Margot Steijger is a Dutch gap year student who is doing the “Green River to California” program. She is currently in Santa Barbara, studying at Santa Barbara City College.
Why did you choose to do a gap year?
“I had never thought of doing a Gap Year until I heard about a theatre program offered in America. I’m really passionate about acting, so this sounded like music to my ears. This program made me think about taking a year off between High School and University. My mum told me it would be a great opportunity to improve my English, meet new people, do a lot of acting and go on an adventure. Although it sounded like a lot of fun, it took me a while before I was sure I wanted to go. You know, America is a long way from home and a year is a long time to be away from home. Eventually my decision was made and I started to make plans.”
Why did you choose to do the “Green River to California” program?
“The theatre program I heard about was offered at SBCC (Santa Barbara City College). Unfortunately, by the time I wanted to go, they stopped offering the program. I still wanted to do a Gap Year in America, so my agency helped me look for a good alternative. Since SBCC was still one of the best places to go to when it comes to acting, it stayed on my list of places I wanted to go. During one of my conversations with my agency, Green River College came up. They told me Green River offered a different kind of program, in which a student could choose to go to two different colleges. And what are the odds, because one of the other colleges I could go to was SBCC. I was interested right away. It would give me the opportunity to go to two different states, two different colleges and meet even more people.”
- What was your experience at Green River?
“Before I arrived at Green River, I already got a lot of help from the people that work there.
They wanted to make sure that everything would be set and done before I got on my airplane. From the first moment at the Green River till the day I left, I loved being there. It has a beautiful, green and modern campus with a lot of facilities for students. Nature is literally all around you and with just a ten minute walk over one of the many trails behind the campus you reach a stunning view of Mount Rainier. All of my teachers were great and I enjoyed going to all of my classes very much. In my free time, between or after classes, I worked at the Foundation Office with these wonderful people, I hung out with my amazing friends or went for a work-out in the free gym facility on campus. Also a good thing about Green River is that whenever I had a problem, I just had to tell someone and help was on its way. I had such a good time that it almost made me stay at Green River and not go to SBCC.”
Where did you live when you studied at Green River and how did you like it?
“During the time I was at Green River, I stayed with a host family. Before I met them I was a bit nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be the best host family ever. They were so nice and took me in as part of the family. They wanted me to have the best time of my life, so they took me and my friend to a lot of places. We went on multiple mini road trips through Washington State, but also to Portland in Oregon. We went Black Friday Shopping, we went to the theater, to events at the High School of my host sister, to a Halloween party, we had a game night with some friends of my host mother and so on. I never felt bored or homesick and they indeed made sure that I had the time of my life. I think saying good-bye to them when I left for SBCC, might have been the hardest thing in my life.”
You transferred to SBCC, what is your first impression of SBCC?
“My first impression of the campus of SBCC when I arrived was “wow”. The campus is located almost literally on the beach and the view over the ocean is amazing. The campus itself is really big. They have their own baseball, tennis and soccer/football fields, they have great buildings, nice places to sit outside and palm trees everywhere. I don’t think it is fair to compare it to the campus at Green River, because they both have their own beauty and one is not better than the other. I do believe that the help new students get when they first arrive is a lot less at SBCC than at Green River. And where Green River organizes a lot for their students, such as hikes, events at school and trips in the introduction week, at SBCC, they don’t have that at all. You are much more on your own, and for some people it works and some people it doesn’t. This doesn’t say anything about the classes and teachers, because the ones I am taking are great.”
How different is SBCC from Green River?
“I decided to stay in student housing in Santa Barbara, since I already experienced living with a host family in Washington. I don’t regret this choice, because my housemates were the first friends I made. I think it is really fun to have friends living in your house. You can spend a lot of time together, it is easy to make plans for the weekend and when you need something or want to hang out with them, they are only a door away. The house I live in is a part of a bigger housing association. They have multiple houses and apartments for students and organize a lot of events for them. Through these events I explore the area and they are also a good way to make new friends.”
What did you do at SBCC to meet other students again?
“As I said, SBCC doesn’t really have an introduction week in which I was able to make friends. That is why I started to make friends at school once the classes started. In acting classes students get to know each other rather quickly and really well, so within two weeks I had made friends in all of my classes. Besides having fun during our classes, we meet up in weekends or at the end of a school day to hang out, go on hikes or go get food.”
Would you recommend the Green River to California program and why?
“So far, as you might have read, I really like the Green River to California program and I would recommend it to every student that is considering going to America. You get to experience two whole different worlds and that is what makes the program so great for Gap Year Students like me. I’m not here to study hard and get good grades, I am here to go on adventures, make new friends and get as much out of my year as possible.”
Do you have tips for students who are thinking about coming to the US?
“I think it doesn’t really matter what kind of program you choose to do, as long as you grab every chance with both hands and enjoy it as much as you possibly can.”
Learn more about Green River College’s Gap Year programs.