Katie Stephenson

 Netherlands

Hometown: Tampa, Florida
School: Armwood
Sponsor District : District 6890
Sponsor Club: , Florida
Host District: 1590
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Raalte


My Bio


Goedemiddag! My name is Katie Stephenson and I'm currently in the 10th grade at Armwood Senior High School. Thanks to Rotary Youth Exchange, I will be spending my junior year of high school abroad in the Netherlands! Being able to travel to completely new place that is so vastly different from Florida will be quite the experience, I can't wait to learn more Dutch, make friends from all over the world, and I can't forget about the amazing culture I will get to immerse myself into! Here in Florida, I live with my mom, dad, and my older brother. They've given me so much support through all of this, I don't know where I would be without them. In my spare time, I greatly enjoy playing the alto saxophone, piano, and a little bit of the ukulele! In my school, I participate in the band, which takes up a lot of time, but is worth it for all the fun times we have together, it is really a second family on its own. Drawing, writing, and reading are some of my favorite hobbies to keep me busy, and I can't forget about ice skating and hanging out with my friends! I can't express how excited and thankful I am to be given this life-changing opportunity! I know this year won't be the easiest, but I am up for the challenge it will give me, and all the adventures I will get to take! I'm so excited to explore the Netherlands, and hopefully Europe as well! Tot de volgende keer, Katie :)

My welcome at the airport!

My welcome at the airport!

My Host mom and me

My Host mom and me

I Amsterdam!

I Amsterdam!

All 47 exchange students

All 47 exchange students

DOC Week

DOC Week

DOC Week

DOC Week

DOC Week

DOC Week

De grotest kerstboom!

De grotest kerstboom!

Journals: Katie-Netherlands Blog 2017-18

  • Katie, Outbound to Netherlands

    Hallo allemaal! Hoe gaat het met jullie? Ik hoop dat jullie zijn goed!

    It’s been quite some time since my last journal, and I just moved host families today, so I thought it would be a good time to update everyone on how my exchange is going and what I’ve experienced so far since my first journal. This will be a lot.

    In late September, all the exchange students that are inbounds in the Netherlands, went to a Dutch Orientation Course (D.O.C.). Where of course, we spent a week learning Dutch together and meeting everyone. There were 41 students in total, from 17 different countries! All here in the Netherlands! How crazy is that?! And we have 6 oldies who are still here, that will soon be leaving in January, making it a huge group of 47 students altogether. It was an amazing week with all of us together and it really helped with our Dutch and gave us a lot more confidence than we originally had in ourselves. We went to a small place called Schiedam, a 20-30min ride from Rotterdam, and we all had temporary host families for a week. I lived with three other exchange students, and we are all still very close now because of this week. There was Sam from New York, and Paulo and Lucas from Brazil. On that Sunday when we arrived and met our host family for the week, we all instantly clicked together. In fact, on Sunday Paulo and I were raving about our love of sushi and how he has made sushi with his host family and I was talking about how I haven’t had it at all since being in the Netherlands, and from this conversation we actually found out that our host sister that week knew how to make sushi. So the following day, on Monday, we made sushi with our host family. It was so much fun to learn how to make sushi. Sam, Paulo, Lucas, and I later, on Thursday, all went and explored Rotterdam and we got to see things like the Cube Houses, the famous food hall there, and explore a little of Rotterdam before it got too late and we had to go home.

    I’ve been to so many places here in the Netherlands, naturally I explore and do the most touristy things possible with the other exchange students. I’ve been to places like Amsterdam, Deventer, Zwolle, Den Haag, Hoorn, and quite a few other places. I haven’t been everywhere yet though! That’s the plan though, and I haven’t traveled outside of the Netherlands either, which is okay. My life here from day one has felt like everyday life and I haven’t really had extreme ups or downs, it’s all been normal to me, but I can definitely say that I’ve loved each and every single moment that I’ve spent in this country. Especially with all the people I’ve met over the last four months, and all the friends and family I’ve made here.

    Halloween here wasn’t that big of a deal, some people threw parties and things, but I decided to stay home and spend the night with my host family. In my village, Boerhaar, right outside of Wijhe, has a bike tour all around Wijhe and the smaller villages right around it. The bike tour is supposed to scare the bikers, so my host sister, Dorien, and I went outside with balloons to pop and only popped a few balloons when two bikers past before we gave up and went back inside. It was insanely cold and it was raining at the time and we still, to this day, think it’s hilarious.

