Profile: Tom Meijer, exchange student

September 18, 2010 by  

Tom Meijer, 21, is an exchange student from the Netherlands. (Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

Tom Meijer, 21, is an exchange student from the Netherlands. (Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

It was his first week of classes at Kwantlen’s Richmond Campus, but he is no freshman. Tom Meijer, 21, is an exchange student from Rotterdam, Netherlands and in his third year of International Business studies.

Meijer is one of Kwantlen’s 34 exchange students in the fall 2010 semester. After this semester, he will be a student in the Netherlands again. His five classes here fit with his program at home, and the credits are transferable. He came to Vancouver because he wanted to do his exchange in an English-speaking country.

“I also think the culture here suits me. It’s quite liberal and open-minded — like me,” he said./p>

Meijer enjoyed his first days at Kwantlen. “I really like the small classes with around 20 students. This way it’s easy to engage with the instructor’s material.”

Class work and the style of teaching are quite similar to his school at home, Meijer said, although one difference is that the instructors here put more effort in engaging the students than they do in Rotterdam.

(Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

Taking notes in his business class. (Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

Being thousands of kilometres away from home doesn’t seem to bother him. Going abroad wasn’t a big decision.

“I chose my studies consciously and I knew that going abroad is part of my program. That’s what I wanted and I would be very disappointed if I would be staying at home now.”

Meijer said that leaving friends and family has been surprisingly easy. A few years back, he saw his brother gaining international experience and enjoying it. So he knew what was coming to him and — more important — he knew what the experience is worth.

At first, one needs courage to leave the comfort-zone of home, Meijer thinks. “If you do so, you try new things and you meet new people. You challenge yourself and become more.”

The new culture was at first awkward but he settled in quite fast and got used to it, he said.

His first day was a difficult one. Back then, he had to find a room and the place where he first stayed was still under construction. He couldn’t rest enough to get rid of his jetlag. So he went for a walk.

He discovered Vancouver bit by bit and he would recommend to everyone who is new to a city to explore it at first by foot at one’s own pace.

Especially at the beginning of an exchange, student’s social contacts to friends and family at home can help. “Writing e-mails and posting on Facebook is daily stuff,” he said. As well, once a week Meijer talks to his parents on Skype.

Although he will be away from home for five months, he’s not afraid to lose his connections to people at home. “My friends know I miss them, and I know they miss me. A couple of months won’t change anything.”

Meijer likes the small size of classes at Kwantlen. (Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

Meijer likes the small size of classes at Kwantlen. (Photo by Paul Fleischanderl)

In most of his classes, Meijer is the only exchange student, which means a lot of new faces and acquaintances.

“People here are interested in who I am. But it’s mostly politeness and small talk. Everyone has their own life and their social circles,” he said.

Meijer wants to get to know the people here, but he thinks they aren’t easy to approach. He knows that it how acquaintances will perceive him depends on his attitude, and that he has to make the first step.

Every semester thousands of students like Meijer all around the world experience life, joy and adjusting abroad. But Europeans seem more likely to go abroad than Canadians. Numbers from Internationalization in education in the Netherlands from 2008/2009 show more than 40,000 Dutch students abroad. Data from the Association of University and Colleges in Canada’s from 2007 shows that there are roughly 18,000 Canadian students abroad in 2006/2007. (These numbers combine exchange and international students.)


2 Responses to “Profile: Tom Meijer, exchange student”

  1. John on September 19th, 2010 11:26 am

    Nice Tom!

    You are famous! But keep standing with both of your feet on the floor!

    el latro!

  2. Rob on October 4th, 2010 10:14 pm

    Nice story Tom! Keep up the good work. I think last year was even better ;)


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