Tag Archives: Foreign Exchange

Equitable Education: We Don’t Have It

Last week, in addition to visiting School 23, the Summa College school for hospitality training, and Efteling Theme Park, I got to see a lot of students and teachers in action, and I got a taste of Dutch faculty development. I was going to focus this post on those things — the amazing teachers and students, the excellent faculty development — but as I typed out an explanation of the Dutch education system’s tuition and compared it to ours in the U.S., I realized that I couldn’t focus on anything fun…yet. As a result, this post is a little dry, but I hope you read it. I think it’s important. Tomorrow I’ll give you a little brain candy and a lot of great pictures of smart, interesting Dutch students.

On Thursday, Noëmi and I headed back to the Summa Zorg campus. She’d arranged for me to observe five different English classes: three taught by her former intern and now a teacher-in-training, Chiara; one by her colleague Franka; and one of Noëmi’s own.

The first two classes were taught by Chiara, an energetic young woman of Irish and German descent who was born in Germany and moved to the Netherlands when she was four years old (her father’s work transferred him here). Her English is spectacular and her accent is a bit Irish/a bit Dutch, and all of it was a pleasure to listen to.

Chiara’s 3rd Year Nursing Students with Chiara (far right)

Her first class was made up of 2nd year healthcare students (who I am just realizing now I didn’t get a picture of — imagine them as great, because they were). They were fairly young and a little shy. I explained the U.S. education system to them and talked about some of the differences between it and the Dutch education system.

The first significant difference is choice: when Dutch students are 12 years old, they must decide which type of secondary education they will pursue: a vocational education (VMBO), a general liberal arts education (HVAO), or a more stringent university-preparatory education (VWO). The students who have selected the vocational education go through four years of the VMBO and then, at age 16, they must decide on a specific vocation. That choice determines which college (MBO) they will attend; the students who have chosen healthcare come to Noëmi’s school, Summa Zorg.

This means that at age 16, students decide on a career. If they change their minds, they can switch schools, but they may need to go backwards a bit to make up the curriculum they missed, and this could delay graduation. The system sounded stressful to me (I changed my mind about possible careers until I was about 26; and I think that’s actually pretty decisive). But when I questioned the students about this, they more or less seemed okay with their choices. A couple were a bit uncertain — what if they decide later that they want to do something else? — but many felt confident in their decisions. And I encountered students who had chosen a different vocation, but who’d then switched to healthcare, or were interested in switching from healthcare to something else. They said that yes, there was a bit of delay, but they were happy they’d made the change early and not once they’d gotten into a career they didn’t like and didn’t fit with.

The other significant difference is tuition. When Dutch students begin college at an MBO (or at an HBO, which is comparable to a four-year college or university in the U.S.), they’re only 16 and the government is still paying for their education. The following two years are entirely funded for them, and then, once they turn 18, their tuition is $1,037 per year — to any MBO in the country. And, as long as the student finishes her degree within a reasonable period of time, the tuition is reimbursed to them upon graduation. And, all students get a free public transportation pass after secondary school, as long as they’re continuing their schooling. The government doesn’t want student to have to pay for transportation to and from school, just in case their college is far away. These MBO students are, in large part, though not all, the kind of students who attend McHenry County College.

Now, if a Dutch student is on the track for an HBO or WO (college/university in the U.S. traditional sense) her tuition is $1,984 per year; and it’s not a gift like it is with the MBO students, but a loan that must be repaid. The interest on that loan is very low (maybe 1%?) and the monthly payments are calculated based on the type of job a student is able to get after graduation. If a student has been making monthly payments without default for a long time (about twenty years, I think?), then the remainder of the loan is forgiven.

So, in Chiara’s class, when I explained the cost of tuition at my college, which is still significantly less than most colleges, and the lowest in our area, the students were shocked. Like, there was an audible gasp when Chiara and I did the math (okay, Chiara did the math) and put the price of MCC’s tuition on the whiteboard.

For a student at MCC to be considered a full-time student, she must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours. My single-semester long class is 3 credit hours; each credit hour at MCC is $104. That means that a full-time student enrolled in 12 credit hours is paying $1248 per semester and $2,496 per year, not including books or other materials that may be required for a class (specific software; art materials; uniform for nursing and culinary students). So if a nursing student at MCC is doing her two-year associate’s degree, her tuition will be $4,992.

Now, in the U.S., for a two year degree that almost immediately gets you access to a career, that sounds like a good deal, right? But the Dutch students were floored at how much money that was. For education, which, for them, is a given, like bicycles and windmills. Then I told them that at the University of Illinois Chicago, where I’m doing my master’s degree, tuition is a lot more expensive than it is at MCC, even though UIC is still considered to be reasonably priced. UIC’s in-state tuition — for a 12 credit hour undergraduate student — is $4,763 per semester, and $9,526 per year (again, without books, other materials, or boarding). And out-of-state tuition per semester is $10,550, making the annual cost $21,100. So if my nursing students (or if any of the many students at MCC who are on the baccalaureate/transfer side of the house) want to get a bachelor’s degree, after they’ve paid $4,992 at MCC, they still need to spend a minimum of $19,052 for the remaining two years of their undergraduate education.

