Journals Perspective Top Travel

Dutch student discovers American college in Texas

The author's "First Day of School" photo at Sam Houston State University.

Huntsville, TEXAS, U.S.A. – The American college experience has always been a big dream for me personally and as a journalist.

Every European – whether they’ve been to the United States or not – has something to say about it.

A big part of what people think about the country is, I suppose,  based on movies and television shows. When you would ask a Dutchy what an American college looks like, he would definitely tell you about American football, cheerleaders, dorms, proms and big campuses.

The rest that we know about the States, we learn from the news.

When I told one of my friends I was going to live in Texas for a semester, he told me to bring my bulletproof vest. All these prejudices were the reason I wanted to experience this country. I am a 20-year old Dutch girl, living in a state over 16 times as big as my own country for one week now. It’s my first time in the U.S.A. and these are my four biggest surprises so far. 


As I am only studying here for one semester – four months – I didn’t really think about getting a car. In the Netherlands, we either cycle everywhere or use public transportation. That’s the kind of freedom I grew up with.

But it has nothing to do with the experience I had in my first week here in Huntsville. This small town has only a very few sidewalks and with the extreme heat, walking is not ideal. For going to school, I depend on the shuttle bus, which drives between the campus and my apartment Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

For groceries, I depend on my roommates, who drive me to the shops on the other side of the highway once a week.

Without a car, I have no option to get anywhere on my own. I depend on my friends who are willing to pick me up and go do something. Otherwise, I would be stuck in my room. Whether I like it or not.

Air Conditioning

“What do you think about America so far, it’s hot, right?”  This is normally one of the first sentences I get when I meet people here for the first time. And they are right, the weather here is absurd. During my first week, the temperatures didn’t go below 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).

I was wondering how people handle the extreme heat and got my answer fast enough: they don’t. People run from one building to a car to the next building, from one AC to the other.

Outside there is no one to be seen and inside it is almost freezing cold. There are people walking around in sweaters while students in Europe would probably consider wearing their bikinis to school. It is so much that when you walk towards a building, you can feel the cold inside a circle of about 10 meters around it, because of the AC inside.

Is the next step for Americans to invent outside air-conditioning?

The other thing I noticed is that there are no solar panels or windmills to make up for that extreme use of air-conditioning. Where does all this energy come from? Do the people here know that this is causing global warming?

School Spirit

The author sitting in the big school chair at Sam Houston State University in Texas.

The school color here is orange. You can’t miss that because it is everywhere. People wear their school merchandise whenever they get the chance. They invented a day in the week where everyone is supposed to wear orange – school spirit Friday. There even is a store on campus full of merchandise. Not a small store, but an ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ size store.

When waiting in line for my books (the merchandise store is also the bookstore), I tried to imagine a shop like this in my university. People wearing purple on a daily basis with cheerleading slogans on them. That is never going to happen. I feel like students would laugh about it and try to ruin them in every possible way.

In the Netherlands, students aren’t proud of their school. Despite having a world-class education system, students hate their teachers, don’t understand the school system and make memes and stickers on WhatsApp saying: The Q in Fontys (the name of my school) stands for Quality.


Going to a university like this isn’t cheap. Students pay loads for the classes, the books, for living and for meal plans. But on campus, everything is taken care of and presented as ‘free.’ The whole introduction week is free. There are free meals and they hand out t-shirts and other merchandise.

The sentence I heard multiple times from both students and teachers was: you already paid for it, you might as well use/get it.

I have been asking myself if that’s the best system. By attending so many ‘free’ things, you almost forgot that you paid so much money.

What I am thinking is, what if school money wouldn’t include these ‘free’ meals, five different t-shirts and a big splash party in the first week as an introduction?

Could kids who normally couldn’t afford the tuition at such a university then be able to attend the university as well?

Anne van Mill is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

Leave a Comment