For the first time, one of the kids & I went on college visits. While Soren went to college, he wanted to go to college in California. We lived in North Carolina. We had six kids. College visits just weren’t in our budget. The next three; Nick, Chris and Cole all joined the military. So now with our fifth kid ready to leave the nest… college visits!

Tess & I spent a marvelous weekend in Holland visiting both Universiteit Leiden and HKU – Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht. Tess has narrowed her schooling choices to one of our on base hybrid universities or a university in the Netherlands (NL). America seems too far & too foreign, and she wants to spread out from Germany. Luckily higher education over here is afforable and we have lots of family in NL to help guide and support her.

I’d gotten the dates on open day at HKU wrong. My cousin Heidi’s daughter, Zoë, had been meeting us in Utrecht to give a personal, student, perspective on how-to college in NL. Instead Heidi drove us up to Leiden for a personal tour of Leiden university. Tess loved it!

Leiden is a clean, modern, fantabulous campus with a wonderful energy. Zoë is very excited about her field of study, archeology, and her excitement shines through in her pride of campus, college, faculty, studies, everything. It is very contagious. Tess was almost ready to study archeology as well… until she remembered that digging for bones is not really her thing.

On Saturday just the two of us drove from ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Heidi’s home, my mother’s hometown) to Utrecht. A quick, easy-breezy drive up the A-2. We managed a parking space directly in front of the main HKU building. There were 12 spaces. HKU is in Utrecht, the fourth largest city in NL. I thought it was a good omen!

I was wrong. Tess hated HKU. After the modern, high-energy Leiden, HKU disappointed. It is an art school. Filled with art students. Filled with art. Where I had thought that would thrill her, it took the wind right out of her sails. The thought of creating art on demand. Weekly assignments. Timelines. Constrictions on her art. Suddenly there was a very crabby Tess.

It didn’t help that the tours and presentations were all in Dutch. While I’ve always spoken Dutch to my kids, read Dutch books, their Dutch is limited to swear words, candy & drinks, and finding lost keys. Tess can read almost fluent Dutch, but writing is out of the question and fast, university-level, spoken Dutch is beyond her skill set. All she wanted was to leave HKU and Utrecht.

I, on the other hand, had never been to Utrecht. At least not that I remembered. I dragged a very sulky teen back to the car, to downtown Utrecht. Still grumbling we parked right in town center, and she stalked in front of me. Frequently sending angry glances back at me as I hobbled along, trying to keep up and take pictures. My foot was not cooperating after the long drive to NL, a quick tour of Leiden, and now HKU & Utrecht.

Suddenly she stopped. Jumped. And smiled:

“Mom! A manga store!” I’m all about the smiles. “Go on in.” I urged, promising to buy her one Boku no Hīrō (My Hero Academia… which I always hear as Pokémon hero). She ran in. One picture, and five minutes of hobbling later, I followed her in. The store was almost empty. Disappointed I glanced around & met the eyes of the sales girl.

“Are you just opening?” Nope. It turns out the vast majority of their inventory, including all the Boku no Hīrō books and Funko Pops, were at Dutch Comic Con. Our stop for Sunday. She & I wound up talking stores, sales, games and Firefly before Tess joined in and the talk turned to obscure anime.

By the time we left half an hour later, both of us were happy & excited and filled with joy. Maybe HKU isn’t the right place for Tess, but maybe Utrecht is. Her eyes are wide open to all the possibilities. Where before she had one focus, now she has infinite choices.

We spent two hours very slowly wandering 2-3 blocks of beautiful Utrecht. I couldn’t do more. It was enough. We shared a “frietje oorlog”, delicious hot Dutch fries in a traditional paper cone covered in mayonnaise, onions and saté sauce (chili peanut sauce). If you’ve never had this, you are missing out!

You can *almost* see the deliciousness that is frietje oorlog!