Nether A Good Time For A New Student

Parkway Central welcomes Wouter Kapman from the Netherlands


Stephen Rutherford

Wouter Kapman (Center) stands with his host-parents, Laura (right) and McLeod Patton (left) after arriving in America.

Sophie Spicuzza, Co Editor-in-Chief

Imagine moving 4,393 miles away from home your senior year of high school to a new country. This is the reality for Wouter Kapman, Central’s newest foreign exchange from the Netherlands. Kapman came to the U.S. through a program for kids who want to be exchange students. 

“I signed up to go to an organization to go to America and they find you a host family near by,” Kapman said.

Kapman has been placed with Laura and McLeod Patton, who live in River Bend. He is one of four exchange students to come to Central this year along with sophomores Arne Seifert, Pascal Kunzi, and Nila Worm. Wouter’s program allowed him to choose which country he wanted to do his studies in, and since he has always wanted to travel he picked America as his country of choice. 

“I found this a good way to get into the culture,” said Kapman.

Kapman tried to go into his program with an open mind, as he wanted to experience America as genuinely as possible.

“I tried to set no expectations at all, I knew I would get disappointed if I set high expectations but everything looks how I would expect it, like in the movies,” Kapman said. 

American high school and Netherlands high school are not vastly different in terms of curriculum, but high school in the Netherlands is structured differently than in the United States. In the Netherlands, high school changes depending on the “level” you are in. You begin with a standard elementary education moving up to secondary education lasting either four, five, or six years. The number of years you attend school depends on the type of career you want to pursue in the future. Wouter is in his sixth year of education and plans to most likely attend college in the Netherlands. 

His class schedule is similar to that of a Parkway Central student with having the same core classes but nothing else. 

“At our school we just take the basic classes, we take math, French, English. But no psychology or anything like that. But we do learn English in school,” Kapman said.

Aside from the structure of grade levels being different, transportation is also vastly different in the Netherlands. 

“People can drive to school here. We cannot drive cars until we are 18, so we all go to school by bike. It’s a 15 minute bike ride,” Kapman said. “There are not many differences other than there are policemen in school. Other than that or the shooting drills, we don’t have that. But I don’t feel unsafe.” 

Another major difference Wouter found between America and the Netherlands is the food. The cultural difference of food is not as shocking as the quality of food, according to Wouter.  

 “It’s shocking how big the portions of food are and how different the food is in general. But the food is good, I like it but it can be too much,” Kapman said. “There is not a lot of healthy options so that can be difficult. When you go here for lunch, you see people eating chips and pizza that are normally dinner things, not things you would eat for lunch.”

One of the common lunch foods Wouter eats in the Netherlands are sandwiches or fried eggs. A traditional Dutch food he sometimes eats is boerenkool. This dish is a mix of kale, mashed potatoes that is served with gravy and smoked sausages. 

Despite being newly introduced to the culture and country, Wouter is excited to be immersed into the American lifestyle. He has many sights he wants to experience, especially around the St. Louis area. And at the top of his list are sporting events.   

“I want to see a baseball, basketball, or American football game,” Kapman said.