Foreign exchange of friendships

Friendships come and go but with Margaret Moore, her overseas relationship has flourished over the years through the AFS foreign exchange program. 

Margaret and her late husband, Jim, sponsored Juliette Vroom from Amsterdam (the capital of the Netherlands) through the exchange program during the year of 1985-86. Vroom attended Beloit High School at the age of 18 and traveled back to visit during the past week with her daughter, Lisa Appels, age 15. Juliette has only been back once before, in 1999.  

"My first impression in 1985 when arriving to Beloit was that of 'what are all these tractors doing on the road?," laughed Vroom. "There was so much open space. It was very flat and familiar as with the the tulip fields at home, but more hilly as well. I was so used to a lot of water as we lived in Amsterdam with all of the canals."

Vroom, enjoyed the food.   "I gained weight for sure," Vroom laughed. "Cheeseburgers."

Vroom said there are more bicycles in Holland than people and that is one way they get around as well as driving vehicles. The driving age is 18 and they learn through a private company, taking a written and driving test. 

"Riding a bicycle is a great way to exercise and is enjoyable as well," said Vroom. 

  The schooling systems vary. In Holland, there are no sports or extracurricular activities included during the school day. All of those activities are presented as separate clubs that students partake in after school hours. 

"It was really different in that everything was included in school time," said Vroom. "I remember being bombarded by everyone asking if I was going to go out for volleyball and basketball. Being six foot, two inches tall, I'm pretty sure they wanted me on the roster as a scare tactic," laughed Vroom. 

Vroom played some sports during the physical education classes in Amsterdam, but not seriously outside of school. While attending Beloit High, she remembers presenting several speeches to the local clubs in Beloit.    

While back in Beloit this past week, Vroom and her daughter were treated to a tour of the Beloit High School, from Principal Casey Seyfert. Appels said she was going to give some thought about maybe taking a year in a foreign exchange program like her mom. She enjoys her dance club in Amsterdam and practices hip hop. 

"The school has grown bigger, but the town has fewer businesses than I remember," said Vroom. "It seems to be more quiet. I am very impressed with the school and Mr. Seyfert with what he wants to achieve with each student on receiving a better education, through overall extracurricular activities and stimulating the students interest and following their goals."

Along with regrouping with six of her classmates, Vroom said she also had a reunion with her two favorite teachers, Lee Elder (Art) and Terri Zimmer (Forensics). 

"It was very fun seeing my friends after 30 years, when we are all at a different parts of our lives," said Vroom. "We stay acquainted on Facebook, but it was good to share times in person. I really enjoyed seeing my teachers as they had a lot of influence on me during that year."

Vroom is now a freelance photographer and spent time capturing Kansas during her time here. She loved the Kettle atmosphere while enjoying her coffee. They also connected with another host mother, Bernice Winkel, in Glen Elder, whose Argentina student was friends with Vroom. She remembers Dennis Urquhart from Paraguay also attending Beloit High, who was hosted by Pete and Rita Caldwell.

"We really had a good time reuniting," said Margaret Moore. "What means the most to me is that Juliette and I have maintained our friendship for all of these years and now I have an extended family with my Dutch granddaughter."

"Margaret and Jim were always a mixture of parents and friends," said Vroom. "They helped me through hard times and have always been very dear to me and are always there for me. I was very shocked when I heard of Jim's passing. When you live so far away it doesn't seem real, but when I come back he isn't here, and so he is missed very much." 

The Moores were both able to visit Vroom in Holland in 1990 and Margaret has visited several times since.     

Vroom and her daughter flew to Chicago on Friday finishing their two week spring break, shopping and enjoying the big city.

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