A Spartan’s Study Abroad Experience: Holland
Two months ago, I arrived in the Netherlands for a half year of studying abroad. There are many things that are different here: bikes rule the road, said roads are lined by canals that go through every town in every direction, connecting cities through long stretches of farmland. Sky-parting mountains are no longer on the horizon, being replaced by windmills and church steeples and not so much as a hill in sight.
One of the major changes in my life is my school day. I take ten subjects, and every class is 45 minutes; occasionally, there is a double period. The day also differs in how it starts. I might start at 8:15, and on other days, my first class might not start until 10:50. Some days I finish as early as 1:05 and sometimes not until 4:05. In contrast to the more constant three class days of BHS, the variety is really nice.
Although in some ways high school is very much the same, there are some big differences. The school does not have any sports teams or clubs associated with it. There is no mascot or Spartan alternative, and you will never see people walking around with the school’s name on their shirt. There are also no dances like Homecoming or Prom. Though the Dutch flag is also red, white, and blue, as can be witnessed at any national sporting event or celebration, Holland is the land of orange. This might explain their need to reach out to our new orange president in a viral YouTube video, “Holland Second”? Yes, even with my best efforts to escape it, Trump remains a constant source of conversation and jokes, despite being an ocean away. It seems to me that his words and actions have seeped into everyone’s life no matter age or nationality. A few weeks ago, I sat down to breakfast and my seven year old cousin had built a wall down the kitchen table out of cereal boxes naming one side Mexico and the other the United States. The overall consensus here is a strong dislike of President Trump. Holland tends to be a very liberal country as evidenced by their legalization of gay marriage almost sixteen years ago and their infamous tolerance of weed/coffee shops. However, that’s not to say that they don’t have their very own far-right bad-comb-overed- politician. Geert Wilders. He is considered by many a Dutch Trump with his anti immigration and nationalistic views. Up until a few weeks ago he was in the running for Prime Minister. Thankfully he did not win, although his party did get many more seats in Parliament, The Prime Minister will continue to be Mark Rutte from the VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie). Although right wing, he is a proven good leader, and the parties that he is likely to form coalitions with are more to the left.
For the most part, the biggest differences come from the small things, on which I will continue to report over the coming months, as well as more National events such as Koningsdag (Kings Day), The Amsterdam Tulip Festival or maybe even National Mill Day (a whole day devoted to the iconic windmills.)