And then one of Chiara’s student mentioned Harvard, so we quickly looked that up and saw that tuition alone — without adding in the nearly twenty-thousand dollars worth of fees, room, and board — is $44,990 per year. Plus an estimated $4,000 for “personal expenses” per year (books, materials); and up to $4,000 for traveling between school and home each year for breaks and holidays; and $3,130 for required health insurance if you’re not covered on your family’s plan. Even if you’re a townie or you don’t ever travel home to see your family, and if you don’t need to buy health insurance, you’re still dropping about $70,000 per year and $278,400 for the entirety of your undergraduate education. That doesn’t account for an increase in tuition. And you can’t ever leave Cambridge.

And I know, I know — it’s Haaaaaaahvaahd. It’s the school of schools; Harvard graduates are almost definitely going to make more money out of school than your garden variety schlub like me. But more than a quarter of a million dollars? Holy shit, man.

There’s a gulf, an abyss, even, between the people in the United States who can afford somewhere like Harvard, or even somewhere like UIC, and the students who are barely able to attend MCC (many of my students). This gulf will continue to widen and affect these students’ lives, through the time it will take them to complete their degrees, the debt they accumulate (student loan interest is currently at 3.76% but is likely to go up soon), and the salary of the jobs they are able to get. I don’t think this is okay. I really don’t think this is okay.

I started drafting this post on Sunday evening and my intention when I started was to write about all of the great students I visited last Thursday, and about the professional development conference I attended with Noëmi on Friday. But it’s Tuesday afternoon now: I’ve looked at a lot of dollar signs and I’ve met even more students to whom I’ve had to explain our tuition. This didn’t turn out to be a fun post, and I got off track from Chiara, Noëmi, and Franka. But I’m glad I wrote it. I’m glad I’m thinking about it.

Let’s all think about it, and maybe we can figure out how the U.S. can adjust its culture to believe that a post-secondary education is just as much of a right for all citizens as is the right to own a firearm. How about that, huh? Let’s start there.

Want to read more about how the new president’s budget will affect education? Read this article by Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss, and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post.

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Wednesday in Efteling

The first day I arrived in the Netherlands, Noëmi mentioned that we might go to Efteling Theme Park; and since I am 100% up for anything, I said, “Sure!” Our family went Disney World when I was a small person, and Great America, which I haven’t been to in about fifteen years, is more of a carnival than a theme park; so I was ready for a proper theme park in a foreign country. Bring it on!

Noëmi explained it as a kind of fairy-land, and everyone we talked to on Monday and Tuesday seemed excited that we were going, but some mentioned that it was a good place for children. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, since everything in the Netherlands is an adventure, I was happy to go.

We set out on Wednesday morning with our packs full of sandwiches and fruit in case we got hungry, and our shoulders covered in sunblock. We stopped by the college campus to pick up ticket coupons from Noëmi’s coworker, and then set off to the park.

Yes, this looks like a fairy tale park. You’ll see more of that long-necked fellow later.

Noëmi had checked the park’s traffic prediction earlier in the week, and it was forecast to be a “light” day in terms of crowds. We got there moments before the park opened at 10 a.m., and found ourselves a prime parking spot just three rows from the entrance.

Great parking spot — now let’s get to park-ing (get it? theme park?? “park”ing??? I’m hilarious.)

As we approached the entrance we saw a mascot waving at us from a balcony above the ticket kiosks; this was Pardoes, who is described on the Efteling website as “the magic Jester from Symbolica, a planet on the other side of the universe. Pardoes, who is always jolly, can be found in the park every day.” That immediately sounds amazing, right?

Hello, Parodes!

I didn’t get a good picture of the entrance, but it’s really beautiful, so here it is from Wikipedia:

Image credit: Wikipedia

And this is a warning: my pictures don’t do the park justice. It’s gorgeous. It is full of soaring trees, lush greenery, cobblestones, and buildings that, while only sixty-five years old, and many of them much, much newer, all looked ancient.

A panorama of the inside entrance

Our first stop was the Bobsleigh ride, which went really (really) fast and was not on a track. I screamed like a child and it was terrific.

After that we went on a more low-key ride that was just as wonderful, though in a different way: Fata Morgana, a water boat “dark” ride (you ride through in the darkness and look at moving tableaux along the way). The Fata Morgana is reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights, and is called the Forbidden City. The models and effects were so cool, and there were a few times I jumped a bit.

Passengers loading onto a ride boat

Me and Noëmi in the front seat of our boat!

One of the racier scenes from the ride

We also had a great time standing in line; there were four school children in front of us with their teacher. One of them opened a container of mini-cookies and quickly offered one to Noëmi; she declined, and then when he saw me smiling at the gesture, he offered one to me. I declined as well, but I wanted to hug him. I did not. Farther down in the line, two of the kids were standing in front of a window that looked down onto the boats, and one of the boys saw us standing at the wall and told the others to hurry up because he wanted to give us a chance to look as well. I also wanted to hug him. I did not. And then, another boy with a turtle-shell backpack (amazing) heard Noëmi talking to me in English and asked if we were from London. She told him that she was a native and that I was from America, and while he did not seem impressed, I also wanted to hug him. I did not.

My favorite school kids of the day (there were a *lot* of school kids at the park) — you can sort of see the green turtle-shell backpack. I was trying not to be a weirdo and take a picture of random kids. I didn’t really succeed, did I?

