I can’t believe that it’s already November and I am already a little over three months into my study-abroad journey! I remember how the weather was reminiscent of Salt Lake in the summer when I had moved here and now everyone is wearing winter coats and the streets are lined with holiday lights. It is strange that here people have moved on from Halloween straight to ‘Sinterklaas’ (a Dutch holiday on December 5th each year), whereas I am used to observing Indigenous Peoples Day and such. It has been so interesting learning about Sinterklaas because it involves chocolate letters, pepernoten, and carrots in shoes. I’ve noticed that in every grocery store, companies are preparing for this holiday, and my Dutch friends and I have decided to celebrate together.
New courses have begun, and in comparison to the first-period classes I took, these require significantly more work. As I’ve mentioned, I have been stunned by the number of high-stakes tests here in the Netherlands, however, I have been even more thrown off by the scores I received for my final exams. I have found that Vrije Universiteit conducts testing in a way that accommodates only specific types of testers. It is great for those who perform well under time restraints and high-stress levels, however, that is not the case for me and the majority of learners. Considering my position as a prospective educator, I have taken this examination period as a learning experience in how and why this method of reviewing a student’s sense of understanding is not effective. I find that educators have to be committed to helping their students succeed and put into perspective that they are there to be counting every point towards helping a student succeed rather than counting how many points to subtract from how many points they need to pass. Looking at how much I understand and how much work I put into studying, I’m very proud of myself in that I was able to move internationally and challenge myself by learning in a completely unfamiliar environment. I think that this aspect of my study-abroad experience is very important to include in my journals because not everything goes as expected while you are away from your home university. There is a lot one has to get used to, and as Dutch students have grown up in this system of assessment, international students like myself have not, and in that are placed at a disadvantage. I didn’t expect to struggle this much while abroad both mentally and emotionally, therefore challenging myself in these circumstances has taught me a lot about myself in that I have proven to persevere and flourish despite the uncomfortableness.