    Christmas, Kerstdagen, is a lot bigger here than Halloween. They have Christmas eve, Christmas day, and second Christmas day. Though, no one here believes in Santa, de Kerstman, because we have Sinterklaas instead! Which is December 5th, where you get a few presents, and tons of pepernoten from zwarte piet. I spent December 5th with my third host family, since they still have little kids who believe in Sinterklaas. The plan for the night is that during dinner, their neighbor would come by and throw pepernoten and live a huge present at the door for everyone. When this happened though, I was in the middle of eating and I got scared by the loud knock at the door and the sudden dropping of hundreds of pepernoten, my third host mom wouldn’t stop laughing. It was also very nice of them to get me presents for that, because I wasn’t expecting that at all. And they were quite humorous presents, handwarmers and a scarf because they know I’m almost always cold since I’m from Florida. Before Christmas got here, it started snowing! It snowed for at least 5 whole days, and it was the most wonderful experience. I had a snowball fight with my host siblings, learned how to make a snowman, and then filled the entire yard with snowmen, made a snow angel, and overall it was just gezellig. A few days before Christmas (sadly there was no snow for Christmas) my host dad and I went out and bought one of the biggest Christmas trees ever. My host family ended up having to go buy more lights and ordainments to cover it all! There is also this thing that Rotary does around the Netherlands, it’s called a Santa Run. Where you run around 3km I think, dressed in a Santa outfit. Least to say, it was an absolute blast and I did some of the funniest things while dress up as Santa – Beard and all! Then came Christmas eve, where I met all of my host mom’s side of the family. Then Christmas day where all of us finally got out of bed around 11:30am to finally eat and open presents. I wish I was taking pictures of when my host family opened the presents I got for them because the look on all of their faces you could tell that they were very happy with what I got them. And I was happy that they were happy. Later in the day, we went to my host dad’s side of the family which is a lot closer and sees each other a lot more than my host mom’s side of the family. We played games the entire night, sang some songs together, ate great food, and went home and sat in the kitchen talking about the entire evening.

    Then right before New Year’s, my host uncle has a birthday on December 30th, so I got a preview of what would be happening the next day. In the province of Overijssel, there is this thing called “Carbid” where you have a milk can, have a type of carbon and mix it with water which will give a reaction that is gas once it is closed in the milk can, there is a hole somewhere on the milk can and you break a fire cracker in have and stick it in the whole and then after around 66 seconds, light the fire cracker and watch it blow the lid or ball off the top of the milk can and almost making everyone around deaf. On New Year’s eve, I was with my host brothers and their friends and lighting that off until dinner where I stayed home and hung out with my host family the entire night until it was 12! Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! We lit off a few fireworks of our own, but where we lived, we could see fireworks being fired from Olst, Broekland, and Wijhe, and the fireworks continued all of January 1st, the entire day, it was non-stop fireworks going off around us.

    Now, today is January 3rd, and I just moved to my second host family. It was really hard for me to move, my first host family became an actual family to me, to the point where I started calling my host dad and mom “papa” and “mama” just normally. They’re such a unique family, and there is definitely not another family like that, I have never seen a family closer or more loving and opening towards everyone and everything than them. It will be hard not seeing them every single day, but I know that being here with my second host family will be an amazing time as well, and I’m very excited to see where that leads.

    Now, I’ve tried explaining some of the most important and big events that have happened to me since my first journal and honestly, there will never be enough time for me to write down everything and tell you exactly how it happened, exchange is another life, and there is no way I’ll ever be able to explain how this year went in just one word. I’ve been here for 136 days now, soon to be 137 days and I feel like this is what my life has always been like, I feel so at home here, and I cannot believe that soon it’ll be my halfway point in exchange. Time goes to fast when you’re having fun. I’ve grown so much already, and I’ve faced a good number of challenges. A challenge that is not usually common or at least you hope that doesn’t happen is someone close to you dying while you’re gone. One of my very close friends passed away early December, and it was a very difficult time, but I told my host brother the second I found out the news because we were eating breakfast together and I just started tearing up and crying. Thankfully, he told the rest of my host family so I didn’t have to keep explaining to everyone why I was crying. Talking it out with them and having them there during that time helped me a lot, and they got me through it and now I just try to live every day for my friend.

    There are no words to explain exchange to someone. It’s a different life, full of so many different things that would never happen a normal every day to day life. Exchange is worth every second of it though. I would urge anyone who is interested to at least try to do it. Because I’ve never been happier with life than I where I am now.

    Katie.