After the Fata Morgana, Noëmi walked us to the section of roller coaster rides to get a sense of how long the Joris and the Dragon line was. It was too long for us impatient adults, so we went to the Piraña instead. It was getting a bit warm out (the day turned out to be about 85 degrees F.) and the Piraña is a water ride, so we chose well. We managed to get an entire raft all to ourselves — I think the kid loading in the passengers wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he realized there were only two of us, we had floated too far away. Sorry, sucker.

Alone on a raft, two women travel down the angry rapids…will they survive?

Since we were already wet, we went from the Piraña to De Vliegende Hollander water coaster (The Flying Dutchman). The line took us through the inside of a pub and then into what looked like a 17th Century street lined with bars (and probably brothels). There were little videos playing that told the myth of the Flying Dutchman, a haunted ship that must sail the seas forever because of the greedy and reckless captain. I loved the story, and De Vliegende Hollander was my favorite ride.

A waiting-in-line selfie; you can see the town’s street in the background

These are our faces on a scarier bit of the ride, snapped by the capture-cam

We moved on to another ride that, because it was in the dark, I thought would be another slow and lovely “dark” ride like the Fata Morgana. Noëmi described it as “the eagle,” and said that it felt like we were soaring through the air. That sounded great, so Vogel Rok was next. Yes, Vogel Rok is a ride with a story that involves an eagle (all of the Efteling rides tell stories, which is special and fun), but it wasn’t anything like Fata Morgana. The Vogel Rok was a proper roller coaster, but it was indoor and almost entirely in the dark (and even the partially lit portions were shrouded in mist) so I never knew exactly where we were going or what was coming next. It. Was. Terrifying. I loved it. We walked out having taken no pictures, and that’s probably because I was still shaking in my sneakers.

Noëmi, perhaps sensing my unsteady legs, suggested we go to an easier ride, which meant that the Carnaval Festival was up next. This was another real “dark” ride and it was meant for children, so I was pretty happy.

Some characters from the Carnaval Festival

It was a bit like It’s a Small World, and the music played was just as…let’s say catchy as the Disney World ride’s music. And now I have them both running through my head. You’re welcome.

After the Carnaval Festival, we wanted something quiet and outdoors, so Noëmi steered us to the Volk van Laaf section. The Laaf are plump-cheeked characters that live in Efteling. I found them to be a bit lazy.

After meeting the lazy Laaf, we took a short break to regroup and plan our next move. Noëmi suggested that we get some poffertjes, and since we’d already eaten our sandwiches and apples, I was up for some food.

But I was not expecting this:

Wow. Just, wow.

These poffertjes are little fried discs of deliciousness, covered in powdered sugar with a hunk of butter for smearing. Jesus, were they good.

We were very happy to eat these.

We made a plan to check out our final dark ride through the Droomvlucht (fairy land) and then to the Fairytale Forest. Noëmi checked our route…

…and we were off! The Droomvlucht was lovely and fun, but it was the Fairytale Forest that dazzled me. There were life-sized houses and towers and animatronic statues and mannequins from fairy tales — many of them Grimm’s Fairy Tales — all spread through an enormous forest. Along the path through were small red and white “singing” mushrooms (they played classical music [possibly lute music]), and at every turn was something more wonderful than the last thing. The creativity, time, and manpower that must have gone into building the forest astounds me, and I just adored it all.

This guy greeted us at the gate

This is a mushroom house. Obviously.

Longneck is one of the prince’s footmen who helped him complete some trials to get the princess. I think.

This is the water monster that ate Pinocchio (the monster’s mouth opens and Pinocchio is inside, but I didn’t get a video of that)

Hansel is locked in the gum drop house and poor Gretel is helpless to free him.

These birds were just hanging around an area in the center of the forest. No big deal.

This tree’s branches moved and were covered in what must have been thousands and thousands of metal leaves; it was terrific

We finished walking through the forest and I was mostly done for the day. I’d seen so much and I’d had so much fun that I was about ready to just sit in a corner with a happy smile on my face and slowly digest my poffertjes (and the fried potato spiral-on-a-stick that we also got and it was delicious but there is no picture). But Noëmi had one more stop she needed to make: the Baron 1898 roller coaster — or dive coaster.

The car stops for at least three seconds right there, hanging at the edge of the drop.

I was the “bag mom” and while Noëmi was in line for the ride, I waited at the bottom, smiling and digesting. But my digestion stopped as soon as I realized that her car was about to start the drop. This was her path:

I was happy with my decision to stay on the ground, and Noëmi was very happy that she took the plunge. We headed home, smiling and sun-tired. I am so glad Noëmi took me to the park. It’s not an attraction I’d heard of and I doubt that I would have found it on my own. But every second was well spent and the day was pretty perfect.

Sometime tomorrow or the next day I’ll write about the amazing students I met on Thursday (I know I say that all the students are great, but on Thursday I met students from five different classes and three different teachers, and they were great, like really great. for real). Here’s a terrible selfie to tide you over until then:

Third year nursing students = Amazing (America…F*ck yeah!)

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It’s Friday! (Here’s What I Did Three Days Ago)

I have 1,000 things to write about in regards to my trip to the Netherlands (I’ve been here for one week), and tonight I’m going to write about the first two days I had visiting schools and meeting students.

