So yep…I started school on Wednesday, September 3rd. I know, I know… you never thought I would. But I did. The first day was honestly the most scared I have ever been in my life. I was shaking I was so nervous. Thankfully I found my Australian and American friends so I wasn’t alone. (There are five other exchangers in my school, 1 Rotary from Australia, 3 AFS from USA, Dominican Republic and China, and 1 WEP from Ecuador. I’ve met all of them and they’re actually becoming really good friends. Especially the American and Ecuadorian.) We heard a speech from the director, Mr. Mertens. Then we got divided into our classes. I’m 6E. No one talked to me the first day and I didn’t understand what was going on with the schedule so that made everything worse and I ended up in Mr.Mertens’ office shedding a few tears from all the stress. But he printed out the schedules and map for me, highlighted all my classes and explained everything to me. Saved me from a full out cry session at home and coming in lost the next day. We have block scheduling so it’s different classes and rooms everyday. And my school is big but it’s pretty easy since I’m in the same area of the school all the time, just changing floors. I have an insane amount of free time and I get out early every day but Tuesday. And currently I have math but I’ll probably try and see if I can get taken out of that and gym to have art and a little more study time. I understand everything being said and what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t understand the actual math concepts themselves. Although I feel so bad because my teacher is incredibly kind and really bubbly. He was calling names and got to mine and was all, “Where do you come from?”. Apparently it was obvious I am not Belgian (I feel like it is obvious because I don’t have the nose, I swear everyone has the same style of nose, that long, straight-bridged Latin nose)… So I told him the US and he got really excited and started talking to me in English because he loves the states. And ALL my teachers are so amazing and kind. We already have a field trip on Tuesday to Liege to see a ’14-’18 exhibit. And then people are talking to me! And one girl looked me up on facebook. It feels good to have talked to nearly everyone in my class. And in German the teacher spoke to me in French, German and English…switching off randomly. It gave me a headache that lasted for hours. 

But I’m making friends so it’s getting better. There were people that wanted to sit by me in French class on Friday. It felt so good. I have my friends in my class but also outside of my class who I eat lunch and have study time with. It feels great. It makes me actually like going. And upside, I’m in Rheto so we go on a trip during the year-I’m not sure where yet but somewhere near the south of Italy…  I think it’s Crete…off the coast of Greece…maybe. If it is that would be awesome.

And yesterday we had our district info meeting for 2170. It’s definitely going to be a good year… When the guy tells you all the rules, but then how to get around them effectively… you know it’s gonna be good. On Sunday I’m going to this place called Pairi Daiza, it looks amazing. Look it up. Oh, and if you guys want to see pictures…they’re up on facebook. Pictures don’t like to load on here. Bisous, until nex time.

