A family to love:

Buddy Family histories of Jacintha, Willem, Britt and Timothee

We’ve all been there: taking the step to finally leave your comfort zone, ready for the new adventure. But then you arrive in a place called Wageningen, and you w onder: “where the hell do I start??”. But no panic: you’re not alone and in fact many people that are past this first worrisome 

stage are more than willing to adopt you and many of your kind, together starting a brand-new Buddy Family!

But how does this work actually?

Jacintha: “For me, being a Buddy Mentor means making sure that international students have the most amazing start in Wageningen they could ever have. I know myself what it feels like to be an international student in a foreign country and with a great start, all your insecurities can go away. Therefore your Erasmus can be an unforgettable experience with worldwide connections!”

Becoming an AID parent

Jacintha started being an AID Buddy Mentor together with two study friends, whereas Britt became the mentor and mommy of an amazing Buddy Family together with her partner in crime Wouter. Of course the first steps were accompanied by feelings of doubt, but soon it became clear to be a great decision. Britt: “I always thought that only the Dutch students liked parties and crazy activities, until I met my AID-group and all the people of ESN! As a group, we had an amazing time during the AID and we decided to stay together and become a Buddy Family”.

Willem: “After some time you don’t feel like a mentor anymore, but you become part of the group. The friendships you can get by being a group from the start of your study are amazing, and the activities help by creating this bond. It was an amazing experience!”

Starting a Family

Of course every Buddy Family is different, and Jacintha started off with a quite quiet group – but that's normal. Luckily most of the kids were enthusiastic about doing a lot of activities and so the AID was the start of an amazing half year together. After the AID most Buddy Families see each other at least once a week for dinners, lunches, excursions, parties, or other random activities, and through their parents the kids meet more Dutchies as well.

Timothee: “My family really helped me to be integrated into the Wageningen student community! My Buddy Mentors are always really helpful, they gave me some tips about Dutch student life and all other weird Dutch ways of thinking ;) It is a good way to meet new people from other cultures and discover new traditions!”

Besides ESN’s organized activities, Buddy Families also organize activities themselves. Willem’s Family celebrated Sinterklaas together, which is a Dutch celebration that includes snacks, presents, and for Jacintha’s Family even a visit of Sinterklaas himself!

Going Dutch: the first shaky steps

Not every Dutch habit is easy to learn, however. Once in summer there was an Erasmus gathering near the river, and Jacintha went there with her Family. Of course, there were a lot of international snacks and alcohol involved, and one of the “kids” then decided that it was time to go home. But riding the bicycle is difficult, especially under the influence of alcohol. It was going fine though, until she had to go a little bit uphill and then fell off her bike in slow-motion. The rest just stood there and laughed for a couple of minutes while she laid on the floor 'draw me like one of your French girls' - style. She was not harmed but she decided that "she didn't do Dutch anymore" and so the French "kid" went home and decided to walk next time.

Learning Dutch

Besides the ever-present bicycles, also the language brings in some confusion. During one of the international dinners an Italian "kid" asked: "Mommy, when I go to the supermarket in the evening, they all say 'Pineapple!' to me, why do they do that?". Turns out that he misunderstood "Fijne avond!" (Dutch for good evening) for pineapple. After 4 months he was finally not confused anymore, but from then his family always said goodbye with a loud 'Pineapple!'.

The aftermath

Jacintha: “Nowadays, almost a year has passed and the students who were here only for half a year are still in contact with us. The MSc students who will be here for at least another year became part of my group of friends in Wageningen. I meet them for studying, doing sports and our international dinner parties are still going strong!”

Going global

And although Wageningen is such an amazing place, your Family doesn’t need to stay just within its borders…

Jacintha: “We also went to France and Belgium to visit the houses of one of our "kids" together, and we are planning on celebrating Carnaval in Switzerland someday. Italy, Germany and Zimbabwe are on our travel-to-do-list as well!”

- by Naomi Ploos van Amstel