    Click HERE to read more about Katie and all her blogs

  • Katie, Outbound to Netherlands

    Dear Past/Present/Future Exchange Students, Moms and Dads, Friends and Family, and of course, to anyone who happens to find themselves reading this.

    I would like to start this very first journal of mine off with:

    Hallo, ik heet Katie. Ik ben zestien jaar oud. Ik kom uit Tampa, Florida, en ik woon in Nederland voor het volgende jaar.

    Now for those of you who don’t speak Dutch and that way you won’t have to go to Google Translate to find out what I’ve just told you:

    Hello, my name is Katie. I am sixteen years old. I from Tampa, Florida, and I will be living in the Netherlands for the next year.

    I have now been in Holland for currently 26 days, going onto my 27th day, so close to a month already! There are so many things I wish I had enough time to tell everyone about this wondrous country. But first, I promised myself that I would address this before getting to my experience on this exchange so far.

    Being an exchange student is not an easy task, but everything that happens to you on your exchange year will be worth it in so many ways that it’s hard to name even one of them. Everyone tells you to learn the language before you go, trust me, I didn’t do ENOUGH studying before I left, I already wish that I did so much more – even in a country where everyone speaks English. Here’s the thing about that though, even though I could totally get away without learning a lick of Dutch, where would be the fun in that? So many people prefer to speak in their mother tongue that when they’re in a group of friends they’ll speak in that language and with you not knowing it, you will instantly feel left out. And trust me, it's not the best feeling in the world. Also, not everyone you’re going to meet is going to speak perfect English, although they may try, it will be better to learn their language instead because that is the reason you are there for! It’s so true when Rotary and the Rotex tell you that, “Language = Freedom” but it also equals understanding, safety, friends, politeness, and everything else. Learn the language, even if you don’t have that much time, the basics are fine too, even just knowing a few sentences to get across how you’re feeling at that point in time like, “Ik hab honger,” and “Waar is de WC?” just small things like that will make them happy and surprised you even learned that much of their language so far, even introducing yourself in their language will make them proud to have you around.

    Now, with that very important note out of the way, let’s get to how my first 26 days have been and my experience so far, since I’m sure that is why my family keeps reminding me to update this journal. Which, I don’t blame them, I mean if my daughter or niece went away for a year I would want her to write something like this too!

    Where to start though? There are so many things that have happened so far! Hmm… my Host Family! I know not everyone is lucky to get an amazing Host Family, whether it is their first, second, third, fourth, whatever. I can’t express how much love and grateful I am that they’ve taken me in, without even knowing me! When a Host Family takes in an exchange student they get very little information as to who exactly they are hosting for these few months or a year, as do the exchange students when it comes to learning about their exchange families. Of course, the Families will get a pictures of you, information on you, all that jazz, and the most the exchange students get is emails from them welcoming, maybe you call, or skype in advanced, but that sure didn’t happen with me. I’ve met all my Host Families within my first week, and they all seem so unique with personalities. My first Host Family, the Van Remmen’s (I’m a name dropper, I know) is fill ed with such a loving family. My host parents Ton and Veronique are so caring and hard at work to make sure everything is done and to care for all of their kids, and they still have so much time for everyone else in the family! My host siblings, Thomas (M/23), Dorien (F/21), Wouter (M/19), and Wessel, (M/17) are amazing, I love them all so equally already, and they all have taught me things whether they realize it or not. Thomas, for instance, thought me not to give up on anything this year, and even got me in the spirits to learn guitar soon, or at least try too! Dorien, taught me fashion of Holland (lol), and to get out there and make some friends whether your age or not, and to care for them all equally and treat everyone as family. Wouter, taught me that no matter where you are in the world, it’s okay to be a little crazy and weird, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Wessel, taught me that school isn’t as scary as it seems to be and there will always be a friendl y face around to help, and that I all of my host siblings and their parents where always there for me no matter what, that I am their family. (Ohana). Now, at home, I only have one sibling, an older brother, so having 3 older brothers, and a sister is quite fun, especially since I’m the youngest so I get “tiny person” perks, as they call it (minus the perks), because they’re all over 6ft, and I’m barely reaching 5’4”. With this family, we tease and joke around like siblings and parents would to their children, my host siblings and I actually went to the Eteling, which is kind of like Disney World, but for Dutch people, with more roller coasters, and less crowded. Wessel and I almost have a pillow fight every day after dinner, with Wouter butting in to stop us from actually hurting each other by accident. There is even this little joke that goes between Wessel and I with a pink notebook we bought for school. Neither of us wanted it, so we bas ically throw it at each other and hide it in each other’s room, and it’s been going on like that for two weeks now since both us still don’t want it and it’s pretty wrecked by now.

