!!!! Yeah I was a bit surprised to say the least. Playing soccer was a bit of a challenge because I didn't speak Nederlands (Dutch) yet. Thankfully sports is a universal language. It just goes to show that you should take every little opportunity that comes your way even if you might be a little scared or nervous.
In this first week I have done so much already. I went to the big city, Eindhoven and went shopping with my host sister Romy. Also we have celebrated my host brothers birthday, and tomorrow there is a Welcome Party for me and a Birthday Party for Vince because he is doing an exchange to Argentina. Well, this has been a journal entry by Rainey Basinger. Tot Ziens.
Dang does your exchange fly by! It's already been about two months but I've done so many activities with my Rotary Club and also the other inbound students. About a week after all us new inbound students or "newbies" (according to the students that arrived in January) arrived we all meet and came together in Boxtel which is actually a town in the same province I live. (Noord Brabant) The occasion? To have an introduction course to Het Nederlandse Cultuur en Taal. Conveniently named D.O.C or Dutch Orientations Course. The first day out of the week (Saturday) was filled with all us August Inbound students meeting and getting affiliated with each other. In our group, there were 21 students from 6 different countries. After having a nice lunch and getting aimless paper work filled out, we got assigned a week buddy and a week host family. My buddy was a boy from Taiwan who was called Johnson. When people would ask him his name he'd say it but then no one c ould pronounce it so he just told us to call him by the nickname Johnson. Works for me I guess... Our week host family was very kind and they ended up taking me and Johnson out the next day to go swimming and get Ice cream and just have a relaxing Sunday. Monday began bright an early. All us students were dropped off at the local school at which we would be attending for the week and started our Dutch language lessons. There where several teachers but the main one was Tanja. She was a really awesome teacher from Friesland, a province of northern Netherlands. Mind you, she was an excellent Dutch teacher for students who couldn't say a word of Dutch yet, but man did she love coffee. And when I say she loves coffee, it's an understatement I really mean addicted! When we weren't learning Dutch we were having a "Coffee Break" which was nice because it gave us students more time to associates and integrate with each other and learn about different cultur es. When the school day finished around 3 everyday the local rotary club would have something fun planned for us. Monday night we went to the town fair or Kermis which was a blast I might say! Every night, it was bit different. We did things like take a boat trip though the Canals of Den Bosch, or visit a Meusam or learn to play Field Hockey and have delicious dinner with Rotary Club Boxtel. Friday night, all us inbound students were happy to find that an official Welcome Party was thrown for us but unfortunaly Saturday morning was painstakingly hard. We had to pack up all our things and head one last time to the school in Boxtel were all our normal host families were waiting to pick us up. Before we all departed, the Rotary Club of Boxtel gave a presentation and then each one of us students got to stand up and say a couple things about ourselves in Dutch that we had learned the past week. After that was over and everyone said goodbye and gave hugs, we were all heading back to our normal homes all over the Netherlands. WHAT A WEEKEND I MIGHT SAY
I think every exchange student would agree that your first day of school is awkward to say the least. Besides being approached every ten minutes and asked "Aren't you that American kid" (and in my case, "do you have a gun in your house???"), I had to find my way to all my classes and introduce myself to all the teacher who asked me if I spoke any Dutch yet. My answer would always be "een klein beetje" or a small bit. I would love to tell everyone that I completely understand all my lessons in Dutch, but unfortunately that would be a ridicules lie. What I can say, is that every day it gets better and I learn more and more words. Thankfully, I was assigned a buddy for which would help and guide me for those first few weeks. And obviously, he does a lot of translating when I don't understand.
By the end of the first month of school, my daily routines and schooling was starting to feel normal. My host family and I were completely natural with each other and we knew what we expected of each other. I now have many good friends that I try to spend time with whenever I can. A lot of the time we do spend is when we have to bike to school together every morning for 8 kilometers. And yes, it feels as if I have to bike uphill both ways in the freezing cold snow, and the worst part is It's not even winter yet! By two and a half months in my family now communicates fully in Dutch when they talk to me. Thankfully I understand a good chunk of what they say, and when I don't I just ask; but speaking back to them is a different thing. I never thought I would get this far with my language. Honestly it's the weirdest thing ever, because I can remember when I first arrived and I could not understand anything! But now I understand so much more! It's like one day, you're just sitting in class as normal and you're listening to what people are saying and you happen to laugh along about the joke you just overheard, then all the sudden, you're like, OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I just understood something in a language completely foreign to me! THIS IS AWESOME! It just shows you that if you study and put forth you're best effort to learn, then you'll be making progress before you know it!
Every two weeks I go with my host-father to the Rotary meetings where we have a nice dinner and discussion about the issues at hand. On the weekends I'm often every busy with either the other inbound students or with one of the Rotarians taking me somewhere. A couple weeks back, the Rotex organized a weekend for all us students. We went to Goes where we got a tour of the Delta Works and other fun little activities. Obviously we also had good bonding time with all the other students. After that weekend, I was invited by one of the other Rotarians to go to a professional soccer game. It was in the city of Eindhoven, which is close to where I live. There we saw PSV (Eindhoven) play against NAC (Breda). Our team, PSV won 4-0 and now are in 2nd place in all of the Netherlands. On my upcoming week I have fall break for a week so that is kinda nice, and also so happens that Kermis (small fair) is coming to my town! So I plan to go to that this week end with another inbound stu dent. And as they say "there is so much to do with so little time" so I always try to remind myself that I shouldn't worry about home or a life that is a millions miles away because by the time your exchange is over, you'll wish it will last another year!