On Monday I went to Summa College with Noëmi to see her college campus, get a sense of what her work day looked like, and meet her excellent students.

First, let’s talk about the teachers’ lounge at Summa College Zorg & Welzijn (healthcare and wellness), where Noëmi teaches. This is what it looks like.

I love this lounge

There are two coffee machines that make espresso, cappuccino, and regular coffee; they also have hot water and a variety of tea, and cold filtered water. And it’s all free for teachers. And I have been using it a lot this week. I’ve upped my daily caffeine intake by 80%, and I’m pretty happy about that.

Next, let’s talk about Noëmi’s students, who are great. All of the students I’ve met so far have been great, and I’ll get to that a lot more later. Here’s one of Noëmi’s classes:

Adorable.

I told her students why I was visiting and a little bit about the type of college I teach at, and my students, and they had great questions. They also, through giggles, asked me if high school in the U.S. was like high school in the movies: specifically, are there cheerleaders?

Yes, students. Yes, there are. And they look something like this:

Picture stolen from Sara Zambreno’s Facebook page; she’s that super cute stringbean in the far right front row.

Between Noëmi’s classes, we hung out in the teacher team’s office, and I saw a book near her desk. It looked like fun, so I picked it up.

Fun, right? And the author’s name is Buffi, so…it’s obviously the best book ever.

And it was so much more fun than I could have ever imagined. So.  Much.   More.    Fun.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? I LOVE ALL OF IT!

And then…I found this:

I’ll just leave that there for you to enjoy.

Noëmi drove me over to another school, School 23, where I met up with the three other American visitors and their hosts. There is a visitor from Morton College in Cicero, IL; a visitor from Casper College in Casper, Wyoming; and a visitor from Fresno City College in Fresno, California. As you might imagine, I think they’re all great and I can’t wait to tell you more about them.

Now, the school itself, while also great, kind of blew my mind. School 23 is a school for Dutch language learners to become acclimated to the Netherlands, to learn Dutch, and to learn skills that will allow them to not only function in Dutch society, but to thrive. But many of the students at School 23 are refugees who have fled from countries like Somalia, Syria, and Eritrea. These students have been traumatized; many have lost family members; some are now living in a foreign country all by themselves; and while some have excellent educational backgrounds (Syria had a robust school system until the war, and reported a 95% literacy rate), some of the students at School 23 are illiterate. These students brought an entirely new context to my understanding of “at risk” students.

Not only is School 23 serving this important population, they seem to be doing a wonderful job. The students we saw during our tour of the school were friendly and happy; they practiced their English with us (adorably and nervously), and showed tremendous pride in the work we saw them doing.

Noëmi with the culinary arts instructor and one of his students (who helped cook all of the food for our after-meeting tea!)

We saw students working on art projects, students learning about evolution (um, yeah, a group of smarties from Syria were learning about evolution and I was really jealous and wanted to hang out with their class), and students hanging out in the reading nook (reading nook!). And everywhere in between they were just being happy teenagers, and that made me so proud of them and so thankful for the work that School 23 does.

A masonry studio for students to practice job-specific skills; they also learn carpentry and electrical work


A shop simulation stocked with donated goods where students can practice front of house skills like customer service and back-of-house skills like inventory and book-keeping

We left School 23 happy and feeling great, and we went into our Tuesday with high expectations for the next school we were visiting: the Summa College school for hospitality training at the Eindhoven Aiport. And guess what? Our high expectations were met.

Airport!

We were so excited to go to a new airport — it’s always fun to go to the airport when you don’t have the stress of dragging bags around and worrying about catching your flight.

We met up with the rest of the visitors and their hosts, and were greeted by some of the students in the lobby. They brought us up to their school facilities, located on the second floor of the actual airport. The students are required to wear flight attendant-like uniforms each day to classes, and they looked official and wonderful and made me envious of their teacher for getting to teach them (their teacher is a lovely woman named Rose — hello, Rose!).

The students had prepared presentations for us about their school and their training, and we had time to ask them questions before they took us on a tour through the facilities (and guess what? they also asked us about high school cheerleaders).

Waiting in the school’s airplane simulation


Student presentation!


The. Cutest.

Two students gave a tour to me, Noëmi, and Charles, the visitor from Wyoming. Because they were in their uniforms, they frequently got asked for help by actual patrons of the airport, and Nadia here had to help a couple of guys who were on their way to the Canary Islands load their surfboards and kayaks into the oversized luggage belt.

That’s a kayak, not a dead body! (or is it????? [no, it’s totally a kayak])

There’s an outdoor terrace at the airport!


Our tour guide is literally the poster boy for the school!


Charles, Noëmi, and our wonderful tour guides!

We hated to leave because it was all so cool and the students kept asking us excellent questions, but we needed to get back to Noëmi’s school for lunch. So we took a quick group picture…

They’re ridiculously cute!

…and then we headed back to this:

YES.

So, if you don’t know me that well then you might not know that I love sandwiches. Like, I love sandwiches. I’ve written about them before. And I will likely write about them again.

We ate sandwiches and soup (perfect combination, obviously) and then Noëmi took us all on a tour of her school. I’d seen her office, her classroom, the teachers’ lounge, and the restroom, but that’s about it. So I loved getting to see all of the nooks and crannies. And one of the most important nooks is this nook:

Summa College Zorg Library!

