Going Dutch: Students from Netherlands visit Frontier

  • Dutch students give a presentation about their country to Frontier students on Wednesday, Oct. 17. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dutch student Kathleen Van Namen, above, gives a presentation about her country, the Netherlands, at Frontier Regional School in Deerfield, Wednesday. Below, Dutch students, and a few from Frontier, pose for a group video outside the school. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dutch student Jasmijn V.D. Berg gives a presentation about the Netherlands at Frontier Regional School, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dutch students, and a few from Frontier, pose for a group video outside the school on Wednesday, Oct. 17. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2018 12:48:32 AM

DEERFIELD – Relations between the United States and the Netherlands are based on historical ties and the fostering of friendship. The same is true for an international Dutch-American exchange program Frontier Regional School has participated in for 10 years.

Sixteen students from Gymnasium Camphusianum in Gorinchem, Netherlands, and their chaperones are visiting Frontier Regional School this week as part of the program crafted to broaden young people’s horizons, and make connections with peers who live in another part of the world. Easthampton native Wendy Dean teaches English at Gymnasium Camphusianum and started the program with Dutch husband Ewout Gerards and family friend Bob Smith, who about two years ago retired as a teacher at Frontier.

Smith said the program makes the students’ world a little smaller and a little broader and is regarded as a wild success.

“One of the proofs of that is the number of kids from both sides of the Atlantic that have returned to visit their host families,” he said Wednesday. The Dutch visitors arrived Oct. 11, and will head home Saturday. Students from the 16 American families hosting the Dutch teenagers will visit the Netherlands in April — the same month as Dutch-American Friendship Day, which is April 19.

Five Dutch students spent about a half-hour Wednesday delivering a presentation about their country and their culture to about 130 Frontier eighth-graders.

Anna Grefhorst explained that Gorinchem is a city on the western side of the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people in 12 provinces. She also pointed out Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a photograph projected onto a screen in Frontier’s auditorium.

Yasmin Ajrouj compared several American and Dutch landmarks, juxtaposing pictures of the Statue of Liberty and a statue of Hendrick Hamel (a Dutch explorer) and of the Grand Canyon and Drunense Duinen, which she referred to as “basically sand” to a roar of laughter.

Kathleen Van Namen, who explained Gymnasium Camphusianum is named after Dutch poet Dirck Rafaelsz Camphuysen, said American students who visit Gorinchem in April will also visit Amsterdam and The Hague.

“I think you all should come on exchange. It’s so much fun,” she told the eighth-graders.

Dutch student Willem Amesz, 15, said he and his classmates have been having a wonderful time in Franklin County.

“It’s a fun country and everyone here is really nice,” he said. “Everyone is kind to you and they’re open to you. And, I also like the school here and how it works, because it works quite differently. And it’s fun to see what the differences are. When the exchange ends, the relationship between America and the Netherlands is closest, so you’ll get your friendships for a long time.”

Julie den Haak, 15, said it has been fascinating to experience all the cultural differences the United States offers.

“It’s really great,” she said. “It’s amazing. Everything is so big. I came out of the airplane and I was already like, ‘What?!’”

The 16 students, broken down into different groups, have visited New York City, Boston, the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Historic Deerfield and Six Flags New England. There are also trips to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a scavenger hunt in Northampton planned. Frontier seniors also hosted a football clinic on Tuesday.

Dean said the program opens students’ eyes and helps dismantle cultural stereotypes, like “that our students only wear clogs or Americans are just always eating big, large McDonald’s meals.”

Martine Van Duffelen, chaperone and a geography teacher at Gymnasium Camphusianum, said she loves visiting Deerfield, and the United States is the most popular destination for Dutch students in foreign exchange programs.

“It’s so attractive for Dutch students to be in contact with American students and see how American lives are,” she said, adding that over the summer she will host a former exchange student. “They know so much about America ... because of the media, so they would like to be in it themselves, see what they have seen on television or on the internet.”

Smith, who still coaches cross country and girls track at Frontier, said the program has served every function it was intended to.

“I hope it continues,” he said before going out to dinner at the Whately Inn with some of his Dutch visitors.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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