Well, I’m coming up on my 6 month or half year anniversary of living in the Netherlands and I got to say, it’s pretty sad. I find myself all the time contemplating how all this time in the Netherlands as an exchange student has flown by so quick. It seemed like the first two months or so where dragging along, but now as I look back, I wish all the time here and now would seem to drag on! I know I still have the best months of my exchange in front of me, but it’s quite bittersweet that it all goes so fast!
A lot has changed sense my last journal entry. For one thing, I’m not living in the same small village as I arrived in. I moved to the big city of Eindhoven (4th largest in the Netherlands I think) to be with my second host family. And again, it was bittersweet to leave my old host family because I liked them very much as well. But here’s the crazy part! When I moved to Eindhoven, I was still going to a school in another town which was a 50 minute bike there and back every day. So here’s the thing, I was biking home for my first time alone and I got lost in Eindhoven for 3.5 hours. And needless to say (though I’ll say it) my new host parent where so scared because they didn’t know what happened to me. But finally, I made it home by using some store’s telephone. And thus brings me to the point of attending a new school in my new city.
I have to say, I like my new school very much! Besides the fact that it’s a lot closer and I know the way to it, it’s a Two-Language-School, so they offer about 80% of my classes in Dutch and the other 20% in English. I made friends the first day and felt immediately more at home with my new school because all the students could speak very good English, though I am constantly practicing and bettering my Dutch.
Speaking of my Dutch, (no pun intended) it’s going really good! I feel pretty comfortable trying start a conversation with anyone. I basically got the grammar and pronunciation aspects of it down, now the only hard parts are expanding my vocabulary. I’m always asking people what a word means in English and how to say it. Before I started my exchange I was extremely cocky and thought I had an easy language to learn. HOW WRONG I WAS! And I think that rule goes for any American trying to learn a totally new language. So, if any future outbounds are reading this now, do yourself and your host country a huge favor and start practicing now. Scratch that, start practicing a month ago! You don’t know how much it will help you on your exchange. If you want a tip to learn a new language (this goes for everyone) then get a couple pads of sticky notes and post-its and label EVERYTHING inside AND outside your house with the name of it in your host language. You will be t hanking me if you do this and don’t forget to EMERSE YOURSELF in your host culture and language!
Like I said before, I have the best months of my exchange to look forward too. For one thing, the Europe Tour! It’s almost killing me that I still have to wait a couple months until we head off for it! We’re going to hit up Berlin-Germany, Prague-Czech Republic, Vienna-Austria, Venice and Rome-Italy, Barcelona-Spain, Disneyland-Paris, then back to the Netherlands! That’s what I call two weeks of madness and fun! Also, with my school, I get to go on a field trip to Brighton-England. And as they say, so much to do, so little time!
Well I just got back from my school field trip to Brighton and Canterbury England, and I got to say it was a blast! To be honest I didn’t think it was going to be that fun because we had to do a project for Global Issues, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everything was actually really fun and everyone had a great time. It was pretty nice to go to a country where everyone spoke English again haha, but it was also pretty hilarious to be able to speak Dutch and no one can understand you! Win-win Situation if you ask me!
It’s coming around that time again! A dreaded yet anticipated time! The time of which I will be going to my third and last host-family. I think it will be really sad because I really like where I am now. I have three other siblings here and the host parents are really awesome. But on the other hand, I really look forward to getting to know my new host parents better because they also seem really cool. But hey, that’s the point of an exchange. You have to adapt and get used to something just to leave it all and start the whole process over again, just hoping you do a better job this next time. But you learn to enjoy every minute of it!
These last couple of months have been just amazing! I’ve been so busy with school, friends, and of course the other inbound students that I have had almost no time to write. The last two weeks have been especially memorable. I finally went on my Europe Tour and there is absolutely no word in any language to describe the experience I had and friendships I’ve made, but I’ll do my best. 9 countries in 16 days. We left from the Netherlands and went in this order though Europe: Berlin-Germany, Prague-Czech Republic, Vienna-Austria, Venice, Lidi Di Jesolo, Florence and Rome-Italy, Lucerne-Switzerland and last but not least Paris-France. Unfortunately we didn’t go to Spain. It’s weird because you grow up your whole life learning about these huge, beautiful cites and you think you know what to expect when you arrive but when the time actually comes around, if feels so different. Almost the same feeling as when you first arrive in your new host country a nd everything feels so new and different. And that’s why it was kind of nice to feel and remember the newness of everything again.
But after I got back to the Netherlands, I was exhausted to say the least because I had stayed up late almost every night and also had to get up very early every day. But none the less I still have a End-of-the-Year School party to attend so I also went to that! But when I finally got home I slept like I did the first day I arrived in the Netherlands. Haha Now, school is finished so now I just have a month in the summer to enjoy my time in the Netherlands as an exchange student. I have a lot planned for the summer. Mainly catching up with all the other inbounds students and also my school friends. Maybe I’ll even get to see some other parts of Europe that I haven’t yet seen!
Oh yeah I almost forgot. I have moved to my third and final host family! I once again live in a small village outside Eindhoven so if I want to visit the city I must first take a bus. Other than that, I love it here also! Just like before I didn’t know what to expect, but I made the best of what I had and that’s what an exchange is all about.
Other the past ten months so much has changed in my life. Some things I can explain but others mostly not. It’s just a really weird feeling. It’s like I once living in a complete different universe with certain ideals and cultures but now I live on the other side of the universe with different ideals and cultures. Back then I thought that my countries ideals were the only correct ones, but of course that not true. They are neither correct nor incorrect just different from the ideals I live by now. And I fine with that because that was an exchange is about.
I don’t know if this will be my last journal entry or not. Probably not but still it’s better I put it all in perspective. The Netherlands is my home just as the U.S. or any other country could have been. Life is just too short to not take changes and opportunities so make the best of what you got.