It’s September 1st, 2008. I’m standing in the cafeteria. I smell greasy fries and hamburgers. I look around me. All these lunch tables but where do I sit? A rock sits in my stomach and my eyes frantically search for someone to sit with. I think to myself, “I wish I were still in Holland. Why did I have to move here? Why did it have to be me?” I walk over to the closest lunch table and sit down. I immediately make friends with two kids my age.
“Hey, I’m Twan. I’m new here,” I say with my thick Dutch accent. A boy on the end of the table says, “Oh, wow! You’re the foreign kid everyone is talking about! You’re from France, right?!”. I laugh and tell him, “No, I’m from Holland. It’s in between Germany and Belgium,” only with him to respond with, “Where is Belgium?” Everyone started laughing and it made me feel like I fit in. We talk for a while and to my surprise they think it’s really exciting that I moved from Holland.
Who would have ever thought I would move to the United States and be able to go and graduate from a school in my second language. Even after three years I got that same feeling whenever I walked into that cafeteria. The only difference at the end was, well I spoke the language fluently and I actually liked it there.
There was never too much of a language barrier for me. I picked up the language pretty quickly. I’ve always been good at learning other languages. I studied French, German and English in Holland. Socially it was a big step for me, I had to leave my Dutch friends just after entering high school, and make new friends over in the U.S. Also I felt that I was going to be left out because I was foreign. Ultimately, that wasn’t a problem at all. I was quickly accepted by the kids over there and got accustomed to the different school system. Sophomore year, my accent of course made it very obvious that I was foreign. But the second year, to my surprise, there were teachers that couldn’t even hear an accent anymore and assumed I was American. I came to realize that the English I was learning over here was going to help me lots for later schools and jobs. I wanted to go into sales or marketing, maybe internationally. So I realised speaking multiple languages fluently was going to give me an edge.
In the end I learned a lot over there, about the English language, but more so about the American way of life. A first row view of a culture a lot of people speculate about all around the world. Both negatively and positively. Thus it taught me something about me as a person. I used to hate change. When I had to move, I got really upset with my parents as to why they wanted to move. I was fine with my little friend group over in the little Netherlands. I had nothing I wanted to change about my life. I remember my father telling me that I should embrace an opportunity like this to see more of the world and that change was good once in a while. Of course I, as a stubborn teenager, told him that wasn’t true, but it was. A few months into my school year I felt like a new person. I spoke a new language, made new friends and learned to live in a different system with a different culture. After this event in my life, I now don’t mind change and realize like my father told me I would, that moving to a different country can really teach you more about the world then you would ever get from education. It taught me to look at people and cultures objectively. To experience a certain way of life first hand, before judging the people that live it. Something a lot of people forget in this fast-moving world full of opinions.