I work at a small international school and by small I mean that the entire secondary school (grades 6-12) contains about 60 students. So, what is prom night like at such a small school outside of the U.S.A.?
Tonight I met up with a couple of colleagues in the vicinity of where the Prom is being held, at the 5-Star Hilton Hotel in downtown Rotterdam. At one point we decide it might be fun to check in on the Prom attendees, look at the dresses and gauge the basic atmosphere. We enter the marble lobby of the Hilton and notice the sign illuminated by the crystal chandeliers from above, “American International School of Rotterdam. Prom Night. Coolsingel. 1st Floor”. One of my colleagues exclaims, “Ooh, that’s nice.” We ascend the expansive alabaster staircase and walk down the unoccupied hallway towards the Coolsingel place. Music, chatter, and the sounds of dinner filter from the room.
My son saunters into the area to retrieve a couple of cokes and water from the server. He pretends to not see us. We are undecided whether we should enter and “interrupt” as one of my colleagues is convinced we will embarrass the students. After all, the dance has not commenced and the students remain seated at dinner. A couple of other students walk through and greet us. We decide to go ahead and peek our heads in. As soon as we are spotted a large group of girls, including my daughter, eagerly jumps up and happily welcomes us. They show off their dresses with bright smiles. Behind them we see a corner especially decorated for pictures and the DJ. Purple and gold balloons are scattered across the floor waiting for dispersal by students transcending the dance floor.
Pupils grades 9-12 from the Netherlands, Germany, the USA, Korea, Great Britain, India, Poland, and Malaysia enjoy a sit-down dinner celebrating this traditional American rite of passage. There are four chaperones. There are no, or very few, couples other than those formed by relationships with “the outside” because it’s strange to date people you virtually consider family. In these few cases, the guest has been invited, boosting numbers. No one arrived in a limousine. There are no corsages. No one had reservations at a fancy restaurant before the dance; instead, the entire body of students sits orderly in a single room for an elegant dinner. The students are handsomely dressed but not completely decked out. Later they will dance and linger in this same room together. When the prom is over around 11:00, parents will pick some students up but most will depart by bike, tram, bus or metro.
It’s quite different than a traditional U.S. prom but it’s still a prom.