SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.


SignMyCar! Belgians Living in the US.


Maarten Van Hees - Jacksonville, FL

Story Published in May 2016  | Interviews conducted in July 2015

Maarten and his family [“The Petra Clan”] welcomed me last summer to document their lives. Each family member let me shadow them for a couple days to really capture the essence of their Belgian American Life. I followed Maarten around in July 2015, a month before he started college. He shares his experience of growing up in the United States in a wonderful video interview that brings light on what it means to be a Belgian teen in the US. Maarten’s story is part of a multi-generational featured story. Don’t miss out and read all five stories!


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Video Interview

Maarten moved to the United States in 2008 when he was 11. At this time, he did not speak the language and took a while to make friends. He spent his first months in Florida observing people and studying how they acted. When he became confident, he started to interact socially and after six months felt comfortable in his new life. You can hear all the details in Maarten's video interview:

Goofing around

Maarten is very introvert but you will find him always joking around and acting weird when he is with his family or when there is a camera around. As a photographer, I must say that Maarten brings a lot of action and interest to family portraiture. All his portraits turned out to be absolutely hilarious!


But don’t let his apparent craziness fool you! Every family has an entertainer and Maarten can also be very calm and sensitive. He always has the back of the people he loves. Maarten is a very loyal friend. While his portraits show his very funny side - which is inevitable if you can’t stay serious in front of a camera and a photographer lives with you - his video interview will give you a better view of who Maarten is as a whole.



Swimming has played a central aspect of Maarten’s life. He joined the school swimming team when he was 14. Simon, his older brother, was also part of the swimming team. The training schedule was intense: “you get up early to swim, then you got to school, then you go to practice again, then you have to do your homework late at night. Then you do it all over. It is very intense but you get used it after a whileMaarten explains in his video interview. He hopes to join his college swimming team but he is not entirely sure he has the level to be admitted. (Editor’s note: Maarten ended up joining the diving team of his college and really loves it. According to PetraMaarten has been faithful to himself and has already managed to hurt himself a few times." she smiles)

Playing video games

Aside from swimming and hanging out with friends, Maarten loves to sit alone in his room and play video games. “I just really love video games. I love their complexity and searching around. My favorites game are FIFA and  Assassin’s Creed. A good video game must be difficult enough to be engaging but not challenging to the point of dying all the time!Maarten explains. As Maarten (and his siblings) can spend a lot of time on screens, Petra set up a special calendar that summer: every kid had to clock in at least 4 hours a day of social time, along with other objectives.

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Industrial Engineering

The month after my stay with the Petra Clan, Maarten started his first college year at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. He studies industrial engineering and really enjoys all the long mathematics and physics classes of his curriculum. He joked around that even though he now lives in the same state as his father (Hans), his sister Nele - who started college the same year and lives in New Brunswick - is expected to visit their father more often as she lives closer to him. “She is three hours away while I live eight hours away” says Maarten with a big smile. Maarten loves teasing his siblings.

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Find out more

You can find out more about Maarten and the “Petra Clan” by reading the stories of each member of her family. And don’t forget to watch Maarten’s interview!

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