By Sarrah Peters
For years, Netherlands native Sofie Van Den Brand wanted to travel. Specifically she wanted to visit the United States, as the large size of the country intrigued her. Her mother thought it was a pipe dream, but supported her dreams.
Lo and behold, Sofie worked hard to make her dream a reality, and became a foreign exchange student at Southside High School thanks to EF High School Exchange Year, an international education company that brings 3,000 students to the United States every year.
While Sofie moving to another country for a year was scary for her and her mother, Sofie immediately felt at home with her new host family, Stephanie and Shane Brown and their son.
“There was no awkward moment at all,”said Sofie.
“It was great,” said Stephanie. “She just became one of us.”
Part of the reason Sofie felt so at home was because of the family’s passion for music, which Sofie shares. She had played saxophone for seven years, and was excited to try out for Southside’s marching band. Marching bands do not exist in the Netherlands.
“No one plays football, so there isn’t really a reason for marching bands.”
She also joined the symphonic band. In addition to her musical accomplishments, Sofie also received an award for all A’s for the school year.
The only adjustment that was difficult was the lack of public transport. Sofie was used to cycling to get around, and had to learn to rely on friends and her host family for transportation. She also had to adjust to the wildlife, as wasps are the most dangerous animals in the Netherlands, due to allergies.
Sofie’s year here was not without its struggles. Although she and her mother skyped weekly, she became homesick. The next day, she found out her father had passed away, so she went home. Three weeks later she returned, determined to finish what she started, especially since her father had once had the same dream of traveling to the United States.
Although Sofie is now heading back to the Netherlands, she has promised to return to the U.S. Her advice to other students who want to do something like this?
“Get out of your comfort zone,” said Sofie. “It’s your only chance. Just do it.”