The University of Dallas freshman class is full of intriguing characters, but a particularly unique newcomer to campus is Seth BonenClark. Born at Wright Patterson Air Force base in Ohio to a military family, he lived in the United States for the first six years of his life before moving to the Netherlands. His father, who served for 25 years in the Air Force, is now retired and working in the Netherlands for NATO. Now 18, BonenClark has lived in the Netherlands for 12 years with his parents, five siblings, and a cavapoo named Jack.
Biking is the main form of transportation in the Netherlands, and you aren’t even able to get a driver’s license until you are 18, but this age requirement isn’t too outrageous in the Netherlands.
“Compared to the U.S., everything [in the Netherlands] is so close together,” BonenClark explained.
According to Seth, living in the Netherlands is surprisingly like living in some parts of the Midwest. There are no northern lights, snow falls only two or three times a year and the summers can get into the 90s. Scenery wise, the Netherlands is composed of “farm fields and french fries.” The farm fields stretch between strung-together towns, and the french fry stands stud every street in the settlements (another shared Midwestern trait). Dutch french fries far outstrip any American fare, however. They are “two times” the thickness of McDonald’s fries, served with a special mayonnaise sauce, and have effectively ruined soggy stateside fries for BonenClark.
Besides the french fries, the strangest thing about American life now for BonenClark is the ever-present English language. “I’m used to being surrounded by different languages,” said BonenClark.
It’s disconcerting to be able to understand what everyone is saying, and vice versa, according to BonenClark.
“I’m an American who’s been living outside of the U.S. for most of my life,” said BonenClark.
This new immersion with hundreds of fellow Americans at UD certainly is a freeing and interesting experience.
Despite living far away from the States, BonenClark has still shared many experiences with the typical UD student. He went to Christendom College’s summer camp and learned how to swing dance, he was homeschooled for a stint and he speaks the requisite little bit of German and French. And like so many other UD students after visiting Europe, he also misses legally drinking and scorns the watery beer offered by the U.S. in place of fancy German brews. What ultimately drew BonenClark to UD instead of Christendom was the larger student body and great curriculum paired with an authentically Catholic community.
Another point of familiarity is his affinity for sports; he played on every varsity sports team in high school and excelled at soccer.
However, unlike most American UD students, BonenClark attended the Canadian section of the military school in the Netherlands.
“Everyone thinks Canadians are super nice, [but] they’re not stereotypically nice…they’re just normal people” BonenClark said.
This revelation that Canadians are “just normal people” is pertinent to BonenClark as well. Despite growing up in a strange and faraway land, he is still a normal college student. If anything, it is not his Dutch background which set him apart, but rather his kindness, which was apparent during his interview. The freshman class is full of intriguing characters, and among them BonenClark is a welcome addition to the UD family. He is happy to be here as well “the people at UD have greatly surpassed my expectations.”