And this was a pretty amazing cranny:

The door for this dental assistant lab class was locked; otherwise, I’d have been all up in that dummy-head’s business.

When the tour was over and the visitors and their hosts left, Noëmi took me to her team meeting (I understood one word: Noëmi) and then I hung out in her office while she did some work. We were both tired from an excellent first couple of days at work, but looking forward to Wednesday, which was our day out at Efteling Theme Park.

I have many things to say about Efteling Theme Park, and they are all good things. But you’re going to have to wait until my next post for that. So for now, I’ll leave you with this:

Yeah, this sure as hell was as good as it looks.

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Noëmi’s Second Week

The first week that Noëmi, our visiting Dutch scholar, was here in the States was jam-packed and a heck of a lotta fun. She observed teachers at MCC, she got to see her first university campus to attend class with me at UIC, and she carved her very first jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

Her second week was just as jam-packed, and, possibly, even more fun. We started on Monday with observations at Elgin Community College. Another host and English teacher at ECC (Ginger, a very generous and helpful person) set up a great itinerary for Noëmi, so she was able to sit in on a journalism class, a literature class, and an English composition class. We also had the benefit of getting a polka serenade as a part of ECC’s Oktoberfest. No offense to the teachers that Noëmi observed, but it was definitely the highlight of our afternoon.

I don't want her, you can have her, she's too fat for me (HEY!); she's too fat for me (HEY!); she's too fat for me!

I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me (HEY!); she’s too fat for me (HEY!); she’s too fat for me!

On Tuesday we took another field trip, this time back into Chicago for my educational psychology class. But before heading to UIC, we had to check out one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions.

sears-tower-street-selfie

We’re really going up there?

Now, Noëmi is afraid of heights, so I was a little surprised she wanted to go up to the Skydeck at the Sears Tower (yeah, I’m not calling it anything else get over it). We’d agreed early on in her visit that if it was a cloudy day, we wouldn’t go up because we’d probably not be able to see anything. But we woke up that morning to a warm, clear-skied day, and we had to do it.

Although Noëmi was nervous, once we got up there, her excitement over the views took over. We walked all around, taking in the city from every direction, and it was lovely. Chicago is a beautiful city and I felt so proud to tell her about the buildings I knew something about. And while “proud” isn’t really the right word for this one (“bizarre” might be better?), I pointed out the Metro Correctional Center, too.

It's just hanging out, a couple blocks from the library.

It’s just hanging out, a couple blocks from the library.

Noëmi even had the guts to go out onto one of the glass shelves. It was a little stomach-dropping, but pretty wild.

noemi-on-the-glass-floor

Am I doing it? I can't look down. Am I out here?

Am I doing it? I can’t look down. Am I out here?

For more great pictures, check out Noëmi’s blog post Hoogtevrees (Afraid of Heights)”.

We headed back down to the ground and to get some sandwiches for lunch. I filled Noëmi in on what we’d be talking about in class that day (intrinsic motivation, in case you just needed to know), and then we took the Blue line one stop to campus. Why didn’t we walk? Because our bellies were full of sandwiches and we didn’t want to, so get off my back, man.

Noëmi at UIC

Noëmi at UIC

After class we hopped back on the Blue line to meet my parents for dinner, this time traveling five stops, so it was totally justified. By this time in the late afternoon/early evening, we’d digested our sandwiches and needed to re-fill our bellies. What better way to do that than over dinner while chatting with two of my favorite people, Mom and Dad Bork? The four of us talked about the Netherlands, art museums, and the Dutch system of registering citizens’ religious affiliations with the government (my mom’s head almost exploded with surprise by this, and if I hadn’t been as engrossed as I was in my french fries, mine probably would have, too). We finished our lovely dinner, and Noëmi and I walked to the train station and headed back home to Camp Crystal Lake.

Luckily, Wednesday and Thursday were going to be spent at MCC, so Noëmi didn’t have to travel far. But on Wednesday, she did have to put her scholarly game face on for the “Brown Bag Round Table” discussion the seven visitors were going to lead. We prepared our room with Dutch/U.S. friendship flags, and took some pre-round table selfies with Frank’s selfie stick (my first selfie stick picture!):

Me with Frank (L) and Patrick (C), two of the visitors, and Bob (R), one of my fellow hosts and an instructor of applied technology (he's an architect)

Me with Frank (L) and Patrick (C), two of the visitors, and Bob (R), one of my fellow hosts and an instructor of applied technology

We had lots of visitors to chat with our Dutch scholars, and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

frank-chats-with-the-group

Frank with MCC staff and faculty, talking about his college in the Netherlands

Anja and Esther talk about their students

Anja and Esther talk about their students

Noëmi and Barb talk about students' career tracks

Noëmi and Barb talk about students’ career tracks

brown-bag-3 brown-bag-4

After a lot of great conversation, Noëmi headed to her afternoon appointments. She spent some time chatting both with our Dean of Library as well as with the coordinator of our advising department to get even more information to bring home to Summa College and her colleagues there. By the end of the day she was loaded down with great information, ideas, and the need to do just a little bit of resting.

But, only about an hour’s worth of resting was in her cards, because Trevor and I had tickets for the three of us to go see David Sedaris at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake.

