Originally Posted 07/10/2014
In March a group of Netherlands exchange students came to live with AACS students and their families for 10 days. They formed bonds, toured many local attractions, and went to school and chapel at AACS with their host students. This gave the Netherlands students an opportunity to see what school is like here in the U.S. compared to their home country. After the Netherland students departed everyone held onto the bright hope that in only two months they would be reunited, this time in the Netherlands. Finally, in early June, AACS teachers Nick Cherone and Anne Hartman travelled with Upper School students to meet their host families and explore one of the most wonderful countries in Europe.
After hours of travel, the AACS group arrived safely in the Netherlands. The students were reunited with their exchange partners on the sidewalk outside of Dr. Mollercollege (the Dutch school) in Waalwijk. Each student was presented with a bright orange lei in honor of their arrival in the country. The group spent the weekend getting acquainted with their host families and, as Mr. Cherone put it “battled jet lag with some serious sleep!” The students spent their first few days touring the area, enjoying some of the festivities related to Pentecost (or Pinksterdag, as it's called in the Netherlands!), and catching up with their Dutch friends.
After a weekend with some of the most beautiful weather of the year, everyone went on a cycle tour to the historic fortress town of Heusden with Kees Van Kemenade, who has been involved with the exchange program since its inception. The AACS students did well on their borrowed bikes, and after a calm morning riding through idyllic farm fields, they arrived at Heusden.
Mr. Van Kemenade pointed out some of the distinctives of the city walls and students had a chance to climb the steps of a windmill. The students had a bit of time to explore the quaint downtown area before gathering at the Pannekoekenbokker for the much-anticipated pancakes. These are not what you would think of as pancakes in the States. They are thin, plate-sized, and come with all manner of toppings: from strawberries and cream to bacon and cheese to margherita pizza! “Several of us were also delighted that the restaurant accommodated both vegan and gluten-free diets!” said Ms. Hartman. "The students enjoyed tasting bites of each other's pancakes, and only a very few managed to clean their plates entirely!”
The next day students began their morning by visiting some Dutch "lessons" (classes). Many of the American students were jealous of the 20-minute break between periods 2 and 3! While the Dutch students attended school the rest of the day, AACS students began a long bike tour. Their guide was Merijn Roels, a history teacher at Dr. Mollercollege. Most of the 18-kilometer (11 mile) bike trip was alongside a peaceful canal with a wooded canopy overhead. They even rode by some sunbathing sheep!
The first stop was Kamp Vught, a Dutch national historical monument and museum. Kamp Vught was the only SS-operated concentration camp west of Germany during World War II. It was primarily a transit camp, meaning that it housed Jews, gypsies, and other minorities while awaiting transport to other camps. Still, though, more than 700 people were killed at Kamp Vught. Students were able to walk the grounds and see the sleeping barracks, the cremation ovens, and the barbed wire fences.
The group rode a few more kilometers to arrive at 's-Hertogenbosch (colloquially, "Den Bosch"), which is the capital of the province of North Brabant in The Netherlands. After touring a magnificent cathedral, the architecture of which spanned from the gothic into the renaissance, the students grabbed lunch. Some students were able to try the favorite local treat, the bossche bol, a large pastry filled with whipped cream and completely coated in dark chocolate.
Their day finished with a tough and rainy 11-mile ride back along the canal. The students were met back at the school by their Dutch hosts and dispersed: some to go shopping, some to rest.
The following day AACS students enjoyed Amsterdam. It was a beautiful sunny day there and students took plenty of photos while enjoying the sites.
After a restful night, both the AACS and Dutch kids gathered for a day at the Efteling, a famous Dutch amusement park.
As their time in the Netherlands was drawing to a close, students spent their final day with their host families and then gathered for a farewell party in the evening. Ms. Hartman said, “The week had gone so quickly, and had been full of wonderful experiences. It was fun to hear the amount of Dutch our students were using increased over the course of the week!”
The AACS group returned safely to Dulles Airport 10 days after arriving in The Netherlands. The students have new wonderful memories to share with their own families and a lifetime experience to cherish. It is such a blessing for Annapolis Area Christian School to be a part of this exchange program. Pray that God continue to bless future AACS and foreign students and teachers with this experience. To God be the glory!
A very special thanks to Ms. Anne Hartman and Mr. Nick Cherone for sharing the wonderful details of this AACS Adventure!
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