Senior Camille Scheffer is a new addition to the MVLA community with a unique cultural background. She moved here in the middle of August, just in time to start the new school year.
With two tattoos and a partly shaved head, Camille is very comfortable with expressing who she is, and part of that comes from the places that she’s been to and lived in. Having lived in Europe all her life, she has travelled to Belgium, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Germany, England and Switzerland but resided mainly in France and Holland.
As a result, she has become proficient in three languages: French, Dutch and English. Having only taken two years of English classes in Holland, Camille is remarkably fluent in the language, though she gives no credit to the actual class.
“The [English] class that I took in Holland was very basic,” Camille said. “It didn’t really teach you how to have conversations or to really speak it at all. Actually, most of the English that I know I learned by watching American television. I watched a lot of MTV and Comedy Central. I’m still learning though. I’ve heard a lot of weird expressions that I’m still trying to make sense of.”
If it weren’t for her slight French accent, many would think that Camille has lived here all her life. But despite being able to speak and understand the language, she is still trying to get used to the differences that she sees around her.
“I don’t know how I am going to get used to the weather here,” Camille said. “It’s so hot. In Holland it’s usually rainy or foggy. And everything is so big. The roads, the buildings…It’s exciting.”
She is also trying to adjust to the differences between schools.
“There are so many people at this school, it’s crazy. My school in Holland was so small, I probably knew everyone’s names. But here I can’t even keep track of the faces,” Camille said. “There’s also a lot of homework. I’m not used to so much. I find myself spending my entire evenings crouched over a book. Sometimes it takes three or more hours. In Holland, you could expect to have maybe half an hour [of homework].”
Even though she often forgets names and has to spend hours on homework, there are things that Camille was very happy to discover at school. Forensics is one of them.
“I was very surprised that [the school] offered a forensics class,” Camille said. “I want to be a forensic scientist so this was the perfect class for me. I just think it’s so amazing the way [forensic scientists] connect the dots the way they do. Their way of thinking allows them to solve mysteries and I want to learn to think that way.”
Indeed, so far, Camille has said that she has not found much to complain about her new “American life.” However, she has yet to find a place where she can continue to practice her beloved sport: Thai-boxing. Otherwise known as Muay Thai, the combat sport uses stand-up striking characterized by the combined use of the fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet.
“I always wanted to do a martial art because it’s so different from other sports. So when [a friend] recommended it to me in Holland, I thought it would be fun, and it was,” Camille said. “It’s a tough sport and there aren’t many girls who do it. I would mostly have to go up against boys two times my size, just hoping they wouldn’t crush me. It’s a lot of punching and kicking and you go home with aches [and] bruises everywhere.”
Taxing as it may be on the body, Camille feels that it’s a very valuable sport because it teaches one to defend themself.
“You think that you’ll never really run into a situation that you’ll need to know how to defend yourself, but it happens,” Camille said. “[Once], a boy came up to me at school and was going to hit me so I shoved my elbow into his face and escaped. It’s those kind of reflexes that you learn in the sport.”
Camille has been looking for a place to continue doing what she loves but has not yet found a place that teaches the sport. Yet, this has not diminished her positive feelings toward the new culture she finds herself immersed in. And although she misses the friends and family she left behind, Camille is excited to continue to get to know her new home and make a place for herself in the school.