KWHAT? DAVID SEDARIS came to CRYSTAL LAKE? That’s INSANE.

And yes; yes, it was.

Last spring, as Trevor and I were at the Raue Center picking up our tickets to Death of a Salesman (my friend Shannon, who I played opposite in God of Carnage two summers ago, played Linda Loman and she knocked everyone’s socks right off of their feet, she was so good), and Trevor noticed an advertisement for the Raue’s upcoming events. One of those events was an evening with DAVID SEDARIS, and we were so excited that we immediately bought a pair of tickets for the reading on October 26. We’ve seen him three (or four?) times before in Chicago, and each time is hilarious, so we couldn’t imagine our luck that he was coming to the intimate venue just two miles from our house. And then, at the end of the school year, I got the opportunity to participate in the ICISP scholar exchange and found out that my guest would be here in Crystal Lake in time for the reading, so we immediately got her a ticket.

So, last Wednesday, as we did our hour’s worth of resting before having dinner with Lisa and her husband James (who were also going to the reading), and then heading to the theater, Trevor, Noëmi and I listened to Sedaris read his story “Six to Eight Black Men” from his Live from Carnegie Hall album. It was the first thing I’d ever heard him read, and when I heard it the first time, about thirteen years ago, I almost peed my pants from laughing so hard. Since it’s about the Dutch holiday tradition of St. Nicholas, Noëmi had to hear it; and she got a kick out of it, too, though she kept her composure better than I had those many years ago (this is not a surprise; I am a bit of a lunatic).

Here’s Sedaris reading (most) of the story:

Trevor, Lisa, James, Noëmi, and I, after the show

Trevor, Lisa, James, Noëmi, and I, after the show

On Thursday, Noëmi visited Lisa’s class — her final observation — and attended one of our Faculty Council standing committee meetings on curriculum development and review. She and her colleagues at Summa College recently wrote some new curriculum and are hoping to write more, so she was eager to learn more about our process at MCC.

That afternoon, the group attended a farewell party in Woodstock so that all of our school’s employees could come to chat with our guests for one last time before they left. I couldn’t attend because of class, but Noëmi told me it was a fun time, and she came home that evening loaded up with some great MCC swag that made me very jealous.

Friday was our final full day together, and Noëmi had one last request: to go to the outlet mall. And, since I am not a monster, I could not deny her this wish, so we headed to the Pleasant Prairie outlet mall in Kenosha, WI. It was exciting for a number of reasons: first, because we traveled to Wisconsin, so Noëmi got to visit another state (it was so different than Illinois, she could barely believe it! [j.k. she wouldn’t have even known if I didn’t tell her when we left IL and then left WI to go back into IL]).

It was also exciting because it was shopping, and shopping is just plain exciting. We both got a new pair of Converse and some other assorted pieces of clothing, though mostly we just had fun wandering around and looking at everything we liked but wouldn’t actually buy. I really wanted to buy about five outfits from the Nike store but realized that the most active I get is walking Roo 1.5 – 2 miles per day (at a leisurely pace; my heart rate does not get very high), it was absurd for me to purchase clothing meant for high achievement athletes, then only to wear it for my own high achievement napping. Even though the fleece-lined hoodies with the little holes in the sleeves for your thumbs are so cozy. So cozy!

noemi-and-laura-shopping

Shopping!

The last reason our trip was exciting was that we got to drive through Trevor. You read that correctly: we drove through Trevor. And he didn’t feel a thing! HA!

Trevor, WI is located in Kenosha County, WI, and we stopped there to fill up the car and giggle about being in Trevor.

trevor-mini-martFriday night was a story in an of itself — the three of us went to see a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I will be writing about that adventure in a separate post, because it deserves its own space.

And that was it. On Saturday we all woke up, went to eat a big lunch, and then I dropped Noëmi off at Kim’s house, who was driving her, Esther, and Jacqueline to O’Hare to catch their flight back home that afternoon.

luggage-packed

Noëmi, Esther, and Jacqueline, ready (and not ready...) to leave

Noëmi, Esther, and Jacqueline, ready (and not ready…) to leave

It was hard to say goodbye, but knowing that I’ll be visiting Noëmi in May for the second part of our exchange made it easier. Plus, we’ve already been texting on What’sApp about The Walking Dead, the World Series, and Roo; I imagine we will keep this up until we see each other again.

There are a couple of stories I’ll tell in separate posts: the aforementioned story about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the story that tells you what on earth I’m doing in this picture:

What is happening here?

What is happening here?

So stay tuned for those stories, and more! (though, the “more” is probably going to be about Roo, so…you’ve been warned.)

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Netherlands on the Town

It’s been one week since our Dutch visitor Noëmi has been with us, and she has seen and done a lot. Her first few days here, she got the lay of the land and spent a lot of time on campus, meeting my English department colleagues, getting to know the college, and eating ice cream.

For the second half of her first week, I had a few different types of adventures planned. We were going to Chicago for my evening class at UIC, but we had the entire morning and afternoon to do whatever we liked; so we made it count.

