April 13, 2024

Hoi allemaal! (Hi everyone!)
My name is Carlijn van den Berg, and I will be writing an article every week for the Torch! My articles will be about the experience of international students.  This very first article will be about myself.
First of all, call me Car; everyone gives me a weird look when I say my name. I am from the Netherlands, and yes, we bike everywhere. In the Netherlands, an average family owns only one car.
I arrived in the United States on August 13, due to the fact that I am a field hockey player (next home game: 9/19 – 4:30 pm!) and had to arrive on campus early. I live in New Hall, room 256; feel free to stop by sometime! My father traveled with me and he left on my 18th birthday, the 17th of August. The advantages of being 18 in the Netherlands sadly do not count here. For example, in the Netherlands, I could legally drink, drive on my own, and vote. But I can’t really complain; I love it here!
I had been to America twice before this. I went to California in 2009 and Washington D.C. / New York in 2013. And, to be honest, I absolutely love America. The people are so friendly and interested in you, but maybe I experience that differently because I am foreign.
What I really like about Wittenberg is that everyone makes sure you feel welcomed. For example, my field hockey coach, Coach Hubbell, sent me pictures of Wittenberg’s red chairs in the fall. International students also received a welcome package from the Center for Success and Engagement when they arrived at Witt. Furthermore, my team is super friendly: they offered to take me to a store when I have to, and I’ve been invited to come to Chicago. The professors are also very approachable, and helped me when I wanted an upper-level class.
Internationals also had the option to get a host family. My host family is with Dr. Brannan, associate professor of education, and she is wonderful! Host families are provided so internationals can go off campus if they want to, or (and this is more likely) they can also enjoy a meal at their home if they don’t like the CDR anymore.
The first question everyone asks me is: “What do you miss about the Netherlands?” To which I answer: I miss my family, friends, and definitely Dutch food! My mom’s cooking skills are amazing. I knew I would miss the food beforehand, so I brought 2 kilos (4.4 lbs.) of Dutch cheese, two boxes of hagelslag, and sprinkled chocolate to eat on my bread.
A lot of people also ask, “What surprised you most when you came here?” This question is more difficult to answer, because I have already been here twice. However, what still surprises me are the houses and neighborhoods here. Almost all the houses are made of wood and have a perfectly mowed lawn in front of the house, with sometimes random stuff in it. In my hometown of Zwolle, almost everyone lives in a brick house with a lawn — which is typically enclosed by bushes — and a garden full of colorful flowers. Another thing that surprised me is that everyone is so driven to succeed in sports. I used to practice four hours per week, but I am currently doing about two-and-a-half hours per day!
So, I hope you liked my first article and are looking forward to the next one, because you’ll most certainly hear more from me!
Doei! (Bye!)
X Car

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