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Two weeks in

Well Friday was the two week mark…although it feels like I’ve been here forever. Thursday I took the train for the first time in my life, and I did it with no one’s help. Had a mini panic attack because I was trying to get my ticket from a machine and it wouldn’t accept my cards and then by the time I found the actual people-manned counter it was 5mn past my train’s departure… Lucky for me I looked up at the schedule and my train said +0h11, which means it was there 11 extra minutes, allowing me to get on it a minute before it left the station. (And coming back I missed the first train because the guy wouldn’t let me on, and then I had to wait 40mn in the cold and rain, the station I was at was outdoor, for the next one I could take back to Namur. Horrible first experiences but the train is easy and convenient.) I was going to Brussels for our huge first meeting in Brussels. By huge, it’s all 3 Belgian districts, 230+ students. And that’s just Rotary students. I was meeting up with a friend early to have breakfast in the Grand Place before we had to meet everyone else. A 8am, there was really no one there. It was great to take pictures without a million tourists in the way. I actually got to get up close and see Mannekin Pis. For the meeting we got to go inside the Royal Palace, eat lunch in the Grand Place at Le Roy Espagna ( I think that was the name), and go inside Parliament, along with presenting our sponsor club banners to Francoise Schepmans, vice president of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgian Parliament. Aurora Sunrise you are proudly displayed in Belgium!  Brussels is such a beautiful city. Heck, ALL of Belgium is gorgeous. Yeah yeah so it’s mainly farms, fields, open space, industry, and a handful of “big” cities…but it’s beautiful. Every single part of it. And I think when you can love even the parts the Belgians make fun of (Liege), then you truly love a place. You appreciate it for everything it is. Then Friday I got to see the citadel and Chateau de Namur (where my rotary club’s meetings are held). Yes, chateau is French for castle. That’s right, you heard me, I ATTEND ROTARY MEETINGS IN A CASTLE. I love you Aurora Sunrise, but I think Namur Val Mosan has you beat on a venue. The view from the top of that hill is just spectacular. I could stay up there all day. Oh and I also saw Marche les Dames, where King Albert I was mountain climbing when he took a fatal fall. There is an “A” made of bushes and a stone cross marking where his body was found, along with a little dedication about 10 feet further down the road. It’s not a very tourist spot, not many people know it even exists. But it does. Then yesterday was one of my best days so far. I was taken by my host parents to the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial outside Liege and then to Bastogne (aka Battle of the Bulge). Both were beyond beautiful and extremely sobering, even for my parents who aren’t American. Both places are dedicated to the eternal friendship between the American and Belgian peoples. I cried in both places. That cemetery, I can’t even put into words how it feels to be there, to walk in between those stone crosses and stars of David, to read the names, and just feel this overwhelming wave of emotion overcome you. Seeing all the crosses that read “A fallen comrade in arms known only to God”… broke my heart and still does. No one with the bravery to do what these men did, selflessly sacrifice to save others, deserves to die and be unknown forever. Same with all the names of the missings-they don’t know what happened to them or which one of the unknowns buried there they are. To me, it’s one of the most unjust things. The families never receive assurance and closure, the soldier at rest never is recognized by name for his deeds. But maybe that’s why they care to keep those places so beautiful and respectful-so regardless of whether they know who is who, they are still remembered, appreciated, and loved. And they have this program where every year they have people here “adopt” the soldiers so for a ceremony they do, everyone has someone so they and their sacrifices are never forgotten. The pure love and gratitude shown for what the Americans did for Belgium is amazing. And I will bet you 99.9% of Americans have no idea what we did over here to save them and keep them free, and how thankful they are to us. In school you never go in depth. You talk about the major battles, who won, and the Holocaust and when the war ended. The Holocaust, while I appreciate learning about it so much, does overshadow many of the important events of the war that people need to know. That’s one of my future goals as a history teacher. Well and this is just the cemetery. The war museum and monument is Bastogne is incredible too. The monument is shaped like a giant, 5-point star with all the states, and divisions of the army, air force, etc that aided during the battle. And on the inside there are two giants slabs per point that go from 1 to 10 and tell the story of the battle. You’re also able to climb to the top of the monument and see the surrounding countryside where all the fighting was taking place. The museum is also incredible. You have a set of headphones because there are four voices, real people from that time, who tell you their stories and guide you through the battle and the war. A young boy, a school teacher, an American soldier, and a German soldier. So there’s the traditional reading portions and artifacts, small interview and movie clips, the listenings from the guides, and 3 films. I was there for a little over 4 hours. Yes it takes a while to get through but it is soooooo worth it. And at the end you find out the fate of each person. Their paths keep winding towards each other and finally all four do end up intertwining. The way this was assembled is wonderful and it makes you want to learn and you really care about everything because not only are you getting the history accounts every gets but you’re getting first hand accounts of how it felt to be Belgian, American, and German and you got to understand the different perspectives of each person in the war. Every German was not in on Hitler’s ultimate plan and the Holocaust, that was a select handful of unbelievably twisted individuals-some were just fighting to defend and help their country because that’s what they believed was right at the time. All the preconceptions and ideas that are commonly had about the war aren’t really all that true. History books are biased to the country they’re written for. You have to learn through the perspectives of many to get the full 360 view and comprehension on a subject.  Back to how beautiful this country is…the southern landscape is one of my favorite things here now. I had a realization last night in the car that I can’t live the rest of my life without coming back at some point in time. There’s no way I can live in the states forever, no way I can never go out and see more of the world, no way I will ever be able to stop traveling. Now that I’ve gotten a taste, it’s in me for good. I am American, but I don’t belong to America…I belong to the world because that’s where I want to be-out in all corners of the earth discovering new things and exploring and living life at the end of my comfort zone the way it’s supposed to be. Looking at pictures, reading books, and watching videos is never going to satisfy this craving. Life is too short to not try new things and go everywhere. That’s all I’ve been doing since I got here…is trying new things. I had salmon the other night-that makes 4 kinds of fish I’ve tried here already. And lamb…and shrimp…and some vegetables…and it’s crazy. I also had my first Liege waffle and fries this week too. Both so amazing. And I had a cheeseburger Belgian style…not going there again, I can wait til I get back to have burger the way I prefer it. And omg, the 14th I’m going to Pairi Daiza-it’s this MASSIVE garden and animal park (I think like 44+acres). It has an amazing assortment of animals (look it up it’s so incredible). So Randy if you’re reading this, I am staying animal minded! I’m working on planning a time to go visit some animal parks in Antwerp too. 😀 And Mr. Pierski and all my other history teachers, I’m staying history-minded too. And then obviously language since I’m speaking and hearing French all day every day, and taking three languages in school. I must be crazy, but then again, all exchange students are.      