After Noëmi observed a history class taught by my award-winning colleague David (he was teaching a lesson on the American Revolution), she and I hit to road into the city. We parked at my parents’ place (they were at the theater so weren’t around to say hello, but we’re going to have dinner with them on Tuesday) and took in the view before wandering the city.

noemi-on-balcony-2 noemi-on-balcony-1

We ate lunch at Macy’s on State Street and then rode the escalator down from the 8th floor to take it all in. I was slightly disappointed that Noëmi didn’t get to experience the department store as it looks when it’s decorated for Christmas, but she got the sights and smells, and get got herself some Frango mints.

Noëmi in Macy's

Noëmi in Macy’s

We walked across the street to the Daley Plaza’s farmer’s market, which was just starting to pack up. They’d dyed the fountain a bright blue in support of the Cubs making the playoffs (and winning the division last night! Go Cubs!), and Noëmi got some good pictures of the unnatural looking water. We stopped for a picture before moving on to Millennium Park.

noemi-in-daley-plaza

Noëmi gets a quick picture under the Picasso

At Millennium Park, we explored the Pritzker Pavilion, the BP Bridge (both designed by Frank Gehry), and, of course, the Bean (a.k.a. Cloud Gate). It was windy and chilly, but the trees were turning and the brisk weather made for great walking.

noemi-in-pritzker-pavilion-1

This is so cool!

“Everything is so big!”

cloud-gate-bean

Cleaning the Bean

Cleaning the Bean

We finished at the park and walked across the street to warm up, first inside Graham Cracker Comics, where Noëmi got a trade paperback copy of The Walking Dead volume one (oh, did I mention that she’s a huge fan of The Walking Dead? SHE’S A HUGE FAN OF THE WALKING DEAD!), and then we sat for a bit in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel lobby for some sparkling water and comfy chairs.

Although we’d seen a lot already, we had more to do that day. My class, Adolescence in the Schools, was starting at 5 p.m., so we drove over to UIC’s campus. Our topic for the week was gender identity, and Noëmi was able to participate a lot in our discussion, especially during the last thirty minutes of class when we got into small groups to work on what we would include in our ideal sex ed. curriculum. She was surprised that we were even talking about it — that it was even controversial — because in the Netherlands, it’s not a hot-button topic and quite normalized. Very different from our federally mandated “abstinence only until marriage” curriculum.

noemi-in-grad-school

She had a great time, though, and we left class talking about the U.S. school system, gender, and how hungry we were.

We stopped by Wishbone to have some dinner, and Noëmi got to try some Southern-style food without having to travel outside of Chicago. We also watched a couple innings of the Cubs game, and I did my best to explain the sport to her. I did a pretty good job: I used a lot of hand gestures and even got up to mime batting when I explained the strike zone. I think she was impressed.

Dinner at Wishbone: Noëmi's pulled pork and my Southern fried catfish

Dinner at Wishbone: Noëmi’s pulled pork and my Southern fried catfish

We guessed the weight of this pumpkin for a chance to win a Wishbone dinner. I have a good feeling about our chances...

We guessed the weight of this pumpkin for a chance to win a Wishbone dinner. I have a good feeling about our chances…

On Friday we had a much quieter day, going to MCC for the job fair, picking up some materials from the school advising office for Noëmi to take back with her to Summa College, and meeting a couple new friends.

Hey, new friends. You're not very talkative.

Hey, new friends. You’re not very talkative.

We wandered around the Woodstock Square, and I told Noëmi that we’d have to watch Groundhog Day at some point so she could get the full experience.

Image Credit: The Independent

Image Credit: The Independent

That evening, we met up with Lindsay, who coordinated the Dutch scholars’ visit, and her friend Kylie, who is a former student of mine and an amazing young woman, at Duke’s in downtown Crystal Lake. We ate some dinner, drank some beer, and laughed hard about Subarus and Vape Life. It was great.

Saturday was another day out in the world beyond Camp Crystal Lake: specifically, Sonny Acres. For the last seven years or so, the Power family has gone to a pumpkin farm in October, mostly to watch Sadie ride the rides, and also to check out any Halloween costume shops and drink some apple cider. Last year we deviated from the norm by going to Goebert’s Farm in Barrington, and while it was a good time, it just wasn’t the same as ole’ Sonny Acres; so this year we returned to our regular haunt.

When Trevor, Noëmi, and I arrived, Sadie was already in action, getting her Halloween game-face on:

A little more to sharpen the fangs...

A little more to sharpen the fangs…

A couple of little bites...

A couple of little bites…

Et voila!

Et voila — a mini vampire who wants the Cubs to win the World Series!

We wandered around for a couple of hours doing our usual stuff. I introduced Noëmi to apple cider (yes), to the caramel apple (yes and yes), and to rubber Halloween masks (no…okay, yes).

In line for cider with Neill and Fran

In line for cider with Neill and Fran

dr-who-mask

Trevor dons a mask

grilling

We see what’s on the grill

The best part of the afternoon, though, was seeing a Tabitha look-alike. We decided that this little guy is probably Tabitha’s younger brother:

tabithas-brotherThe afternoon was also remarkable for taking what was probably our best selfie, that some jerk hot dog photo-bombed. But since we’ve gotten so good at these, I figured I’d share them all with you:

Hot dog creeper

Hot dog creeper

And that was our last few days! We spent this morning watching Manchester United lose to Chelsea (BOOOOO, CHELSEA!!!!!), but Noëmi wore Trevor’s Memphis Depay jersey to represent the Netherlands.

