Netherlands vs America: through the eyes of an exchange student

Each day, foreign exchange students can be found walking the halls of Springfield High School. They come from highly varied locations, cultures and families, yet they all have one thing in common—unique and interesting points of view. Isabel Schuit, an exchange student from the Netherlands hosted by Natalie Berendt, is one of these people.

Stereotypes are everywhere, and no matter who you are, everyone has at least a few preconceived notions about different regions of the world. In the case of the Netherlands, popular stereotypes Americans behold include windmills, large farms, clogs, tulips and intense partying. When I asked Isa to confirm or deny these stereotypes, she said they were all somewhat true and somewhat false—in the country and small villages of the Netherlands, many people do have large farms consisting of windmills, tulips and sometimes even clogs. However, the cities of the Netherlands are very advanced, similar to cities in America. Isa admitted to me she, too, held stereotypes about America before she came here. She was happy to find that, unlike in the movies, “mean girl cheerleader cliques” do not exist. On the other hand, she was less happy to see American eating habits for herself. On the subject of food, Isa remarked, “I knew that there was much fat food, but I didn’t know it was normal to eat it every day.” Ouch.

Isa made it clear to me that one of the largest and most interesting differences between America and the Netherlands is their educational systems. In the Netherlands, all high schools operate on block schedules and extremely rigid tracks of academic strength. The students in the highest and most prestigious of these tracks attend high school for six years, the students in the middle track stay for five, and the students in the lowest track stay for four. Isa stated that, while almost all students continue their studies beyond high school, usually only the high-track students go straight to university. Additionally, most high schools in America are much larger than those in the Netherlands.

Isa made it known that one of the largest differences between the average Dutch school and Springfield High School is school spirit. She says, in the Netherlands, practically no high schools offer any sports and students do not have pride in their place of education. Additionally, Isa says the teachers in Dutch schools do not care about their students nearly as much as Springfield High School teachers do. Upon looking at the differences between SHS and high schools in the Netherlands, one thing becomes perfectly clear—SHS is the best place on Earth at which a human being can attend high school. Springfield has an abundance of exciting sports. Springfield has infinite amounts of school spirit. Springfield has teachers who love their students. Springfield has students who build each other up… Springfield has SOLON FEVER. (Along with a little touch of the Netherlands)

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