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Yes, I am going to school

Sooo….for all of you back at school or starting soon…I just registered today. Yes, believe or not mes amis, I am going to school during this. Although it doesn’t start until 3 September until 10:30 and ends at 12…yep, Easy first day. But what’s going to astonish you more is that I’m going to school in a castle. Yep…you read me right, a castle. The center of the school was originally constructed as a castle with chapel and all in the 17/1800’s. The first opening of it as a school was solely for women who wanted to be primary education teachers (but at the time it was still very religious and you had to be a nun first to be a part of it). But after that it was built onto more and more slowly becoming l’Institut de la Providence Champion, how I know it today. It’s 2h50mn of class, 50mn break, 2h50mn of class, hour something break for lunch, then about 4h50mn of class. But it usually lets out early. My headmaster, Mr. Mertens, is sooo nice. He speaks English so it was nice to have a fully comprehendible explanation of the school. Yes, I did also pick my classes. I’m in Rheto, the sixth level, which is highest. (He was so happy I already graduated because it makes squeezing me into available space much easier since I don’t have to keep up with certain classes.) I have English 4 hours a week, German 3h, Math 4h, Science 3h and believe it or not, Spanish 2 or 3 hours. Spanish and German are both second level courses. I wasn’t about to try and jump into Chinese but he offered Spanish and I thought why not? I can understand some already with the French I know so I might as well try. I can only come out better for it. And he told me if I don’t like that or math I can just come to him by the 15th/19th and he’ll change me out (into 1 or 2 year art lessons, which I wouldnt necessarily mind). I also gave him a Blackhawks pennant, aurora pin and one of my rotary pins which are already displayed in his office! I met another exchanger, a girl with AFS from New York. He took our pictures so they can make posters about us so that other student will know us and realize we’re foreigners who need help if we look seriously lost. Otherwise, it reminds me a lot of West, the way the classrooms are labeled, the schedule of the day, the length of classes… It’s great. And he had to give me the “you need to make sure you want to learn and try or we’ll have to kick you out” speech, but he told me already he has no doubts that I’ll try my best and do really well, especially with my level of French. So I mean, it’s pretty awesome. A little over 1000 students so it’ll definitely be smaller and less crowded than west. The building is still really huge though. And beautiful. You can completely tell where it used to be a castle (although they have redone a lot of things like the walls to help save and preserve it). The floor, statues, fireplaces, all original. It’s amazing. You’d never find something like this in the states. We can eat one of various places indoors or go outside. It’s just…c’est magnifique. My classes make me so happy. I did say before I left I’d probably come back speaking some Spanish too….


