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From the Netherlands to Nebraska: Two juniors join 600 other students learning about UNK culture
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff
Photo by Travis Schott
(From left) Pauline van Leeuwen, a junior majoring in psychology, is from Voorhout, Netherlands and Nikky van Buuren, a junior psychology and statistics major, is from Delft, Netherlands

This fall, two of the 600 international students from 12 different countries are from the Netherlands. Nikky van Buuren and Pauline van Leeuwen came to campus as part of  the honors program exchange program with the Roosevelt Institute in the Netherlands. UNK has exchanged students with the Roosevelt Institute since 2008.

Buuren is a junior psychology and statistics major from the city of Delft. With a population of roughly 95,000 people, Delft is famous for its architecture, painter Johannes Vermeer, and Delft pottery and porcelain products. Located in the province of South Holland, Delft is rich in history and, like many cities in Holland, the streets often run adjacent to canals running through the center of the city.

When van Buuren arrived in Chicago, she was amazed not just by the size of the city, but by the number of American flags presented in the front of most homes. “It seems many people are very patriotic here, this is a very good thing,” Buuren said. She thoroughly enjoyed Chicago, and like many others who have made the drive from Kearney to Chicago, she quickly realized the scenery changes drastically once outside of the city.  It’s flat and bare.

Buuren enjoys soccer, track and field, and skiing. “I love how students can take part in athletics at American universities, that option is not available to us back home,” Buuren said.

The competitive nature surrounding American sports is intriguing to van Buuren, but she was also surprised to observe the high level of competition off the field and in the classroom as well.  According to van Buuren and van Leeuwen, academic competition does not run as high in their home country. Secondary education degrees in the Netherlands take only three years to obtain, and universities are often free to attend with the help of government assistance by those native to the area.

Buuren hopes to attend graduate school upon her graduation next year, and in the future, she has aspirations to work in the psychology field specializing in abnormal behavior research.

Leeuwen is also a junior psychology major and has a minor in performing arts.  She hails from the city of Voorhout , also located in the province of South Holland, just off the coast of the North Sea. Voorhout has a population of just 18,000 and is known for its location surrounded by dense fields of tulips, daffodils and other flowers.

When asked why she chose Kearney, Leeuwen displayed a sense of humor, saying,  “Kearney is very famous in my home country, everyone knows where it is— of course I’m kidding.” She said the opportunity to study abroad was presented to her by a professor back home, and she felt it would be a good chance to experience the American culture firsthand.

Along with her interests in psychology, van Leeuwen loves the arts.  She is an avid dancer, music lover and fan of the theatre.  Leeuwen has had training in classical ballet, tap, salsa and show dancing, and she has performed on stage many times back home. Jazz is her favorite type of music, though she has very eclectic tastes and is open to and loves all sorts of music.

Up to this point, van Leeuwen and van Buuren have found the students and faculty at UNK to be very pleasant; however, they both said that people on campus seem mildly grumpy during the morning hours.  “It was funny, as our first day wore on, more and more people would say hello once we did.  In the morning, not very many people would say hi back. I found the transition throughout the day amusing,” van Leeuwen said.

Many readers may be asking what the “van” means in Dutch names.  In the context presented, “van” is part of the family name, and technically it means “from.” In some regions of Western Europe, names often derived from the geographic location of a specific family.  For example, if one hailed from Utrecht, Netherlands their name might be John van Utrecht.

The Netherlands borders the North Sea, Belgium to the south and Germany to the east.  Amsterdam is the capital city, and Dutch  is the native language.  The Netherlands is perhaps best known for its canals, windmills and, of course, bicycles, but most recently it is best known for its liberal policies towards drugs and prostitution.  

Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to visit the Netherlands. Out of all my travels, the people of the Netherlands are some of the kindest, and the culture is the most pleasant I have had the pleasure of experiencing.  Nikky and Pauline did not disappoint, they are very kind and eager to meet new friends at UNK.  If you run into them on your way to class, stop just a moment and say hello, even if it’s after that dreaded early morning class.


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