3 Things Americans can Learn from Dutch College Kids

Do you want to what the absolute one that blew my mind about Dutch people? When I first visited the Netherlands and got to know the country better, one of the things I immediately realized was that the Dutch youth were way more mature than what I was used to. Americans in college are basically big babies.

Try to imagine the typical American college student. I guarantee that if you’re picturing a guy, you’re picturing someone in lose gym shorts that are hanging above his knees, a t-shirt, backwards baseball cap, and a shitty warm beer in hand. The beer is probably a Natty Light or something very much not great. Does that seem mature to you? College kids in fact aren’t really “kids”. They’re 18+ years old, can buy cigarettes and serve in the military, but somehow they still aren’t totally capable of functioning like an adult. I know that compared to other animals, like say, a cat, humans have a longer childhood period. A cat takes 6 months to a year to mature. Humans? Long, let’s leave it “they take long”.

Dutch college students totally amaze me. But maybe that’s just because I’m American, and I was an immature college kid too. When I hear about 20 year old Dutch college kids, I can’t help but be a little stunned. At 20, they are apparently done with the whole drinking until they pass out phase, and they prefer to go to happy hours instead. That’s just the beginning. Many of them live in apartments with their partners, have jobs, and attend literary events in their spare time.

In the years that I’ve spent getting to know the Dutch people, I have been able to pick out three things that make Dutch college students different from Americans. And these things aren’t spectacular. And yet, they shock me, and continue to shock me when I meet college kids in the US.

So what is it that the Dutch do differently?

Finding a Place to Stay

ON THEIR OWN. Many American colleges have dorms. So if you were getting ready to attend a college, what most American kids do is simply check a box saying that they would like a dorm room please. Oh, it’s SUCH a tricky process. What if you want to live in dorm H and they force you to live in dorm A that’s like, a whole 15 mins to walk to class!! How am I going to get to class on a Friday morning when I’m hung over from Thirsty Thursday? Why? Whyyyy???

Do you see what I’m talking about? The American college system doesn’t prepare kids to become grown ups. At least not when it comes to housing. I mean, they don’t even need to clean the common areas like the bathroom. Someone else cleans up after their shit (literally) in the showers. Someone else does the trash. What do those who actually live in the dorms do? They party and trash their rooms as much as possible until it’s time to move out for the summer. And then someone else cleans up after them there too.

But… what do the Dutch do?

Dutch kids instead find themselves having to go through the process of finding a room or apartment just like all other non-college people. They look on websites, housing groups, or ask around in their network. These are actual real people skills they’re learning. And I have to say, it’s really impressive that 18 year-old Dutch students go about finding a place to live in their crowded country where there is an actual housing shortage.

Once the Dutch student has found a place, they are responsible for keeping it clean and livable. Shocking! They’re also renting and buying stuff for the apartment because places do not come furnished like all American dorm rooms do. So they’re buying a bed, they’re buying a refrigerator, they’re buying a fucking washing machine. I would think it was incredible if some American college dude even DID their laundry on a regular basis.

Cooking for Themselves

If you are non-American and you read this heading, you’re probably confused. How else do Americans feed themselves? Food halls and meal plans. There’s your answer. I bet you guessed that they were getting a lot of take out, ordering in, or just going to McDonald’s and stuffing their faces with hamburgers— no, although that’s the rest of America.

Here’s what the food situation is like if you’re a college student in the US. You pick a meal plan with the university. Most dorms that you stay in actually require that you purchase a meal plan. Once you have meal plan, you simply wake up, and go to the dining hall for your meals. Everything is cooked for you. At many universities, the meals are served buffet style and you will literally see students sit all afternoon eating plate after plate of food. It is an extremely valid question of whether this is college, or a hotel where classes are taught. You decide. Either way this service is expensive as shit.

Dutch students on the other hand, they aren’t treated to expensive buffets in college. Nope, they actually have to learn to cook themselves! Gasp! They go to the grocery store on a regular basis and cook — using a stove and everything — in a kitchen they furnished themselves. Forgive me for being so bold, but to me, it just seems like cooking is a nice skill to be learning at 18. It’s not just the act of cooking, but I also believe that having this daily task of feeding yourself helps you develop responsibility because you are responsible for your well-being. No one else is doing that but you. Not to mention that it’s a fuck load cheaper than eating out or these dining hall buffets, geez.

Living Outside the Campus Bubble

In America, college life takes place within the bubble of the college campus. College kids eat, sleep, and go to class all within a few kilometer’s/miles’ (whatever floats your boat) radius. Understandably, some colleges are located in small towns where there actually isn’t much of a choice for students. They can’t just choose to do things outside of campus easily. That said, the idea of a campus is still very American.

With no campuses, the Dutch find themselves free to explore the town or city they’re in. I have heard such different experiences from people who’ve gone to college in Amsterdam versus those who have gone to college in small towns in the Netherlands that I promise you have not heard of unless you’re Dutch. I hear about students going to the local market on Saturdays in small towns. From those who’ve gone to college in Amsterdam, well, I’ve heard about a lot of different stuff— like going to artsy cinemas or poetry festivals. You name it, Amsterdam has it. And the best part is, these college kids coming in get to experience it too.

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