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Becoming Belgian

My face feels different…not looks, okay maybe in some regards, but it feels different. When you speak French, you can’t keep your face in the same positions as when speaking English. It sounds weird to those of you who don’t know it but it’s 100% true. With French the jaw is lower, your voice is lower… your mouth kinda sits in a downward curve like a hmm, not bad expression, and it’s just more relaxed with the facial muscles; you even have different expressions! I feel myself making them all the time and it’s only my fourth day. French speakers also tend to like blow out air or pfff or oufff at something as an answer too or a sign that they’re thinking about something. These things I also do. And believe it or not, you can hear the difference in accents between France French and Belgian French and Luxembourg French and even the different regions in France. I’ve started picking up on this too. I am getting a Belgian accent when I speak, it’s a little bit lower and less proper than the other types of French-or at least that’s how it seems to me. In fact one of my host uncles spoke to me a little in English and wanted me to reply in it, so I did. But he said “no, no you must do it with Belgian accent for me to understand.” Not French, Belgian. I’m not using the really proper, France French I learned in school, I have to mold it to b Belgian. Like for one thing…it’s not soixante dix for’s septante. So much simpler. And camera is just appareil not appareil-photo. And instead of tu es or tu as, it’s t’es and t’as. Everything I’ve learned in the past three days is so incredible. That I have been able to learn that much is amazing. I’m beyond happy and lucky that I came into this knowing so much French that I’m already at the level to be having full on conversations and understanding 70-80% of what’s going on around me. When people speak slower I understand almost, if not everything. I’ve figured out that washing your hands and everything isn’t such a huge deal here, and that you don’t say “bless you” if someone sneezes… And the bisous!! Belgians don’t hug to say hello, they bisous. Which is a kiss on the cheek. Your cheeks touch but you just kiss the air by their cheek. Since I arrived I’ve been getting them so I’m rolling with it and I actually think it’s really awesome. Looking in comparison to the US and here, we hug or shake hands or just say hello but Belgians make a point of giving everyone a bisous, you say hello to EVERYONE and goodbye too. You can’t leave a party and just say goodbye to some like Americans do, you say goodbye to everyone who’s there. It’s so cool. And honestly I already know it’s gonna be weird to go back and not do that anymore and not hear French 24/7. It’ll probably drive me insane.

So we had that party yesterday…it was pretty good. Besides the weather. It was cold, then really windy, then it rained, then it got really sunny and kinda hot, then it became cold and windy again, and then it rained and then went back to windy for the rest of the night. <– That was all within 7 hours… Had some more food, of course I had to try everything because nothing is familiar. But that's okay, it's pushing me wayyyy out of my comfort zone. In fact I had a Senegalese dish, what I think was a version of pizza, and some little bread and cheese and veggie thing. Still no fries or waffles. Belgians LOVE their vegetables. And meat…and rice….and definitely alcohol. Like champagne, beer, wine, sangria…anything. I didn't expect wine to be so popular or really be a big thing in Belgium because all you hear is beer. But from all my family trying to get me to drink, I've picked up that apparently Belgian wine is very good. Especially the rose (roh-zay). They also enjoy their comedy and family time. At the party my cousins did little sketches and a traditional song for their parents. Note, this aunt and uncle have 12 children, one married with two kids, one getting engaged in France this week, teens and down to somewhere between 8-10 for the youngest. It seems like everyone's pretty decent at singing… Oh and on the way home from the party we stopped to see the wife of the oldest son who just had a baby girl, Julie on Thursday. The cousin I talk to the most, Hubert, is the godfather and his sister, Therese, is the godmother. Julie is getting baptized today. But it's so heart warming to see the level of devotion to family, Hubert told me that even though not everyone agrees and has different view, they ignore it because they're still family and that's all that matters. Watching how everyone is so sweet and affectionate with the children, even all the guys, is so adorable. I am beyond lucky to be a part of this incredible family.

