A bell rang as I made my way down a giant empty hallway. I gripped onto my mother’s hand as we reached a tall wooden door. Butterflies as big as boulders entered my small eight year old stomach. From excitement or fear, I cannot remember. Before it was opened, I could hear the laughter and voices coming from the opposite side of the door. All in a different language that I wasn’t able to comprehend. I gripped my mother’s arm one last time. Someone opened the door and I stepped inside. Forty eyes were on me as I was led to a small desk in the middle of the room. I placed my backpack on the back of the chair, but someone took it to the back of the room. The only familiar thing to me had been taken and now I was alone. I wasn’t sure of it then, but that moment was the start of my new life in the United States.
7 years ago my family had left everything behind in the Netherlands, and moved 4,661 miles across the Atlantic ocean to have the opportunity to reside in America. The country most people can only dream about living in. I had been lucky to travel around the world, but never stepped on American soil. It has been several years and I still wouldn’t change a thing. My experiences transitioning into this new environment has molded me into the person I am today.
I still recall every emotion and challenge I had encountered since this drastic change had entered my life. Ever since I came here, I felt different. My typical Dutch blonde hair, crystal blue eyes and my heavy accent stood out. Culture shock is real and on my first day in that American classroom, in an all American school, surrounded by Americans, was my first taste of it.
Since I had no knowledge of the American language and customs, the biggest challenge was communicating. Apart from having to learn their language from scratch, the behavior of the people was foreign to me. Back home, people were more open and were not afraid to say what was on their mind. If they say something, they meant it and it was something I was brought up to do. I observed that most people in the U.S. were afraid to share who they were and people who did were viewed as rude or conceited. Being young, it felt compulsory for me to obtain this trait from my classmates in order to fit in.
In the beginning, I was afraid to be who I really was. I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself, so I went with what everyone else was doing. I acted the way my classmates did and mimicked their vocabulary. Without realizing, I had successfully conformed into a society where I felt I didn’t truly belong, and yearned to feel the same acceptance as I did back home.
Growing up in this new country, had been a difficult transition but didn’t take long before it became my home. Even as a small eight year old sitting at that desk, I knew that things had changed. That my parents had taken me away from everything I had known and we weren’t going back anytime soon. I needed to find myself in this new society. I needed to figure out who I was going to be by using certain aspects that I had taken with me, from the Netherlands.Was I going to let any insecurities or fears keep me from being myself? Or let the changes in my surroundings determine the person I was going to be? No, I was taught by my parents to not blend in and rather appreciate who I am. This has helped me to persevere into the person I have become by planting my Dutch roots in new American soil.