Dutch exchange student fulfills her passion


The first day of a new school year is always exciting, nerve-racking and overwhelming.
Freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors navigate a huge campus, get acquainted with their classes and catch up on their various summer adventures. For junior Amy Matser, the beginning of a new school year signified the beginning of a year full of new experiences in a new country. Born and raised in Holland, Amy decided to study abroad in America after realizing her chosen career of hotel management wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

“I did hotel management kind of like college and I didn’t like it,” Amy said. “I didn’t know what to do after that. My dad actually came up with the idea to move to America and experience new things.”

Upon deciding to move to America, Amy signed up for the Education First exchange student program. In this program, a host family is able to pick its exchange student from a long list of people from all over the world. This is how Carol and Rick Call, parents with three Westlake graduates and a current sophomore, found and picked Amy.

“My host mom went on a mission trip to the Netherlands when she was very young,” Amy said. “[Sophomore] Emily picked me out of a big list of girls.”

Leaving everything she’d ever known behind was terrifying.

“I was crying so hard [at the airport],” Amy said. “My best friend was crying, my brother was crying, my parents were crying. It was terrible. I’m glad that I can see them in two months again.”

When she arrived in America, Amy was surprised by how friendly people were.

“A lot of people in Holland have stereotypes of Americans as lazy, rude and eating food all the time, but people are really friendly,” Amy said. “When you come to the right place, people are so nice and friendly, especially my host family.”

Once she began school at Westlake, Amy was amazed at the size of the school and the welcome reception she received from her fellow students.

“I love being in a big school,” Amy said. “My high school had 50 students in total. I lived on an island, and there were 1,200 people on the whole island. It’s so cool to be in a bigger school because in Holland, we knew everybody. Here, you always meet new people.”

When picking her classes, Amy was amazed by all of the choices and activities offered to her.

“I got a list from the school of all the subjects that they taught, and I was just overwhelmed by the choices I had,” Amy said. “My main [classes] were something with computers and choir.”

Amy has received a warm welcome from the choir.

“I love choir. It’s my happy moment of the day,” she said. “They don’t have [choir in The Netherlands.] It’s really sad.”

Amy has always loved to draw and found her passion in interactive media and graphic design while taking classes at Westlake. She plans on continuing her studies of these things when she returns to the Netherlands.

“I am going into graphic design or animation design, which is in a higher vocational school,” Amy said. “I have applied for about seven schools all over the country. Some schools are better and highly recommended, so I’m hoping that I can get into the recommended ones.”
Reflecting on her experience at an American high school, Amy was pleasantly surprised by the kindness of those around her.

“I didn’t expect that everyone would be so nice right from the beginning,” Amy said. “When I told everybody that I was an exchange student, they were super interested and asking me all about my culture, and I was learning about their culture, and it was super awesome to experience it right away. I felt comfortable immediately.”

Despite her previous nerves and doubt towards being an exchange student in America, Amy will miss all the things she has experienced in American when she returns to the Netherlands in June. She’ll even miss the Texas traditions.

“I had never had Texas barbecue,” Amy said. “Rudy’s is my number one. It is amazing, and I never thought that I would like barbecue, so it’s pretty cool,” Amy said.
Reflecting on her time in Austin, Amy is grateful for every opportunity she has had.

“I think Westlake is a great school to have a year abroad in,” Amy said. “You learn a lot and people are nice and all those amazing people accept you and your culture. “It’s an awesome school, and I love Austin.”

Amy has loved her stay in America so much that she would like to move back after her schooling is done.

“You just have way more choices here [in America],” Amy said. “I think I can do even more here than back home. There are way more jobs here, and they attract me more than Holland.”