April 13, 2024

Imagine saying goodbye to family, friends and everything familiar for an entire year to play field hockey at a university on whose campus you’ve never set foot. That is exactly what first-year Dutch students Alex Bruins, Jasperina “Pien” Tamboer and Robin Gevers did. The players’ positions are defense, forward, and midfield, respectively.
The three are attending Wittenberg for the 2015-2016 school year on Fulbright scholarships.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to be here for one year and then go back having had this amazing experience,” Bruins said.
According to Andrea Mattingly, senior field hockey player, having international players is not only an opportunity for the international players themselves, but also for veteran players.
“As a player, I am always learning from our international players,” Mattingly said. “They bring skills and play that we don’t necessarily have in the U.S.”
Although all three players have been playing field hockey since they were six-years-old, they said that the style of play in the U.S. is something that they will have to get used to throughout the season. For example, the style is different due to a difference in grass length, and, instead of being able to make longer shots, the Dutch players said that they have to get used to playing closer together in a crowd. Additionally, pre-season doesn’t exist in the Netherlands because the Dutch play field hockey all year long, playing indoors in the winter.
The three players also said that the whole institution of field hockey is more professional in the U.S. than in the Netherlands due to access to practice jerseys, locker rooms and live-feeds during games.
“At home, it is much more casual,” Gevers said. “Here you represent your university as a single unit.”
However, the Dutch players said that they are slowly becoming adjusted to not only the new style of play, but also the differences in culture.
“When I got here for the first week, I realized I would need to get used to everything,” Gevers said. “Sometimes, I felt a little homesick, but it got a lot better after the first week.”
The three also said having one another, even though they are not from the same part of the Netherlands, has helped tremendously. Team workouts and bonding activities with the field hockey team have also helped them become acclimated to life in the U.S.
Some other differences between the U.S. and the players’ homeland that they have noted include differences in food, sizes, professor attitudes, clothing and human interactions. For instance, in the Netherlands, chain restaurants don’t exist, free refills aren’t the norm, professors don’t care whether students show up to class or not, sports attire in public is not custom and people are not as open and welcoming to strangers.
“[Being here] really is like being in the movies,” Bruins said.

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