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Ongelooflijk -- An Incredible Experience

By Leen Van Beek, Professor of Foreign Language

That's the word Kris Klein uses to describe his trip to the Netherlands this summer. Klein was one of eight Dordt College students to earn college credit in a cross-cultural immersion course that allows students to live in and explore another country.

Students who spent a month studying in the Netherlands this past summer visited such places as Amsterdam, Zwolle, Cruquius Pumping Station, Haarlem (the home of Corrie ten boom), Dordrecht, Aperldoorn's Het Loo Palace, Breendonck concentration camp,

Students who spent a month studying in the Netherlands this past summer visited such places as Amsterdam, Zwolle, Cruquius Pumping Station, Haarlem (the home of Corrie ten boom), Dordrecht, Aperldoorn's Het Loo Palace, Breendonck concentration camp,

This year's participants took a whirlwind tour of the Netherlands and other parts of Europe as part of the GEN 253 course "Dutch Culture and a Reformed Worldview".

"My purpose for going was to be able to see the homeland that our ancestors grew up in and to experience the cultures and differences in Europe," said Klein He also appreciated opportunities to travel to London and Paris on the weekends.

"I wanted to see where my ancestors had lived and to learn more about Dutch culture," commented Michael De Maar from Michigan. "We stopped in the towns where my great-grandfathers had been born." Professor van Beek helped De Maar research his family line dating back to 1699.

De Maar also appreciated meeting Dutch, German, Belgian, and other non-European people from Youth With A Mission, a Christian youth organization that provided housing and weekday lunch meals for the students.

He noted that everything in the country is smaller-even the stairs in the houses, which "are half the length of your shoe!" And everything he had read about World War II became more real after seeing a concentration camp and taking a weekend trip to the beaches of Normandy.

Kate Reinsma from Colorado was so enthused with the trip that she is considering living overseas after graduate school. "I participated in the program to experience another culture by actually living and studying in it rather than just as a tourist who stays for a brief vacation," said Reinsma. "For me, one of the highlights was having my own Dutch bike and riding to town because it made me feel like a local, not just an outsider." She also liked the way the program was structured: before class the students would read about the topic of the next day (e.g. Trade to the Orient) and after class they went on an excursion related to the topic (e.g. the Maritime Museum).

The Netherlands off-campus program encourages students to take responsibility for their learning and learn from their surroundings. They develop a new perspective on their own culture and their own identity within that culture as they develop an understanding of the country in which they are foreigners. To help this process, they keep a reflective journal to record their growth and perspective as foreigners

During the three weeks, the students were introduced to Dutch people from the 17th century to the present who played an important role in history and the Calvinist heritage. Students reflected upon how a Reformed world and life view affected such aspects of society as church, politics, land reclamation, World War II, and others.

Three times the group had the opportunity to attend a church service in Dutch. Although it was a challenge to understand the sermon, yet "the style of worship that I'm used to comes from right here," concludes Reinsma. The pastor was extremely friendly and each time he spoke a word of welcome in English.

"My trip to the Netherlands seemed like a dream the whole time, because it went so fast," reflected Reinsma. "It was a great experience."