Exchange Students: Lotte Pen from the Netherlands

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Lotte Pen- One of Cleveland’s exchange students from the Netherlands. Ashley Lytle photo.

By Sophie Brown, Reporter

This year at Cleveland there are six foreign exchange students, traveling as much as halfway around the world to experience our vastly different culture.

One of this number is Lotte Pen, coming from The Netherlands. After finishing high school back home, she decided to take a gap year before starting college. This can be achieved through several different ways, a club, or through scholarships. Pen got here through a private agency not affiliated with her school. Host families will look through a list of various applicants, and choose one that they liked, or have common interests with. Pen wasn’t able to choose the city, or even the state she would be sent to. However, she says she has a particular fondness for Portland stating, “Portland is known for its weirdness, or the things people do and wear. That’s a thing that happens in Portland, not in every place in America. That’s a big difference because I guess in Holland we just wear H&M stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to do your own thing. I think a lot of kids struggle with their own identity, and here they don’t care, they just do stuff. It’s different, just different. I think it’s awesome.”

Weirdness isn’t the only stereotype Pen has found true upon arriving in the United States. The saying “everything’s bigger in Texas” seems to apply to every state here. Holland is roughly one sixth the size of Oregon, although the population is about four times as large. But it’s not just the landmass. Pen remarks how things like supermarkets and cars are noticeably larger here than in Holland.

“It’s a stereotype that everyone says, that America is big, but it actually is. Literally everything is big,” said Pen.

Lori Butler is the foreign exchange student counselor at Cleveland. She’s overseen students from all over the world as they’ve joined our Cleveland community.

“We’ve had students from about every European country. Students from Thailand, South America, even one from Sierra Leone. They come with good English skills, but there’s still an adjustment,” said Butler.

It’s not just English that students like Pen are skilled in. Pen is fluent in four languages. As well as English and Dutch, the official language of Holland, Pen can speak German, and a unique dialect specific to the county where she grew up. Although Pen stated that not everyone in Holland knows as many languages as her, most people have some experience speaking English.

Pen is staying in the United States for the rest of the school year, after which she plans to return to Holland for college.