Life in America full of personal growth, experience for Dutch exchange student

Jesper Bekkers and Jesper Bekkers

The sun is shining, the temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are still a few days to go until the Dutch students leave this city and country. During the first week of January, 25 students from the Netherlands came to the University to follow an exchange program at the Language Institute. This meant learning English, American culture and following an academic course at BGSU. I am a 19-year-old teenager from Tilburg, a city the size of Toledo. For the record, the Netherlands is the country were Amsterdam is located. If I were to believe Fox News, there is no morality there; sex, marijuana, alcoholism and ungodliness are the order of the day. During the four months here in Ohio, I have seen these prejudices all around. Walk around campus, and when the sun goes down, undergrad students illuminate campus by smoking bowls of ‘happy’ tobacco. For variety, cheap beer and wine is used to get rid of the smell of illegal drugs in your mouth. And I will not even start talking about the sexual excesses. So, I could definitely say I felt at home here at the University. There are not that many cultural differences between the Netherlands and Bowling Green. And when I did the true nationality test on Facebook, it even said I was an American. You could really say I am already too long in this country. However, it could also mean there is not much difference on the personal level between the two countries. All students want to have some fun during college, and partying is a universal human behavior. One thing I really admire about American universities are the student organizations. This is not a common thing in the Netherlands. For me, this meant I could make American friends very easily and come in contact with Vision, the LGBT student organization on campus Yes, I am gay and European. A bias in Europe is that every American in the Midwest is against people with a ‘different’ sexuality. If I relate that to myself, I have never had any problems. It is also that I do not care when people are trying to make fun of me. I always think, ‘die,’ and the problem is solved for me. Life flows and during my time here, there were enough moments to throw all my stuff out of the window, pack my bag and go straight back to my country. The moment it is not voluntary anymore; it comes closer every second I type this column. My feeling is somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a small boat, waiting for the wave to get me to my destination – the United States of America or the Netherlands. I would love to see my family and friends again; however, I also need to leave new friends behind. It is making a decision between two evils. If I look back at those four months, I can only say it improved my personality. At this moment I know more about myself than I would have when I lived my life underneath the same rock. Sometimes Bowling Green felt like a prison without fences. I am a reporter, and always need the possibility to leave whenever I want. However, in this town I could not leave on my own. I always needed to ask a friend to drive me to a place where there are decent clothing stores to spend my Euros. One of the most recent discoveries I had is the fact that I always need to get a crush on the difficult cases in society, even in the Netherlands. I was totally in love with my best friend for more than six months. He gave me such a hard time, because he had a boyfriend at the same time. Finally, I could put my emotions for that boy away; it only cost me a flight to Detroit. It almost looks like I am avoiding my feelings for a boy by leaving the country by plane. These last few weeks I really got a crush on a friend of mine; let’s call him Grover. He’s a really nice person, only he does not take the time for himself. For my feeling, he walks around sometimes with a Venetian mask, to hide his inner self. He has a good heart, and the fact he is mysterious attracts me. All of that when I only have a few days to go. I can only say my months in Bowling Green were great! It gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover my inner me, and it also looks good on my resume. I have made really good friends. It is difficult for me to leave. Everyone I met will go her or his own direction, and some of them I will never see again. However, the memory will be there.