Wouter is known around our campus as being a friendly, kind student. He is always willing to help, even joining in to assist with the Writing Center when that was needed, although English is his second language. It seems like he has been a valued part of our community for much longer than he has!
Wouter has had a wonderful variety of living experiences already, unlike the community experience of the Legends at Cape Henry Collegiate who “consider this their life: they are here at 8, go home at 7, and have done that for years.” He joined us at Cape Henry in his junior year, having lived in Holland, then the United Kingdom between the ages of four through nine--where he learned English--before returning to his homeland. There, Wouter went to three different high schools, including one in which he was in the IB program. His assessment of Cape Henry Collegiate in comparison? “This is the best school I’ve ever gone to! It’s well organized: whatever you ask someone, it happens. So many things are in place that I’ve never seen in any other schools--and so many after-school activities. CHC does a very good job at getting everyone together and making it a fun time. The classes are fairly difficult, but the teachers make it so that every student understands; they will give extra help. I don’t know how they do it! At the end of the day, I understand everything; my knowledge has shot up exponentially. They don’t offer that at most schools; the quality of education is so good here. My English has improved so much in the last two years that I am able to help others. The people I’ve met are great; I’ve learned more about myself and what I want to do, and I’ve tried out new things.”
That’s a strong recommendation from someone who has spent much of his life “trying out new things.” Wouter has been through many transitions; when he moved to the United States, the first stop was California. He immediately fell in love with the San Francisco/San Diego area. This was his first impression of the USA; because of the affinity he felt, as well as the fact that he has family in that area, he plans to live there in the future. He enjoyed his family trip as they drove through “as many states as we could” on the way to the Tidewater area. He is also happy to have “friends from all over the world.”
“When you visit a lot of places, you have to develop an idea of what you want; I’m fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience all these places to help me make my choice.” What has he chosen? Although he considered universities in Boulder, Colorado, as well as JMU and another college in Holland, he is excited to live in the city as he attends the University of Amsterdam. He knows many people who have studied there, and his brother will be pursuing a Master’s degree there next year. The cultural differences he anticipates in his college experience are interesting. “Holland is about the size of Maryland, so Amsterdam is a big city there. Colleges here are more like a hotel, providing a dorm room, furniture, and a meal plan. There you have to do it all yourself--find housing, prepare your own meals. This prepares you for the real world; you are forced to learn those skills early. Also, you attend for only three years; it is more structured, so once you choose a major you cannot change. In the first two years, you learn the basics of your specific major; in the last year, you can either study abroad or do a minor.” Wouter plans to go to California for that third year, looking forward to eventually pursuing an MBA and living there.
“I see myself starting up a company or working in something international, learning Spanish online so I would have a third language. I want to pursue a business focus on sustainability; this is getting popular in Europe, so they have majors in colleges for that, which is what my older brother is doing. We could work together in the future, as we both study Economics. Now I’m taking AP Economics independently, with Mr. Palmer as my mentor, because I need that for the university in the Netherlands; this has helped me to learn how to study for college, as not everything is laid out for you at that level. I had four years of Economics in Holland; Mr. Palmer has taught me more than I learned in those four years. My experience with the student-run Compass Rose Coffee Company has also helped me to learn what it will be like in the future as I deal with the ups and downs of running a company.”
Even though Wouter expressed that he does not feel a natural talent for math, he truly enjoys it and works hard at it. His advice? “Persistence outweighs difficulty; if you keep pushing through, you will succeed.” The CHC faculty have helped him greatly in his mathematical pursuits. Although he was not on that trajectory, Dr. Perkins “gave me the chance to work and accomplish” taking AP Statistics, which he needs for admission to the university in Holland. “The risk she took for me is now succeeding,” and he is working hard in that class as well as Calculus. Wouter also lauds Mr. Torch for his assistance in the Honors Precalculus with Differential Calculus class.
A “favorite” is Mrs. Olson, who was his teacher for both Chemistry as well as Biology: “by far the best teacher at Cape Henry.” In Wouter’s educational system, he was able to choose classes beginning at the age of 12. He had no interest or background knowledge in these topics, and needed to take them both as a junior when he already had a large course load. “I was discouraged and didn’t like Chemistry, but she helped me so much and made the time fun, helping me to work hard and gain interest in the class”--and be successful. The feeling is mutual, as Mrs. Olson reflected, “It was a great pleasure to teach Wouter Biology and Chemistry in his junior year. He made a decision that he was going to bridge the gap he had from previous school system curriculum, and once he did, he was off and running. The transformation was extraordinary as he tapped into his innate abilities. I am not sure if I am more proud of him for the focus and effort he made to excel or the fact that his efforts earned him an A+ in Chemistry. Either way, he has determination and focus which will carry him through college and beyond. I'm sure he will do great things and am excited to hear about all of them.”
A very special shout-out goes to Wouter’s father; he thanks Dad for allowing him go to CHC. “He worked hard in the military to get here; it has been nearly forty years. That is the reason we came to this area.”
Does he have advice for younger students? “Find your interest and really go for it; if you are not a science person, put more time into your math; find your strength, work on it and learn from it. Plan ahead for more difficult subjects; planning is so important for college, you need to learn it while you are young.”
We can’t wait to see how your plans materialize, Wouter! Please keep in touch!