In front of the Weller Center, on the first day of Tulip Time, students crossing campus could hear a faint but hearty rendition of the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus as the tri-striped flag flapped behind them. The singers were Dutch, not Central Dutch but teenagers from the Netherlands, who had come to Pella with their high school math teacher, Kate van Wijck-Carrero ’99.
For two weeks in early May, Kate is leading her group of 15 Dutch students around the Midwest, with the majority of their time spent in Pella. The students are staying with families in the nearby Lynnville-Sully area while they shadow at companies like Vermeer, visit the Pella schools and tour Central’s campus. And, of course, they are spending the weekend at Tulip Time, despite a snowy start and a complaint about “dog weather,” a term in Dutch used for the cold and wet days that are now plaguing central Iowa.
Kate describes Pella and Tulip Time as a kind of Living History Farms for the young people. The windmills, costumes and dancing are rarely seen in the Netherlands anymore, but the ancestors of the immigrants to Iowa keep the traditions alive.
“They learn about Dutch history from a different perspective than their own,” says Kate.
Kate herself isn’t truly one of them, though she has taken on the life of a Dutch professional and mother in her more her almost 15 years in the Netherlands. She grew up in California before attending college at Central and majoring in mathematics. Interested in study abroad, she chose the Essex, England, program because she could meet her math requirements there. The experience left her with a zeal for travel.
After graduation, Kate knew she wanted to head back to Europe, so she found a job as a nanny in the Netherlands. After a year, she had learned the language well enough not to stand out as an American. Then she pursued a Dutch language certificate.“First, it was meant to be only for a year, then a year and a half, and now it’s been almost 15 years,” Kate says with a laugh.
Luckily, Kate didn’t need to earn a teaching certificate in the Netherlands because the one she earned at Central College was valid there. “It is a thumbs-up for Central that my education was accepted in the Netherlands without extra classes,” she says.
Part of the impetus for staying in the Netherlands was the beauty of the country and the culture; the other part was meeting her husband Hans. The couple now has three children. They try to get back to the U.S. every other year to visit Kate’s parents.
Returning to Pella and to Central, Kate hopes that her Dutch students will see their culture through new eyes. But Kate herself is having a unique moment: seeing her own culture become both strange and exciting through the eyes of the real-life Dutch.