Just 279 days ago, my plane from Amsterdam arrived in San Francisco. Customs conducted an eye-scan, took my fingerprints, and I had to take off my pants and shoes. I had my Visa, my “e-forms,” other forms and some more forms with me. I almost turned around. If I had, this is what would not have happened:
Eating my first two (and last?) hamburgers in my life (both ridiculously delicious and skilled at causing stomach pain). My first breakfast cereal, after resisting the entire Fall Semester. Trying out new foods, from Jell-o for dessert (it is neon, and it shakes dangerously. That’s not to be trusted, OK?) to deep fried whatever and peanut butter on and with every thing.
I would have missed out on laughing outloud because someone walked into my morning class still wearing pajamas, and it would have saved me the humiliation of explaining why that was funny to me only. I wouldn’t have smelled many stinky feet caused by the typical American sneaker. I probably would have kept wearing exercise clothing only while I was exercising, while here I found out the delights of entering Dillin Hall still wearing my sweaty clothes and not worrying about my appearance.
The United States let me wear a pink beanie with a mismatching yellow scarf and bright blue tights underneath because I am that “weird little Dutch girl with her European clothes.” I shouldn’t have tried that back home.
One year in the U.S. took away all the flirting skills I had worked on so hard the past couple years, and for that I am grateful. At the parties here, it isn’t only about being pretty, dancing outstandingly and laughing loudly to make sure that everyone knows you’re having fun (perhaps because you can’t possibly get boring than when playing beer pong but hopefully also because the boys here have figured out that if a romance isn’t likely to come into existence, you should at least become friends).
I held a snake in my arms. (Dutch readers: I HELD A SNAKE IN MY ARMS!) I pulled an all-nighter and drank a five-hour energy drink (illegal in my country; now I know why). I learned how to drive a car. That is to say, I made my way to the library. I celebrated my first Halloween. I became friends with a cheerleader but sadly never got to make out with a quarterback. Thanks to the typical American hospitality, I fell asleep after eating turkey on Thanksgiving and made multiple road trips. I saw the horrors of “making babies on the dance floor”— behaviors in an 18+ dance club. I proudly created a list of secrets I will never write about for the Review. I was homesick for the first time in my life, and a best friend took care of me.
Oh America, with your nonfunctioning medical insurance system, the government so far away, yet luckily with the sarcasm of South Park close by, your stable relationship with corn syrup and glucose, millions of gas-gulping cars, the tendency to leave the water tap open while brushing teeth and overdoses of stress.
But most of all, oh America, oh Linfield, you are the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met. Thank you for the best year of my life (so far).
“Hi, how are you?”
“I am GOOD.”
Doris ter Horst can be reached at
Doris ter Horst, columnist