Making the transition from high school to college can be very challenging. That move becomes even more challenging when students are moving from one country to another.
Merel Hoekstra is a freshman tennis and field hockey player at Shippensburg University who hails from Wassenaar, South Holland, a province in the Netherlands.
Hoekstra competed as a defender for club team H.O.C. Gazellen-Combinatie (HGC), and contributed to Dutch U12 Indoor and Outdoor National Championships in 2013 and 2014. She also played club tennis.
“In the Netherlands, it is normal to play both sports and I really like to alternate between them as they are so different,” Hoekstra said.
She also stressed that she is very competitive, so having two seasons a year is no problem.
The move from the Netherlands to America was intimidating for Hoekstra at first because she had not visited campus or met any of her teammates. But she has quickly gotten comfortable at SU.
“Now that I’m settled in I really enjoy living here. My teammates are great and I’m not homesick at all even though I would have expected that by now,” Hoekstra said.
Hoekstra does have a tennis and field hockey teammate who she can relate to in Jenna Sluymer, who is also from the Netherlands. Sluymer plays tennis and field hockey for SU as well.
“I think we are pretty close, knowing there was another Dutch girl on the team that I knew I could always go to for questions or concerns was a reason for me to come to Ship,” Hoekstra said.
Sluymer was named to the 2018 NFHCA All-America Second Team and is a two-time All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Performer in field hockey and has notched a win in both singles and doubles for SU tennis.
“It’s easy talking to her because with her it’s my first language, and we’re both dual athletes so we go through the same struggles,” Hoekstra said of their friendship.
Outside of sports, Hoekstra is settling in and enjoying life in Shippensburg.
“I’ve made some new friends, the people are very nice and my classes are going well. It can only get more fun once this pandemic is over so I’m excited for my Ship experience,” Hoekstra said.