The Dutch Experience


With my passport to new beginnings in hand, and my school friends, Principal and teacher by my side, I set off on what would be one of the most priceless expeditions of my student life at VIBGYOR. One filled with the awe of adventure: the palpable eagerness to board the flight and fly away, for the first time without the protective shadow of my parents; yet, an undercurrent of nervousness crept up my spine and gave me chills, for the very same reason. Fighting my fears, I took my first step on that plane, because travel begins outside your comfort zone. There was no turning back.

After a gruelingly long flight, we finally landed at Schiphol airport, where a grand delegation of teachers and students awaited to welcome us to paradise. The air was unspoiled, the landscape unpolluted; the initial feeling of disorientation and possible homesickness being drowned out by the awe and wonder that I was in another country, on another continent, with other people.

We went as travellers, not as tourists. Globetrotters whose main aim was to ‘experience’ the Dutch culture, rich with the most divine sweets and the most elegant dresses. Every aspect was scrutinised by me. A culture so foreign, so different, yet the warmth and hemlines of my host family bridged the gap and greatly reduced the culture shock I would have experienced if I had travelled as a tourist. It was a much needed respite from the comfort of the LCD screen of my phone and spending frivolous hours in large departmental stores: two of my favourite pastimes. My main aim was not to shop, or to snapchat. It was to document every frivolity of Dutch habits, from dining manners to Dutch “Panakooks” and everything in between. My family always ensured that I had a box of delicious soesjes by my side.

From Goedemorgen to Goedenacht, we learned of the vast differences that were so skillfully bridged in the experience, right down to the absence of paneer makhani (my absolute favourite). Their inability to pronounce “Namaste” left me in stitches, but was balanced by my inability to pronounce basic Dutch words. In fact, they even tried their hand at Bollywood dancing on the culture night organised in school! Nobody wanted to leave, rather, we wanted life to pause in these random moments: the visit to the Middelburg Abbey, the trip to the cheese farm, the football match (where the Dutch beat us 4-0)… Our final goodbyes were the toughest. Hugs, high-fives, promises, the exchange of phone numbers comforted us, and enabled us to come back to the one place I now longed for, HOME.

– Soorya Balasubramanian Grade 9 (IGCSE), VIBGYOR High, Goregaon