Tristan Valkenburg: An Adventurous Soul

A trip from the Netherlands to Caledonia, Michigan


Malana Diebolt

“Hello, my name is Tristan and I am a Dutch exchange student here at CHS. In late August last year, during arguably the worst time to come and experience the States, I came to America to start my long-awaited year of high school. I have wanted to travel and be adventurous for pretty much as long as I can remember, and have had a strange obsession with the US of the A for many years as well. Putting these two traits of mine together makes it obvious that I wanted to travel here after graduating high school. Initially, I wanted to go on a backpacking trip through North America, but after realizing that none of my friends shared that desire with me, I had to postpone those plans. Something else brought to my attention was a gap year in which I would do a year of high school. As stated earlier, I already have my “high school” diploma, but since the dutch school system differs significantly from the American system, I was still eligible for another year in the USA (which is my senior year). That is what I ended up doing, and, boy am I glad I chose that over going straight into college. Of course, this year isn’t how I imagined it would be because of Covid, but I am having a blast nevertheless. I can take it or leave it, whine about it or accept and try to make the best of it. Over the past 8 months, I have learned so much and have done so many things. I am developing myself as a person, finding new interests, and of course, making new friendships that might last a lifetime. Anyone thinking of doing an exchange year (or anything remotely adventurous for that matter), I would highly recommend just go for it and see where it goes. I have been very blessed in having parents that supported my decision. When the school had ended early because of Corona, I worked a full-time job and saved up a lot of money to spend here, but if it wasn’t for my parents paying for most of my trip, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to go. I was able to get the opportunity in participating this year’s school play which was a ton of fun. I got to know a lot of new people and got to spend a lot of time with them. Since I starred as Henry V, which was the lead role, I got to improve upon my acting skills too. Mr. CHS is not something I expected to do, but when I heard about it and my friends told me to sign up, I figured I might as well just go for it. Unfortunately, I ended up getting a second place but Alex deserved his win, so good for him!”