By Eline de Zeeuw, CIEE Internship USA participant
My name is Eline de Zeeuw, I am 24 years old and a student from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. As of this January I am a proud (temporary) resident of Washington D.C, where I am doing an internship with NOS Dutch TV & Radio. NOS is the leading news organization in the Netherlands.
Up to now my experiences here have been kind of surreal: I am living in the capital of America – where all the news seems to happen these days – and I am working with journalists who I consider the crème de la crème in their expertise.
One of my main jobs here is to come up with ideas for stories and produce items for our daily news shows. Besides that, I had the chance to write a lot of articles for our website. Even though I have lived in the United States before – I studied in upstate New York in 2013 and traveled around the country – working at NOS gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people and I got to help cover historical events.
My experiences here have been kind of surreal: I am living in the capital of America – where all the news seems to happen these days – and I am working with journalists who I consider the crème de la crème in their expertise.
For example, I covered Inauguration Day for NOS News’ Snapchat. The next day, I experienced the insane masses at the Women’s March myself. I also wrote a story about a barber from Iraq whose family was affected by the recent executive orders on immigration. My work in these past few months has touched on some of the most high-profile news stories in the country, and I feel lucky to be witnessing history first hand.
Carin, a mother of 4, welcomed us into her house in Frederick County, Maryland to speak about the situation she and her family were caught in. Both her husband and her son became addicted to painkillers and heroin. Both her husband and son are doing relatively okay now, but the county she’s living in is suffering. In one week she lost three people she knew to heroin.
Every American seems to have a bigger plan for their future. Even if they are homeless, they don’t give up.
I was really impressed by the way Carin told us her story. As she was sitting at her kitchen table, speaking so openly and honestly about it, the only thing I could hope for was that writing her story down would at least help create awareness for this problem.
The article I eventually wrote was featured on the NOS website as ‘recommended by our editors’. Carin even got back in touch with us and said that she had received many positive messages from people in the Netherlands. That made me quite proud. It sure was one of the most memorable moments of my internship to me.
I will only stay in DC for one more month, and then I’ll be heading back home. The experience has been real. I won’t deny it, the clichés are true: living in another country and meeting people from other cultures and nationalities really broadens your perspective. In addition, even though living in America has been a dream come true, being away from your family, friends and home country gives you a new perspective.
I feel very lucky as a Dutch person that I have access to health care and that we have a federal safety net to fall back on when we lose our job, and that basically everyone has access to affordable high quality education. Oh and I have to mention… how I’ve missed a Dutch sandwich with some good cheese (come on Americans, what you sell in the store for cheese is far from the real deal)!
But there’s a lot of lessons to take home too. Even though the problems of wealth disparity and social inequality are evident in America, I feel like there’s a vibe we sometimes miss in the Netherlands: one of hope and belief. Every American seems to have a bigger plan for their future. Even if they are homeless, they don’t give up.
I talked to a homeless person for example, who assured me that one day he would have a house again and is going to start a coffee bar. And an Uber driver in D.C. is never ‘only’ driving an Uber, it’s a man or woman making the money they need to chase their dreams. I met one guy who is trying to get into a prestigious college but he doesn’t have the money to pay the tuition, so he drives at night. And I met an Ethiopian man that wants to bring his family to the States, so he takes extra shifts on the weekend in addition to his job at a law firm.
All these encounters have inspired me to follow my own dreams and to work hard to achieve them. Please go chase yours!