Depay in the house!

Depay in the house!

I baked up some quick banana bread, which we scarfed down immediately, and now we’re about to go to see some American stores (I’m going to show her Walmart, where they sell weapons, because…AMERICUH), and then home to decorate the house for Halloween. I’ll also spend some time today practicing my Dutch phrases, which Noëmi is teaching me in preparation for my visit to see her in May. This is what I’ve learned so far:

  • I am Laura – Ik ben Laura
  • How are you? – Hoe gaat het?
  • Good – Goed
  • I’m from America – Ik kom uit Amerika
  • I’m a teacher – Ik ben een docent

Stop by next week for more about Noëmi’s continued adventures, and more amazing phrases!

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McHenry County College Goes Dutch

The Dutch are here!

Last week I wrote about the visiting Dutch scholar I’m hosting for the rest of the month. Through our exchange program, I’ll be visiting the Netherlands in May, but for now, my guest, Noemi, and the other six visitors are here, and they’ve been having a lot of fun so far.

They all arrived on Saturday morning, and four of us hosts went to O’Hare to pick them up. They got through customs easily, with the exception of Jacqueline, who declared the dog biscuits she’d brought as a gift for her host’s dog.

airport-pickup

From Left: Anja, Noëmi, Rianne, Esther, and my fellow host, Lori–Rianne holds Jacqueline’s sign as we wait for her to get through customs

Once we got the whole group, the four above, Jacqueline, Patrick, and Frank, we headed back to Crystal Lake and our respective homes so our guests could relax for a bit and get over their jet-lag. Noëmi and I spent our evening eating pizza and talking about our respective colleges while Roo showed Noëmi every single toy she had, and Noëmi politely told her that she wasn’t interested in Roo’s sharpened bones. No, dank je.

On Sunday a group of us walked around Crystal Lake for a bit of fresh air and exercise…

lori-the-tour-guide

Lori explains that Crystal Lake was almost the site of the Olympic rowing competition

…and then that evening, Noëmi and I headed to her house for a potluck party at Lori’s with everyone. But, before we left for the potluck — like, minutes before — as I picked up the casserole dish that was housing my homemade macaroni and cheese that I was bringing to the potluck, this happened:

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Yes, as the hot dish hit my fingers through the dish cloth I was using as a hot-mitt, I shifted my fingers quickly and dropped the casserole. The dish shattered, and macaroni and cheese was ruined on the floor, and Roo was very anxious to help me clean up.

So, we brought beer to the potluck instead, which was appreciated in a different way, and everyone had a great time.

Monday, Noëmi got to observe her first English class here at the college, and Anja joined her. It was my friend Robert’s class, and he was starting a new topic for a research paper, so Noëmi and Anja got to see how he introduced new materials and explained an assignment.

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

The visitors all got to take a tour of the campus, and had lunch with our president, Dr. Clint Gabbard, as well, but they wanted to do a bit of exploring in downtown Crystal Lake, so Lori and I took them for a coffee and a walk-around to some of the shops.

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Books!

Books!

Even more books!

Even more books!

ALL THE BOOKS!

ALL THE BOOKS!

chocolate-frogs

Chocolate frogs at Riverside Candy Shop

riverside-candy

They appreciated the candy shop, but were tired by this time they were a bit worn down, so Noëmi and I headed home to rest. She is a fan of The Walking Dead, and since Season 6 was only just released this past weekend on the Netherlands’ Netflix, she hasn’t had a chance to watch it. So she told her boyfriend, Dave, to watch it back home without her and she and I would watch it this week to catch us up before the Season 7 premiere this Sunday. Needless to say, Monday evening was spent watching a bunch of The Walking Dead. Since I am kind of a fan of the show, and a good host, I felt obligated to watch them with her.

Tuesday, the group went on a neighborhood tour of Chicago led by my colleague and Instructor of Sociology, Mark. Noëmi took a lot of pictures, but I headed to the city myself for my Tuesday afternoon class. No pictures of my class were taken, but check out Noëmi’s blog for some of her Chicago pics.

The group before they left for the city

The group before they left for the city. Roo tried to sneak on the bus, but she was discovered and kicked off. 

On Wednesday, Noëmi got to observe two more classes…

Noëmi in Anne's class

Noëmi in Anne’s class on Wednesday

noemi-in-class

Noëmi chats with Anja and Robert on Monday; Noëmi visits Ted’s class

…and then, yesterday afternoon, the college hosted an open house to meet all of the visitors. And there was ice cream.

ice-cream-social

ron-anja-and-mike

Ron, Anja, and Mike

tim-amy-timothy-and-frank

Frank has got Timothy, Amy, and Tim on the edges of their seats!

juletta-and-noemi

Noëmi and Juletta

lindsay-and-patrick-compare-phones

Lindsay and Patrick, exchanging pictures

lisa-jacqueline-and-eli

Lisa and Eli welcome Jacqueline to the U.S.A.!

Last night after a full day, Noëmi and I went home to cook some chili for dinner, and then watched the presidential debate with Trevor.

Today, I’m bringing her into the city with me for my Thursday night graduate class, and first we’ll stop by Millennium Park to see the Bean. We’ll have more pictures, so check in later on this week to get updates!

Goede nacht, Dutch readers!