Wake Wednesday – Welcome to Holland

I am out all week this week, so this is a prepost.

This week for our Wake Wednesday advice (geared as always to P’24, but hopefully relatable to all families), I want to tell you a story. Many years ago, my 15 year old (who I often refer to here as Class of ’27 Deac for his hopeful graduation year) was diagnosed as being on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. And at the time, someone shared with me an article called Welcome to Holland. Here is an excerpt:

“When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, ‘Welcome to Holland.’

‘Holland?!?’ you say. ‘What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.’”

The premise of this article is that this thing you had hoped for, dreamed about, planned in detail…is still going to happen, but not in the same way you originally thought. And now you have to adjust in ways you hadn’t planned on, but here you are.

Welcome to Holland college during COVID.

I say that not to be flippant, but to acknowledge that for our students – both our ’24s and P’24s, as well as our upperclass students and families – what you expected for this fall isn’t going to look 100% as you imagined. It’s normal to feel some feelings when the unexpected happens.

BUT, as you hopefully know by now, I am a glass half full kinda girl, so indulge me.

The parents in the Welcome to Holland example find they need to learn a new language, and buy different guide books, and they end up meeting different people. But they also discover that Holland has tulips, and windmills, and Rembrandts.

Holland is beautiful in its own way. Holland turns out to be a destination worth going to.

I have faith that our students are going to thrive on campus this fall. 

There will still be ways to have amazing class discussions and a ha! moments, and to fall in love with a particular discipline or work of art or whatever – or just fall in love 😉

There will be ways to celebrate and have fun and blow off steam.

They will still make plenty of friends. Remember, this is a generation of digital natives who have made connections and formed friendships over their phones, iPads, laptops, and all sorts of social media, texts, group chats, and message boards. They have been at this online life for years and years. Our students are going to have opportunities to make friends in person and also have the same technologies they always used to foster and deepen relationships.

I was talking to Class of ’27 the other day about this and said ‘maybe it will be harder to talk about deeply personal things with a friend if you are sitting outside on the grass six feet away.’ Class of ’27 looked at me like I was a moron and said ‘Mom, they won’t have any trouble at all. They’ll do the very personal parts by text, and the rest out loud. It isn’t that hard.”

Out of the mouths of Gen Z 🙂

Using another analogy that might be closer to your Deacs, I have always loved this moment in the Harry Potter series. Things are going to change, but the most important things will remain. Wake isn’t Holland, and it isn’t Hogwarts, but it is still full of magic.



— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

Categories: the daily deac

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