Exchange Student Rijpma (’24) Joins BFA Community


Emmy Rijpma (’23) Photo credit: Karli Holland

Owen Scott, Writer

Emmy Rijpma (‘24) is a foreign exchange student from the Netherlands attending Bellows Free Academy for the semester. In an interview with The Mercury, she shared how life in America has been and information about the Netherlands.

Rijpma’s experience at BFA so far has been great. 

“Teachers are very willing to help,” Rijpma said. “[And] other students have been very nice.”

According to Rijpma, the class selection at BFA is much more expansive than in the Netherlands. Sports are also much more important in America than they are in the Netherlands. Additionally, extracurriculars aren’t offered through schools, but rather through outside organizations.

At her school in the Netherlands, Rijpma said she played korfball, a Dutch sport with similarities to basketball, wherein two teams of eight try to throw a ball into the opposing team’s basket. The teams are split across the two courts, leaving four players from one team on one half and the other players on the other half. The teammates are not allowed to go onto the other court, and players are not able to move once they hold the ball, only pass the ball or try to score.

Rijpma also said that school is very different in the Netherlands. For example, children begin going to school at the age of four, and high school starts at age 12.

According to Rijpma, before going into high school, students take a test to determine which of the three levels of high school they will be put into. There are three degrees of high school available in the Netherlands, the first being the easiest and lasting four years, the second being harder and lasting five years and the third being the most challenging level, lasting six years. Depending on which level of high school a student gets into, they will graduate between the ages of 16 to 18. 

Rijpma also said, that after graduating high school, a student can go to the next level of high school or go to a college of the same level as their high school. A student graduating from the lowest level of high school would go into the lowest level of college, or they could go to the next level of high school.

Rijpma said she decided to become an exchange student here at BFA to improve her English skills and learn more about American culture. She will be staying here for five months before returning to the Netherlands and beginning her college education.