A student friendship has been forged spanning 4,554 miles apart – between Winter Park and a country known for its beautiful tulips and windmills.
Students from Winter Park’s Valencia College campus had the chance to travel across the globe to the Netherlands last month – an opportunity to learn more about a distant culture and their way of life.
Students had the chance to meet students from Koning Willem I College, with whom they had been in contact through Skype during the school year while working on class projects.
They also traveled to class the Dutch way — riding bikes eight miles through the countryside.
“The buildings were just gorgeous brick,” student Michaella Flynn said. “There was tulips everywhere, lots of green trees and fields of just beautiful green. It was nothing like (Orlando).”
Dutch culture has its own unique traits, Valencia Humanities Professor Val Woldman said. People in the Netherlands usually aren’t afraid to say what they thinking or feeling, whether it’s commenting on someone’s haircut or someone’s cooking. They also keep the windows of their home wide open, even creating displays for people to see as they’re walking by.
“It’s very important for people to be able to look into your house and observe,” Woldman said. “The windows are very open, because they’re an open culture. In Orlando, we shut our blinds at night because we don’t want anybody looking in — it’s completely the opposite there.”
The students also saw their share of history, visiting Kamp Vught, the former site of a Holocaust concentration camp on the outskirts of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and the Anne Frank house. Students laid eyes on the young Jewish girl’s famous diary that recounted her family’s story of hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
“Walking into the place where she actually lived and hid gives you more than just goosebumps,” Flynn said. “We went into her bedroom and the pictures that she put on the walls to decorate were still there. It left me speechless. I was in tears.”
The students from Valencia and Koning Willem I College formed a strong bond during the trip, Woldman said. Interaction with someone you’ve never met thousands of miles away through Skype can be awkward at times, Woldman said, but the two groups of students seemed to meld together when they met face to face.
“They stayed with us at the lodging, they went to dinner with us, we attended classes together,” Woldman said. “By the end of the week, it was really tough for the students to say goodbye. They had really made some new friends.”