Little more than a year has passed since Sonja Posthuma arrived in the United States, but the Gophers volleyball outside hitter already has an Americanized composure.
As the Netherlands native discussed her post-graduation future in America, a concept that could only be learned after spending time in America escaped her mouth.
“If I find the man of my dreams I might end up here, but I doubt it,” Posthuma said. “I’m not really excited about American men. I just don’t think they’re honest.”
Posthuma’s ability to blend into a foreign culture has grown with time. If anything, the language transition from Dutch to English proved to the toughest adjustment.
Sophomore middle blocker Erica Glaser, who is responsible for teaching Posthuma the word “wuss,” recalls a time when Posthuma’s mispronunciation stirred up some team laughter.
“We were all excited to go to Dairy Queen,” Glaser said, “and she’s like, ‘Oh, there’s that Diary Queen.'”
Gophers coaches Mike Hebert and Maurice Batie actually began recruiting Posthuma while they were still coaching at Illinois. Then Illini setter Carolien Dickhoff, who is also Dutch, tipped them off.
In 1996, Hebert and Batie had to switch roles and become salesmen, as they brought their coaching expertise to Minnesota.
“We switched institutions and had to convince her that Minneapolis was better,” Batie said. “The whole time we recruited her we were at Illinois.”
Hebert and Batie’s pitch was convincing and Posthuma’s name was added to the roster in August 1997. In the first week, Posthuma did not experience homesickness, saying too many aspects of college life in America impressed her.
“I walked around on campus and I was like, ‘Ohmigod, why would you build so big buildings?'” Posthuma said. “And there were tons of people.”
Being separated from her family was not new to Posthuma, either. Prior to moving here, Posthuma spent two years living on her own. Originally from Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, the 6-foot player moved to Sneek at the age of 18 to play for the Gala Olympus Sneek Club, a top-level team of the Dutch Volleyball Association.
Experiences such as moving to Sneek and playing for the Dutch National team have allowed Posthuma to adjust to life overseas.
“You grow up so much quicker than just being at home,” Posthuma said. “They say like one year abroad is like double year at home.”
Somehow Posthuma does seem more mature than her fellow sophomore teammates. Even the sophomore Glaser refers to Posthuma as “my mom away from home.”
Last season, Posthuma was the only non-senior to start every match. Her ability to compete in a foreign country as a freshman is the reason why Posthuma wears the co-captain name tag as a sophomore.
“It gives you lots of motivation because you know you can’t let the team down,” Posthuma said. “What happens if the co-captain just doesn’t feel like it?”
When her collegiate career ends, Posthuma plans on having the desire to pursue volleyball in her homeland.
“That’s my whole life. It’s in my heart,” Posthuma said. “That’s the thing I’m blessed with. I can go home and play until I’m 90.”
With the exception of going abroad, joining the beach circuit or even finding an American boyfriend, Posthuma and volleyball in the United States will part with her college graduation.
“There’s like this big, huge hole here,” Posthuma said. “I have a future at home.”