All I can really say is it's day four-I've had some problems, some down moments…but something always comes around and brings me back up. I have absolutely fallen in love with this country, this culture, this people…EVERYTHING. Sure it isn't too fun not knowing any of the food, but that adds to the adventure and me broadening my horizons. Nothing is bad-it's very different, but not bad. In fact I find it wonderful. Seeing houses only made out of stone, it's beautiful. The roads and drivers are crazy: most roads are either 50 or 70 km for speed. And people have no problem passing you. Also there's more roundabouts than traffic lights. Lights only exist in the big cities, and they don't look a thing like American traffic lights. There also aren't really stop signs…just yields… Many really narrow roads or one lanes where one car has to pull off the road or back up if two meet each other going opposite ways. One ways don't really exist…just one lanes. There's no way I'd be able to get anywhere on my own driving…I don't think I'd even want to drive. Plus 98% of cars are manual. That's a no for an American who only knows how to drive automatic. Even so I love the craziness of the roads. The grandness of the city and the simplicity of the country. This isn't just my host country…it's my country. I love it.

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My first days

Well, if you want to know about the weather, it has been sunny, warm, cold and rainy all in the same day-both days. And I love it. Mid 60’s…so great. Time difference? Hasn’t affected me at all. It’s so wonderful. The food? It isn’t bland. It’s full of taste and color and I’ve eaten things I never thought I would have. Shrimp in spaghetti with tomato and white wine sauce, pizza with who knows how many and what vegetables on it, some kind of potato salad with some sort of meat, pork, rice with chicken, corn and pineapple (actually seriously good), and lots of bread. The language? Easy. Everyone tells me I speak and comprehend so well. I have shocked and impressed many a Belgian with my French. It’s already improved from yesterday. I am currently fighting the urge to type this in French..I can already understand the humor which is HUGE for you non-language learners. If you can understand humor and vocal intonation in other languages it’s the most amazing thing-it means you are becoming fluent and understand the culture. I ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT WE’RE LAUGHING ABOUT! I had one of my family members tell me coca cola is American champagne. And right away they told me it’s just a joke and asked me if I found it racist. Why should I? I found it hilarious. I was even able to tease my new friend. The music? SO many English songs…smoke on the water, eye of the tiger, johnny cash, etc… But the French is good. The fashion? There really isn’t. It’s not super formal like the French like I would have thought and it isn’t really defined. It’s kinda however you feel like dressing. My house? It’s an industrial building but super charming inside and my room is so great. The view of the stars I have at night is one to be so jealous of. The country itself? INCROYABLE. I haven’t even been into or seen any of the big cities yet. Just the little towns and the country which are adorable and beautiful. Everything is made of stone and just looks like it has so many stories. There are also a ton of cows, much more muscular and stocky than American ones but still as adorable. I saw one today on the way home whose head was all black with a large white spot shaped like a heart. I’ve also seen horses and sheep. And lots of crops-lots of corn. I don’t feel like a tourist in their world. My family? All I can say is amazing. They’re so sweet, warm and welcoming I’ve been smiling and taken care of with them every minute. I lost track of how many times I’ve been asked “Ca va?” because they all want to make sure I’m doing well. And this isn’t just my parents. It’s my aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, grandma… everyone. I was told countless times today at my grandma’s surprise party “welcome to our family”. Nothing could be more heart-warming and needed than that on a second day in the country. I began this morning with some downward culture shock, so sure I wasn’t going to make friends and that I wouldn’t fit in…that got turned around today. It’s like they all knew exactly what I was thinking. And they’re crazy and loud and love to joke around and the kids are the cutest things ever and they all apologized for the weirdness…but I told them I love it and that made every one of them smile. I have a friend. He’s one of Odile’s cousins and he loves all the same things I do. He even plays trumpet. But I think the best part is I can actually, at the end of the day call this home already. I feel so comfortable and loved. Not even 48 hours and it’s already home. Hubert told me today at the party that this is traditional Belgium: Family, beer, rain, food and wine. We had all those today-I just skipped the beer and wine. I have seriously stopped keeping track of how many times I’ve been offered alcohol. I can tell my family really wants me to though, just because of the culture aspect and because they’re proud of their countries (some live in France so today was Belgian and French specialties). I was also told only stupid people get drunk. It’s kind of thought of as ugly and that you have no self control. Despite how much I watched everyone drink today, not one was drunk nor even close. That respect and consideration of their image is amazing. But they have the right idea. This little country and the people keep amazing me to no end. And I have another surprise party for my aunt and uncle’s 25th anniversary tomorrow. LA VIE EST BELGE!

