Dordt College News

Dordt students take summer class in the Netherlands

August 26, 2003


Translation: incredible.

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 take the adventure, earning college credit in a cross-cultural immersion course that allows students to live in and explore another country.

Dordt students can choose from many locations for cross-cultural experiences, including Romania, Venezuela, Cyprus, Hungary or Ukraine. But this year’s participants accompanied their professor and Dutch native, Leendert van Beek, on a whirlwind tour of the Netherlands and other parts of Europe. Participating Students

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

Both the small size and large population of Holland surprised him. Most residents of the Netherlands speak English as a second language, but Kris said the language barrier was the hardest thing to adjust to. Two other participants took Dutch language classes to prepare for the trip, and then visited Dutch relatives while there.

“My purpose for going was to see where my ancestors had lived and to learn more about the Dutch culture,” commented Michael De Maar. “We stopped in the towns where my great-grandfathers (Bernard De Maar and Henry De Haan) had been born and I have learned a lot about the Dutch culture.” Professor van Beek helped De Maar research his family line dating back to 1699.

Michael also appreciated meeting Dutch, German, Belgian, and many other non-European people from Youth With A Mission, a Christian youth organization that provided their housing and weekday lunch meals. “It was interesting to talk with them and see how they lived,” said De Maar. He noted that everything in the country is smaller – even the stairs in the houses, which “are half the length of your shoe!” De Maar noted that 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 was so enthused with the trip that she is strongly considering living overseas after finishing graduate school. “I participated in the program with the intention of experiencing 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 and participating in the culture, not just an outsider.” She also liked the chance to read something the night before (e.g. about the Dutch shipping and trade in the 17th century) and then see it the next day on the excursion.

The off-campus program encourages students to take responsibility for learning into their own hands and to take initiative to learn from their surroundings. Participants develop a new perspective on their native culture and their own identity within that culture, while developing an understanding of the country in which they are foreigners. Participants were required to keep a reflective journal to record their growth and new perspective as foreigners in a different culture.

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

Locations studied and visited during their Netherlands excursion included Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, where participants toured the Amsterdam Historical Museum, which houses Dutch archaeological treasures, a portrait gallery and collection of 17th-century Dutch masters. While in Amsterdam they visited the Netherlands Maritime Museum, where actors playing sailors provide a life-like impression of life on board a replica of the Amsterdam, a ship that sank off the coast of Southern England on its maiden voyage. They also toured the Joods Historisch Museum of Jewish religious customs and traditions.

At Zwolle the class studied the master-builders, painters, poets, eminent churchmen and politicians of that region. Their next stop was the Cruquius Pumping Station, one of three original water pumps built in 1846-1849, which prevent about 45,000 acres of present-day Netherlands from being flooded with every high tide or wet season.

At Haarlem, students saw the home of Corrie ten Boom and visited St. Bavo’s Church, a beautiful Dutch Reformed Church the ten Boom family often attended. They also traveled to the “Kazematten Kornwerderzand,” where locks/sluices safeguard the waterlevel in the IJsselmeer.

At Drenthe and Groningen, the group saw some of the 54 “Hunebedden,” which are prehistoric megaliths resembling Stonehenge in England.

The fishing and tourist town of Volendam offered the opportunity to sample fresh herring, while explorations at Dordrecht included the castle of Slot Loevestein, 19 Windmolens (windmills) and Grote Kerk (church), which hosted the historic Synod of Dordt.

At Doeveren, students saw where Dominee Scholte instigated secession from the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church). They also visited the Dolerende Kerk, built by order of Abraham Kuyper after the 1886 split, and the Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit (Free University), begun by Kuyper to offer youth a school free from governmental or ecclesiastical control, operated and supported by the gifts and prayers of the people of God.

Also on the agenda were trips to Apeldoorn’s Het Loo Palace, the Royal Family’s summer residence from 1686-1975; Nieuwe Kerk Delft, the royal crypt of the House of Orange-Nassau; Hollandsche Schouwburg, a monument commemorating the Dutch Jews murdered during WW II; the Anne Frank House; and three cemeteries commemorating Canadian, German and American soldiers who died in World War II. The WWII Concentration Camp at Breendonck, Belgium, was one of the more disturbing sites visited, where more than 3,000 prisoners were tortured, abused or executed.

More entertaining were a look at the flood defense system in the Netherlands, the Zeeland Deltawerken (Delta Works); the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) wetland area along the northern coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark and the Pieterburen Zeehondencrêche (Seal Center) hospital, where about 100 seals and orphaned pups are treated every year.

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

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