By Mary Schrott, Senior Staff Writer
With two large suitcases in hand, Noortje Wijckmans exited the CVG airport into a dark and cold January night. As she waited on the curb for a shuttle, she set down her luggage and reached for a very important carry-on item: her Sony Alpha A5000 camera.
She opened the device and turned it inward to capture the shivering and excited reflection of herself and began talking to it about her journey.
Wijckmans is an international student from the Netherlands who arrived in Ohio last month. She is spending her spring semester at Miami, and, in the meantime, vlogging about her experience in the United States.
A vlog is like a video diary where people share their experiences, ideas and interests with the online world on platforms like YouTube.
Wijckmans started vlogging around Christmas in 2015 in anticipation for her trip to the United States. As a fan of several YouTube vloggers herself, she was inspired to create her own page and thought it would be a good way to remember her semester.
Each one of her videos features herself-a tall 21-year-old with rosy eyeshadow, long auburn hair, freckles and impeccably precise eyebrows. She speaks to the camera about her life in English with a light Dutch accent and shows her viewer everything she sees as light soundtrack plays in the back.
"When I get back [to the Netherlands], I can get every experience again and again by watching my vlogs," Wijckmans said. "Pictures are nice, but [videos are] just different."
Though her channel is new, Wijckmans already has over 300 views on some of her videos and is gaining subscribers. Her goal is to vlog everyday and currently has 18 vlogs posted.
"I always think it's funny when someone subscribes that I don't know," Wijckmans said. "It would be cool if people watched, but I don't really go for that."
Wijckmans' vlogs show life at Miami from the point of view of an international student. They cover many American- and Miami-specific experiences, from her first American college sports event, trip to Wal Mart, Skyline meal, thoughts on classes and even watching her first Super Bowl.
Though she doesn't describe herself as a particularly outgoing person, Wijckmans believes her vlogs are helping her open up while also allowing her to capture new experiences.
"I wanted to do the vlogs to break through that habit of always being timid," Wijckmans said. "When I'm talking to the camera, the camera is me, so it's easier to express myself."
She also says looking back on her vlogs helps her to see her own personal growth because coming to the United States alone was scary for her.
"I can watch back and see 'Oh, I was doing much worse the first few days, and now I'm fine,'" Wijckmans said. "It will all be fine, that's kind of the thing I get out of it."
When planning her semester, Wijckmans knew she wanted the quintessential American college experience. For her, that meant a college town, a quaint campus, sports and school spirit.
"[Miami] is kind of perfect, actually," Wijckmans said. "Miami was one of the only places that had that real American experience."
Wijckmans discovered Miami through the non-profit International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), which partners with Miami and her home university, Radboud, located in the city of Nijmegen.
Although she has been to New York City once before on holiday with her family, Wijckmans says she has always liked American culture.
"You have everything at your disposal," Wijckmans said. "It's just like the movies."
While many of her expectation of American and college life have been met, one aspect that surprises her is the drinking culture at Miami.
"People go out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and start drinking at 1 p.m. I'm like, 'What the hell?'" Wijckmans said. "Drinking before dinner is kind of weird."
In the Netherlands, Wijckmans explains, college-aged people go out once a week and once a weekend. Part of the problem, she suspects, is that Americans have to wait longer to legally drink.
"When you become 21, you'll go crazy, and in the Netherlands, you start at 18 and it's not this new thing you have to discover."
In addition to the drinking culture, the classes at Miami are structurally different from her home university.
"The first week I was overwhelmed," Wijckmans said. "They call it 'syllabus week' and they tell you everything you are going to do in a semester."
Wijckmans' life in the Netherlands has her going to class twice a week and home on the weekends where her family has a pet cat and pigs. She also doesn't have much homework besides final exams or papers.
"Here, you have to discuss in class and there are more assignments," she said. "Now I'm getting more in the flow and I can think ahead for getting my work done."
As for interacting with American students on campus or in class, Wijckmans says it can be difficult to meet people.
"It's different for the international students because we are all in the same boat and Americans are not in that boat," Wijckmans said. "Americans already have their friends."
While her experience is different from most Miami students, Wijckmans is still thrilled to be in Oxford and her vlogs help keep her going. She hopes the vlogging will force her to become less of an introvert and be able to talk to people more naturally.
Though her goals are to grow personally and to learn more about American culture, she says there are many things she still wants to experience here.
"I need to make some mac 'n' cheese, still," Wijckmans said. "Oh, and I have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!"
To watch Wijckmans' vlogs visit her YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/xnooor.