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My Exchange Life Up To Now

Well, enjoy the photos… This is basically a compilation of my favorite photos from October to now that I have with my exchange family. They’re all great in their own ways and I love each one of them. I couldn’t be more happy to have them be a part of my exchange, to have them help me prepare for mine while enjoying theirs. Luckily, I’ll still be pretty close to some of them while I’m away. I know could always count on the friendships I’ve made with them. Julius (Snow) is my German brother; we tease each other but never really mean and will make sure the other knows it at the end of the day. Not to mention always being squished in a hug. His sarcasm and teasing are so good I seriously forget he’s not just an American with an accent sometimes. It feels like he’s always been here and always will. And Devin, Andrew, and Ryan are really spectacular. The four of us have spent so much time together it’s going to be so bizarre to be separated for so long by such great distances. They’re brothers and a sister to me now. And I could go on and on about all the others too. Sure, yes, we definitely have pushed each other’s buttons and more than once on many occasions…but we still stick together no matter what because we’re a family, including Chris, Linda, Cheri, Gail and all the rest too. It’s helped me see that it doesn’t really matter where you were born, where you grew up, what language you speak, what food you eat, etc.. it matters that we’re here now, able to be open to each other’s differences and even embrace them and the person as a fellow human, friend, and even foreign family. Friendships forged through travel and exchange are said to be some of the best, strongest, and longest lasting. I’m looking forward to proving that true and creating more bonds like this while I’m in Belgium. It’s incredible to realize how much I’ve actually learned just since this whole thing started in October… There are a million things I could say, a million thank yous I owe people, and a million thank yous I’m going to owe people. And not just now and when I come back after exchange… for the rest of my life. Because whether it’s for good or bad, I have no idea yet, this experience will change me and shape me into the person I’m going to be for my life. I just hope everything I’m writing here helps to serve as a thank you to some. To see how any support you and they have shown me has been accepted, appreciated, and used. I hope this whole experience will be just as rewarding for everyone else as it will be for me. Je vous aime!

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I haven’t experienced it yet but this is a pretty accurate description of what exchange is. Got this from a girl on one of my exchange pages on Facebook. Enjoy!

