John Calhoun

Netherlands

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida
School: Winter Springs High School
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club: Casselberry, Florida
Host District: 1590
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Dronten

 

My Bio


 

Sziasztok! My name is John Calhoun, and I am voyaging to Netherlands! I am currently eighteen, and I will be spending my gap year after high school abroad. I am currently living with my mother, my older brother and my younger sister in Winter Springs, Florida. I am so thrilled to get this incredible chance to go somewhere completely outside of my sphere of knowledge with the amazing support from all the people working with RYE Florida and especially from the fantastic members of District 6980!

I look forward to delving into Netherlands culture (and food), as well as sharing my love for things like singing, acting, bass guitar and computer science! I’ve been in a chorus for seven years, I will have been in four and maybe five musicals before I depart, and I taught myself how to play the electric bass. My love for computers might seem like a bit of a weird jump from all that music, but I would not be offended if someone called me strange or different. It might be that quality that best prepares me for exchange. Who knows? I can’t wait to experience the rush of new opportunities I will have in Netherlands.

I am also excited to see a different country like no tourist ever can, mixing with the natives and assimilating into the culture instead of merely sailing through the country and seeing only the buildings rather than the people who give the country life. Thank you again to all you amazing Rotarians, Rotex, community members and relatives who made my adventure possible! I can’t wait to share my experiences with you!

Our most excellent tour guides from Kampen

Our most excellent tour guides from Kampen

Some of the exchange student group at Goes

Some of the exchange student group at Goes

A delicious Dutch breakfast

A delicious Dutch breakfast

Journals: John - Netherlands 2015-2016

  • John, outbound to Netherlands

    Hello again!
    Yes, I know that two weeks does not equal over a month, but I lose weeks here and there so I feel a little less bad about that than I probably should. It turns out that time moves by way too fast when you are on exchange. In the United States, the days and weeks crawl by. With the inexorable approach of events like Halloween and the onset of weather cooler than 25 degrees (wait… make that 77 degrees… Celsius problems) September and October seem to drag on forever.

    In this country, the thermostat drops below 60 degrees during September and never climbs above there from then on out. Also, they don’t celebrate Halloween outside of their theme park, Walibi World, so there is no anticipation for any kind of great holiday looming on October 31st. Maybe I would be more focused on the passage of time if I had to deal with a rigorous study regimen or a schedule of tests to remember, but I didn’t even know I was going to have this week off from school at the b eginning of last week.

    All in all, time is passing by as fast as I can enjoy it, which is really quite quickly. I was all ready to Skype with Lania for an informational meeting when I realized that it had happened the week previous and I had completely missed it. I was still saying I’d only been in the Netherlands for almost two months until I realized that I was about halfway to my third month already.

    It is becoming clearer to me how easy it might be to miss a year like this entirely by not participating in your host family’s life, in the events of your school or your Rotary club, or by simply not accepting any and all the opportunities that are offered to you. For instance, if I had said no to going with my Rotary club and another Rotary club from England to Friesland for a day tour, I would have missed out on meeting some wonderful people and seeing some amazing things. My reason for my almost-rejection was the people would all be older than me and I would feel out of place, but it was quite the opposite. I met and, I’d like to think, befriended a good number of the British Rotarians, who were excellent people to be around and to share my experiences with. There is nothing quite like being a Floridian touring Friesland with British people discussing all the interesting features of the Dutch. It was a truly enjoyable occasion that I almost entirely missed.

    Another great experience I was a part of was the celebration of Hug an Exchange Student Day in Utrecht. It was arranged somehow using some magic of social media, and whoever finally got everyone in the same place deserves a medal of some kind. The occasion was a great rendezvous of all three main exchange student organizations in the Netherlands: RYE, AFS and YFU. If I hadn’t already been returning to Dronten from a friend’s birthday party in Rotterdam through Utrecht, I probably wouldn’t have gone considering train costs and general time used, but fortunately for me Utrecht is directly between Rotterdam and Zwolle, an important city on the route back to Dronten.

    When we were finally united with all the other exchange students, it was an awesome experience that I might have just skimmed over without thinking twice. I got to meet people f rom Estonia, Italy, China, France and other countries I’d never seen people from before, including more people from great countries like Finland, South Africa and Argentina. We all moved in a group of different nationalities through the streets of Utrecht, getting free hugs from strangers and from each other. We even brought “Hug Me” signs that had reasonable success.

    The moral of the story… Ew. Nevermind.

    Impossibly long story a hair shorter, I am really enjoying my exchange. I have a few days when I wonder why on earth I couldn’t go to Hungary or to a more populated place like Amersfoort, where I was originally going in the Netherlands, but then I get over it because there is always something I can be doing somewhere. There is always something better to think about, and if I start blaming things on other people or just the work of the universe, that does not help anything. Thank you for teaching me valuable life lessons, League of Legends. And with that alliteration, I will bid you all goodnight. Or good afternoon to the US. Or morning in Asia. As some people say, it’s always 5:00 somewhere.
    Tot ziens!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • John, outbound to Netherlands

    Hoi, iedereen!
    So, writing a monthly journal is basically impossible. I am resolving to henceforth write more than once per month because more things have happened in this span of time than I could write a book about.

