Belgian soccer player takes stock of life in America

By Simon Chrétien

It’s not a difficult task to spot Max Van Der Heijden. The tall, tanned and sharp figure dresses very much in the classical European fashion sense of jeans, smart casual shoes and a nice shirt when he goes to class. Van Der Heijden, from Belgium,  is the new striker for the Quincy University Men’s Soccer team.

While most of his peers may prefer talking about video games and the latest sports results, Van Der Heijden prefers talking about business and stock markets. Number five on the field, Van Der Heijden is an interesting character, and and by all accounts is enjoying the experience at QU so far.

It’s never easy for a foreigner to settle into new surroundings, let alone if English isn’t their first language. Van Der Heijden is from a small town called Lommel in the north of Belgium, where the locals speak Dutch.

“It’s not a problem. I would say it’s rather funny than a problem because I don’t know every word in English,” Van Der Heijden said.

Many people in Belgium speak at least two languages, with French, Dutch and German being the official languages of the country. Van Der Heijden speaks both Dutch and French, and now English.

“I think it’s important. I would compare it (foreign languages) to math. They make you smart, the way you think. There are connections between languages,” Van Der Heijden added.

It seems that Van Der Heijden has settled in well in Quincy. Friends say it’s easy to see why he is such a likeable character, given his lightheartedness and contagious smile.

Van Der Heijden comes from a reputed football club in Belgium – Lommel SK.

“It’s a different way of playing football (soccer) here. It’s a little more physical. We have to win, it’s the most important,” he said.

He says players in the U.S. play a frantic college game compared to the more consistent tempo of the European football style.

Van Der Heijden says he may stick around after his four years at QU are up.

“Since the age of fifteen I’ve been interested in the stock market. It was kind of a dream to work in Chicago or Wall Street. If I get that opportunity I would definitely do that.”

Max Van Der Heijden is a bright and ambitious student, and one of dozens of new foreign exchange students on campus this year.

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