Senior class reflections

Renske Hoedemaker

When I left my hometown of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, people told me that going to college in a foreign country would require me to become a mature, responsible and independent human being. I was well aware of this challenge, and came fully prepared with a neat stack of binders full of forms, lists and extremely-important-never-lose-this-ever
documents, ready to be extremely mature and responsible.
It was a bit of a shock, then, when our first week as international students at Lawrence consisted of information sessions detailing minutely what a visa is, why you shouldn’t lose your passport, to call an ambulance only if you’re actually dying and that dry skin is not a reason to go to the emergency room.
Extremely helpful for some, I’m sure, but I realized soon that settling in here was not going to be the life-changing struggle I had imagined it to be. Questions about forms? Go to the registrar. Questions about burned out light bulbs? Call physical plant.
Questions about what to do with your time? Go to the activities fair and sign up for every club that has a booth – I did, which
is why my co-curricular record still has me listed as a member of LawrVana, the LU meditation club that I’m not sure ever existed at all.
I remember talking to my family on the phone once during the first month of classes, and they asked me what the most difficult thing was about living here. My answer: “There is so much to do that you have to miss out on at
least some things. It’s so frustrating!”
With whether to go to an LSO concert or a Greenfire party – or both! – being my greatest weekly dilemma, it was a quite a snug little life for this little freshman. So much so, that when my oneyear exchange program was over and I returned to the Netherlands, I experienced much more of a
culture shock and psychological growth spurt than after my move to LU.
For the first time in a year, introducing myself with a bright “Hi, I’m Renske, I’m Dutch!” no longer elicited the “Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. I have a cousin in Switzerland. What’s the weather like over there?” that I had come to expect and love. Instead, all I got were shoulder shrugs and a mumbled “Yeah? So are we.”
However, the joy of being foreign was not the main reason I came back to finish my B.A. at LU. And neither was the fact that having to buy and change your own light bulbs is just plain awful.
After experiencing a large class size and lecture-based program, which allowed students to take only those classes required for their major, I think I have learned to truly appreciate the opportunities provided by the small, personal approach of a liberal arts college.
The capstone project I will be finishing up this term is the product of four terms of one-on-one work with my academic advisor. Such freedom to spend over a year on something that, I am confident to say, interests me and me alone, would be hard to imagine at most other schools.
That is not to say that Lawrence’s well-organized and close-knit residence life prevented me from obtaining any life skills at all. In fact I acquired huge amounts of valuable bits of knowledge. For example: they’re not called potato “wedgies,” Americans who give you hugs don’t always like you and warm blankets will not do much for a frozen computer.
In addition, one does not need to be in every club on campus, nor attend every event. Being active in student organizations has been loads of fun and provided me with
very useful experience and skills, but when I applied for graduate schools this fall and winter, all anyone ever cared about were my academic achievements.
No matter how hard I tried to steer the conversation toward my accomplishments as the Ormsby Hall Council Vice-President – “but
organizing Zoo Days really helped me improve my people skills. It also taught me where to not plug in a popcorn machine. Don’t you think that would make me a valuable addition to your program?” – or my contributions to the Kohler Trivia team – “research experience, anyone?” – they kept asking me for details on my capstone project.
So, in the end, did I become a mature, responsible, independent human being? I’m not sure. I definitely know more about a variety of random subjects that may or may not have anything to with my major – or academics in general – and have come to understand that it is acceptable not to attend every event and meeting advertised on the white board in my dorm.
For everything else, let me get back to you sometime. Right now I have to start packing up my binders full of forms, lists and very-important-never-lose-this-ever documents. Who knows? I may need them at my next destination.