A trip to the Netherlands this summer has Kyle Bakken looking forward to the day he can go back for another visit.
The 17-year-old Waupaca High School senior spent approximately three weeks there through the Rotary Short-Term Exchange Program.
Bakken, who is the son of Tammy Strobusch and Ted Bakken, knew about the program because his older brother Erik participated in the same exchange program just prior to his last year of high school.
In addition, Bakken learned more about the opportunity to be part of a short-term exchange program or a full-year exchange last fall when members of the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club talked to students about the programs.
For the short-term exchange program, he had to choose from about 15 countries. His top three choices were the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.
“I wanted to go somewhere in Europe to begin with,” he said. “I wanted the west or northern (Europe). I have lots of heritage in the Scandinavian countries.”
Before Bakken left for the Netherlands, his family hosted 17-year-old Bob Morssinkhof, who lives in the Netherlands.
Bakken then stayed with Morssinkhof and his family during his visit to the Netherlands.
Morssinkhof arrived in the U.S. in time to see how July 4 is celebrated. Bakken and his family took him to Waupaca’s parade and fireworks, and also to Madison and Florida.
Morssinkhof knew about the BP oil spill and was told that the part of Florida they were visiting would not have oil there.
Bakken and Morssinkhof were set to leave for the Netherlands on July 22, but flooding in Milwaukee resulted in canceled flights. Instead, they left on July 24. Bakken returned to Wisconsin on Aug. 11.
During Bakken’s time in Europe, he went to London where he traveled an underground tunnel into France. He also visited Belgium and Germany.
What he noticed in Belgium is that the people consider pancakes and waffles to be dessert – they do not eat them for breakfast. They also do not eat “warm” breakfasts.
Bakken described Netherlands as the “Wisconsin of cheese.”
He said the landscape of the Netherlands and Belgium looked very much like Wisconsin, with open fields, corn and cows.
The houses in the Netherlands were constructed out of red brick and looked inviting.
Bakken said that most people speak English and say that the language is easy to learn.
He also noticed that the pop music there is the same as it is here. “I knew almost all of the songs when I was there,” he said.
About half of the television channels were the same as here.
When Bakken went to a movie during his stay in the Netherlands, he said the movie was in English and had Dutch subtitles.
The family that he stayed with lives in a community of about 4,000 people.
One thing Bakken noticed is that the towns are more independent. For example, if someone lives in King or the town of Dayton here, that person says he lives in Waupaca. In the Netherlands, the person would say he lives in King or Dayton.
Bakken ate typical Dutch food during his visit, saying they eat a lot of pork and use mayonnaise there like ketchup is used here.
He also noticed that the rules for driving are a bit more relaxed. It is common for people to not signal when changing lanes and for police to not pull over speeding drivers unless they are reckless, Bakken said.
In the Netherlands, the process to get a driver’s license begins when one turns 18, and students who are 16 and 17 go on a vacation with their friends – without parents.
There were other differences for Bakken.
When he took his plate to the sink after eating, the family looked at him and said, “Oh, that’s nice.”
There, the mother or one particular family member usually takes all the plates to the sink after everyone is done eating. Bakken also noticed that they use their knives more when eating.
Of the countries that he visited during his three-week stay, the Netherlands was his favorite.
“It was probably the most fun-filled three weeks of my life,” he said.