LAHS And Rotary Exchange Student Federiek Gerretschen Describes Life In The Netherlands

Rotary Exchange Student Federiek Gerretschen discusses life in the Netherlands during her talk Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos at the Manhattan Project Restaurant. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Bicycles are the transportation of choice in the Netherlands and fill parking lots much more than cars. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Los Alamos Daily Post

Even before she became a Rotary Exchange Student, Federiek Gerretschen had already done some extensive traveling.

During her presentation to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos Tuesday at the Manhattan Project Restaurant, Gerretschen revealed that she lives in Germany but she goes to school in the Netherlands, which is where she was born. Additionally, her family resided for a period of time in Aruba.

The desire to explore the world appears to run in her family. Gerretschen’s brother also is a Rotary Exchange student in New York. Back at home, Gerretschen travels across countries’ borders daily. She explained her school in the Netherlands is an hour by bike both ways.

When comparing the Netherlands to New Mexico, side-by-side, Gerretschen revealed some stark differences. The Netherlands is 41,000 square kilometers with a population of about 17 million. New Mexico, however, is 315,000 square kilometers with a population of around 2 million. So when Gerretschen first toured the state, she said she was impressed with all the open space.

“When we drove here, there were places with nothing … I was impressed by that,” she said.

While Gerretschen is exploring the U.S. and New Mexico, she in turn gave Rotarians a peek of the Netherlands. She exposed them to a few things that the Dutch are known for including wooden shoes and Sinterklaas. The traditional wooden shoes, she explained, were worn by farmers with thick socks to keep their feet warm in the winter. Sinterklaas, Geretschen added, is a “really, really old tradition.”

In some ways, it’s similar to Christmas; just as American children hang stockings on mantles and leave a plate of cookies for Santa Claus, the Dutch put their shoes by the fireplace and fill them with carrots for Sinterklaas’ horse. They also leave a letter to the Saint and get presents from him. 

Gerretschen is attending Los Alamos High School this year and residing with local Rotarian families. She is not the only exchange student the local Rotary club is hosting. Markus Essl, who is from Austria, also is attending LAHS and exploring New Mexico this year and will be making a presentation to the local club in November.

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