    Next? School! I’m sure this will be in almost everyone’s journals, but oh my god… the Dutch school system is so different from America. I will try my best to explain the difference and maybe the pros and cons of both systems. So, in America, of course, you have Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors, in the Netherlands, you can either go to school for 4, 5, or 6 years depending on which part of the smartness system you get put into. There are three different “smartness systems” VMBO, HAVO, and VWO, VMBO is like regular and extra help classes in America, it is also the 4-year trek. HAVO is like honor classes, and goes on for 5-years. VWO is like AP classes and goes on for 6-years. Somehow, being me, I was able to land myself in VWO, in grade 5. “Grade 5?” You might say, well let me explain further, no I am not in the 5th grade with children who are 9-11 years of age, I am with kids my own age. How they do it over here though, is they go f rom 1st to 8th grade like we do, and then when it gets to high school, it goes back to 1st to 6th grade/year. Also, within Dutch schools, or at least my school, Carmel College Salland, they have 4 specific routes for their students to take, that being a business route, an art route, science route, or even more nerdier science route. None of the courses really mixing that much, I am taking the less nerdy science route as I really wanted to take physics, and a few other courses they offered in that route, with the exception of music, of course. Speaking of music classes, today was actually the first day I took my music classes (“wait, first day? I thought you’ve been going to school for like two weeks now?” Shhh, young grasshopper, I will explain schedules later. Don’t get ahead of yourself.) I had two hours of music classes, the first hour had around 5-6 kids in it, and the second hour there was maybe 10 kids, but not many people are interested in music here. The “Big” Band they even have here has about 20 people in it, with teachers and students alike, but it isn’t exactly what you’d expect, I know I found myself with a delightful surprise when I walked in this morning. The first thing we did was play “The Thrill is Gone” by BB King, since they were going over jazz music, how it sounds, and the history of it. We had people playing drums, pianos, bass guitars, and of course singing. Nope, no wind or brass instruments, it was strictly guitar, pianos, guitars/basses, or singing. Which was quite the switch for me, since I’m used to a marching band type of class with all kinds of wind and brass instruments, luckily I knew enough about piano to still join in and participate for the hour. At the end of the school day, there is an extra hour for those wanting to go, to go to the “Big Band”, where I was able to play the alto saxophone, but we played songs on the radio, jazzy songs, and things very heavy on that topic, which was a good kind of different, it’s the kind of music I’m not used to playing a lot so hopefully they’ll help me with that a lot this year, and I was able to sight read everything today, which made me stupidly happy. (Thank you, Mr. Sorey & Mr. Childs). Okay! Before I forget: schedules! Everyone starts at different times of the days, the first hour of the day starts at 8:30, some kids come for their first lesson of the day around the second or third hour, and everyone leaves school at different times as well. Within the day, you could end up having blank hours with no classes that we call spare hours which can be used to go into the town for a while to get a quick bite to eat, yes, that is right, you’re allowed off campus during school hours, but not to cut your classes of course. These spare hours could also be used to study, read, or do homework for your next class. After the first 3 hours of the day there is a 15-minute break for everyone in the same grade, and after the next two classes there is another break and lunch for 30-minutes, and after the next two classes after that (if you’re still at school that is), there is another 15-minute break, and then the school day ends with one hour left in the day.

    In school, I’m glad to say that I have gathered up myself a small group of friends, who accepted my right away once I was introduced to them and have continued to help me out tremendously since day one. I am instantly so thankful for them, because they have introduced me to so many new things, invited me to things, and have even made me try more Dutch things like “pepernoten” (pronounced: papernoten, which is heerlijk by the way).

    Soon, I’m going to be setting up Dutch lessons during the spare hours I have in school or after school, and I am beyond excited to start taking those lessons and learning even more Dutch than I already know. I am also so ready for the D.O.C. (Dutch Orientation Course) and Rotex weekend that is happening at the end of September.

    I will also be posting YouTube videos about my exchange, so keep up to date with my YouTube channel! At this moment, I only have one video uploaded and 3 more videos I need to upload… I’m so behind already! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU9YHiNa5ltwf1mhxzo780g 

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep on updating this journal for Rotary, friend, and family, every Month, at least that is my goal so far!

    Tot ziens!

    Katie :)

    Click HERE to read more about Katie and all her blogs

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