Frédérique Experiences U.S., Green Bay in Pandemic Year


Autumn Mayer, Staff Writer, Journalism I

Frédérique Vermeij is a new international student from Nieuw-Vennep, a small city in the Netherlands. 

Unsure about what to do for college, she decided to take a gap year and come to the United States as an exchange student. 

While her parents were reluctant at first, they were convinced it would be a good experience once they found the Reflections International program, which placed Frédérique in Green Bay. 

“Everything is huge here,” Frédérique said. 

She knew America would be different, but she was still surprised by how different. 

“Frédérique has impressed me since Day One,” said English teacher Carolyn Brown. “Her English is flawless–both spoken and written–and she is smart and mature.  I only wish she could experience what Notre Dame and American high schools are usually like with all the sporting events such as Friday night football and social events like back-to-school dances.” 

In the Netherlands, there are strict regulations due to a new spike of COVID-19, including restricted numbers of people in certain places and a 1.5 meter distance requirement. 

The pandemic also caused exams to be cancelled country-wide for the first time since World War II. 

She made a hard decision to follow through with her plans when the pandemic hit, and though she’s still getting a unique education experience, she’ll miss out on many typical American school spirit events, like football games. 

“I was super excited about those events, so it makes me sad that I probably won’t get to experience those.” Frédérique said.

Frédérique speaks Dutch, English, and some French and German, so she’s taking Spanish for a taste of something new at Notre Dame. 

Most of her classes here are new for her–Journalism, Spanish, Public Performance, and Christian Lifestyles–and she made that choice on purpose so she could be exposed to different topics and experiences than her medical-technical track in the Netherlands. 

Frédérique is also a field hockey player and hopes to join a sports team at NDA.

Back home, she lives with her parents, Judith and Marcus, and her sixteen-year-old sister Charlotte. 

Like many American teenagers, she also enjoys spending time with her friends.