“Exchange is change. Rapid, brutal, beautiful, hurtful, colourful, amazing, unexpected, overwhelming and most of all constant change. Change in lifestyle, country, language, friends, parents, houses, school, simply everything.
Exchange is realizing that everything they told you beforehand is wrong, but also right in a way.
Exchange is going from thinking you know who you are, to having no idea who you are anymore to being someone new. But not entirely new. You are still the person you were before but you jumped into that ice cold lake. You know how it feels like to be on your own. Away from home, with no one you really know. And you find out that you can actually do it.
Exchange is learning to trust. Trust people, who, at first, are only names on a piece of paper, trust that they want the best for you, that they care. Trust, that you have the strength to endure a year on your own, endure a year of being apart from everything that mattered to you before. Trust that you will have friends. Trust that everything’s going to be alright. And it is seeing this trust being justified.
Exchange is thinking. All the time. About everything. Thinking about those strange costumes, the strange food, the strange language. About why you’re here and not back home. About how it’s going to be like once you come back home. How that girl/boy is going to react when you see her again. About who’s hanging out where this weekend. At first who’s inviting you at all. And in the end where you’re supposed to go, when you’re invited to ten different things. About how everybody at home is doing. About how stupid this whole time-zone thing is. Not only because of home, but also because the tv ads for shows keep confusing you.
Thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong. About how stupid or rude you just were to someone without meaning to be. About the point of all this. About the sense of life. About who you want to be, what you want to do. And about when that English essay is due, even though you’re marks don’t count. About whether you should go home after school, or hang out at someone’s place until midnight. Someone you didn’t even know a few months ago. And about what the hell that guy just said.
Exchange is people. Those incredibly strange people, who look at you like you’re an alien. Those people who are too afraid to talk to you. And those people who actually talk to you. Those people who know your name, even though you have never met them. Those people, who tell you who to stay away from. Those people who talk about you behind your back, those people who make fun of your country. All those people, who aren’t worth your giving a damn. Those people you ignore.
And those people who invite you to their homes. Who keep you sane. Who become your friends.
Exchange is music. New music, weird music, cool music, music you will remember all your life as the soundtrack of your exchange. Music that will make you cry because all those lyrics express exactly how you feel, so far away. Music that will make you feel like you could take on the whole world. And it is music you make. With the most amazing musicians you’ve ever met. And it is site reading a thousand pages just to be part of the school band.
Exchange is uncomfortable. It’s feeling out of place, like a fifth wheel. It’s talking to people you don’t like. It’s trying to be nice all the time. It’s bugs.. and bears. It’s cold, freezing cold. It’s homesickness, it’s awkward silence and its feeling guilty because you didn’t talk to someone at home. Or feeling guilty because you missed something because you were talking on Skype.
Exchange is great. It’s feeling the connection between you and your host parents grow. It’s hearing your little host brother asking where his big brother is. It’s knowing in which cupboard the peanut butter is. It’s meeting people from all over the world. It’s having a place to stay in almost every country of the world. It’s getting 5 new families. One of them being a huge group of the most awesome teenagers in the world.
It’s cooking food from your home country and not messing up. It’s seeing beautiful landscapes that you never knew existed.
Exchange is exchange students. The most amazing people in the whole wide world. Those people from everywhere who know exactly how you feel and those people who become your absolute best friends even though you only see most of them 3 or 4 times during your year. The people, who take almost an hour to say their final goodbyes to each other. Those people with the jackets full of pins. All over the world.
Exchange is falling in love. With this amazing, wild, beautiful country. And with your home country.
Exchange is frustrating. Things you can’t do, things you don’t understand. Things you say, that mean the exact opposite of what you meant to say. Or even worse…
Exchange is understanding.
Exchange is unbelievable.
Exchange is not a year in your life. It’s a life in one year.
Exchange is nothing like you expected it to be, and everything you wanted it to be.
Exchange is the best year of your life so far. Without a doubt. And it’s also the worst. Without a doubt.
Exchange is something you will never forget, something that will always be a part of you. It is something no one back at home will ever truly understand.
Exchange is growing up, realizing that everybody is the same, no matter where they’re from. That there are great people and douche bags everywhere. And that it only depends on you how good or bad your day is going to be. Or the whole year.
And it is realizing that you can be on your own, that you are an independent person. Finally. And it’s trying to explain that to your parents.
Exchange is dancing in the rain for no reason, crying without a reason, laughing at the same time. It’s a turmoil of every emotion possible.
Exchange is everything. And exchange is something you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it.”

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So, for anyone wondering, I’m Alyssa. I’m about a month off from being 18, and I graduated high school in May. I’m going on a ten month exchange to the wonderful country of Belgium. I leave in August and come back in June. The point of this thing here, this blog, is so that my friends, family, and anyone else who wants to, can keep up with my adventures in Europe. I might end up posting in French at points, but I’ll always remember to translate it for all the English-speakers out there. If you want to know more about me, just check out my writer profile. Hope you’ll enjoy Belgium Calling. A bientot!

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