    Skimming the boring bit, I flew about 8,000 kilometers (that’s about 5,000 miles) from Orlando International Airport to Detroit to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. When I landed, I was greeted by my host family and my counsellor, who proceeded to emit that typical Dutch vibe that I didn’t understand at that point. More on that later.

    After the drive to my new home for the next three months, I failed to unpack my suitcase due to my sheer exhaustion. A day later, I packed my smaller bag to travel a bit over an hour to Meppel for my Dutch Orientation Course. There, I met a group of strangers who quickly became some of the closest friends I have ever had. It’s something about sharing such a different and incredible experience that pulls people together more than anything else. The DOC in Meppel was an amazing week, getting to learn elementary Dutch with an awesome group of people and staying with four other great exchange students at a temporary host family, the chiefest of all the things I got to do that week, was incredible.

    That introductory week over, I returned to my first long-term host family in Dronten and began the process of figuring out what living in a new family entails. First, I learned that breakfast in the Netherlands is essentially the same for almost everyone everywhere: buttered bread topped with either cheese or hagelslag, the latter simply being chocolate-sprinkles-but-totally-different-because-we-eat-them-for-breakfast. Besides that, I learned the meaning of biking everywhere when I rode for about an hour with my host brother to a golf course in a nearby town.Nearby, I said. And I also agree with that idea, because there are several nearby cities that I look forward to reaching in only fifty minutes of biking. Biking in the Netherlands is the most liberating sensation. You can get yourself anywhere as long as you have a bike and enough time.

    You also have to know whether being late is an issue, because that is the most dramatic difference between individual Dutch people. Some of them are very laid back, to the point where they are ok with anything as long as it isn’t too stupid and showing up late just means the food is laid out at the table instead of still being in the oven. Others, however, tend towards their German neighbors and expect perfect punctuality all the time everywhere, along with perfect adherence to the rules and the soundest of logic. It’s always important to know the Nederlander ahead of time before you consider a time-consuming method of transportation. That’s something of what I mean by “Dutch vibe.” The Dutch give off this feeling of being right where they want to be in the world. It’s a refreshing world view, and it’s easy to feel at ease around a Dutch person. But I digress. (Heh. I’ve always wanted to say that…)

    To make a long story dubiously shorter, I found myself in a Dutch classroom with a room full of people who speak twice as many languages as I do at least, listening to teachers speak at speeds I thought possible only at auctions. I immediately ran into two problems: everyone in my classes was considerably younger than me, and my classes were ALL SCIENCE. Natuurkunde (Physics), Scheikunde (Chemistry) and Biologie (Biolo… oh) mostly, which was distinctly not exciting for me. Thus, I talked to my school counsellor and got moved up to a higher class level to solve the age problem and into a culture track. Between my first and second weeks of school, I went to Bergen op Zoom (that’s “Zoam”) for the birthday party of one of my exchange student friends, which was very much fun.

    My second week began with a new group of people and a new bunch of classes, but this one came with the fact that I had none of my books. Still don’t, actually. But I made friends less awkwardly and I was in classes that will be much more interesting once I learn enough Dutch to follow the teachers’ record-setting speed. During my second week… wait. No. During my first week… ah, everything is mixed together.

    In my first week I visited the city Kampen, both as a representative of Rotary Youth Exchange to help my inbound coordinator give a presentation and as a sightseer, getting a pony-cart tour of the gorgeous little city. On the weekend of my second week of school, I got to go to the 25th wedding anniversary of my third host family, which was a lot of fun. A week later, I went to Goes for a weekend organized by the Dutch ROTEX, which was an amazing experience.

    I’ve abbreviated all of these different occasions to an almost criminal degree because there really is too much to write about in one entry. I have done and seen so many things and met so many new people, and with each of those comes another story. I’ve learned so much about this wonderful little country, and also about some things I’d never really thought of about the United States and my own life. This first month has been the best time I’ve spent doing anything, and I am so excited by the thought of ten more months ahead of me. I am a fresh exchange student, still naïve in the ways of exchange, but I look forward to the future. I want to send a huge thank you to District 6980, and especially the Rotary Club of Winter Springs for sponsoring me on this amazing exchange. I also want to thank all the people who prepared me to go on this exchange and the people who helped me fund it. Thank you all so much.

    I am so excited to share my story with everyone, and I am so grateful for the people who enabled me to write this new chapter in it. I’ll share more about what it’s like being an exchange student when I know more about what it’s like being an exchange student. It is not a simple condition, and I still don’t know half of the repercussions. Tot ziens! Until we see each other again!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


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