Living the American Dream

Featured Image: Sophie at home in the Netherlands.

Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do.

I have already had the privilege of visiting many beautiful countries around the globe, from the south of Europe to South Africa to South Korea, and I hope to explore many more in the future.

I always ask myself, what would life be like if I grew up in America, in this particular country? Would I be the same Sophie as I am right now? Every country has its own charm and characteristics. It is the people, the culture, the nature and the way society works, or a combination of everything, that makes every country unique.

No matter what it is, being in a different environment, in a different place, allows me to see the world from a broader perspective. This got me thinking. When I’m older, do I want to live in the Netherlands? Do I want to study, live and work there like most Dutch do? Probably not. The world is too beautiful and diverse for me to live in one place my entire life.

I still remember the first time I visited the United States. I was overwhelmed by the number of flags, the size of the food portions and the amount of different flavors. Even though it is a Western society, it was way different from what I imagined it to be. Was it because I was just a little girl, or is this country truly so vast and impressive?

For me, every state seems like a country on its own. To put it into perspective, Virginia is almost three times the size of the Netherlands. At that time, I still had no idea that this big country would become my next home. What I did know is that I wanted to continue playing tennis when starting college.

Playing sports has always been my passion. One day, my tennis coach and I were talking about the States and whether it would be possible for me to play college tennis there. This seemed to be the perfect way of combining sports, studying abroad and having a social life.

Someone said to me later that year that it would be like studying in the country of unlimited possibilities. Why do people think so highly of this country, what is it about this country that I can’t find anywhere else?

I was convinced. I was going to study in the United States to find out the answers myself. I then knew which country I wanted to study in, but how do you choose a university?

I started to draw up a list of requirements for myself, eventually a few universities remained. I preferred, for example, the East Coast, not too far south, near a big city and a place with good weather.

I then came in contact with VWU tennis coach Toni Bickford. She told me a lot about the university and the area. Due to the distance, I could not attend the normal campus tour, so she gave me a personal online tour of campus. It made me very enthusiastic.

She was also the one who told me about the Batten Honors College. I became inquisitive about it. It seemed like a special program that was dedicated to the environment and sustainability issues — one that literally deals with our future, mine and yours. At this moment I knew it for sure, Virginia Wesleyan it is. The only question that remains for now is “will I remain the same Sophie when I return to the Netherlands?” I’ll find out, but my hypothesis is that this experience will have more of an impact on me than any other period I have spent abroad.

Living in another country, making new friends, dealing with a different culture and with different habits, solving intellectual challenges and at the same time playing sports is really enriching my personal life. I am living the American dream through a Dutch point of view.

Thanks for making that possible.


Sophie Engelberts is a freshman, hailing from the Netherlands. She plays on the tennis team and enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends in her freetime. She can be contacted at


By: Sophie Engelberts