2005-06 Outbound to Belgium
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
School: Buchholz High School
Sponsor: Downtown Gainesville Rotary Club
Host: Liège Chaudfontaine Rotary Club, District 1630, Belgium
July 13 Journal
I’m leaving on a jet plane….
And, until very recently, it hadn’t quite sunk in that, on August 20, about 5 weeks from now, I would be leaving everything I’ve ever known to go to Belgium, a country I’ve never even visited, a country with a language I’m not fluent in, nobody I’ve ever met, to live with a family that I’ve only conversed with several times through e-mails in only French. Oh yea, my first host family doesn’t speak English.
Several weeks ago, after a series of reminders as to how very soon I was leaving, little comments from friends such as “wow, you’re leaving in about 6 weeks right?” or “so how do you feel about leaving so soon?”, reality and I had a little falling out. Unable to face such an enormous truth, I hid in bed under the covers with a pile of books for about 5 days, drawn out only to eat and see those I care about most.
“Already I'm so lonesome I could die”- Leaving on a Jet Plane
Finally crawling out of my hole, and facing the daunting task of preparing to actually leave, I started writing down all the hundreds of little things left yet undone, making the overwhelming slightly more manageable. Actually preparing, and thinking about all that the year would hold for me, instead of just looking at my exchange year as one long year away from all that I love, filled with huge personal challenges, helped immensely.
I began to wonder what meeting my host family at the airport would be like, what I would need to know in French to make that first meeting great. What would I call my host mother and father? I remembered that I will have an orientation weekend several days after I arrived in Belgium, and began to anticipate meeting all the other Belgian inbounds. I love my District 6970 outbound class, and meeting all these new exchange students, in my same situation would be a happy reminder of home and good times to come.
So, I’m not quite so afraid now. I’m still anxious and overwhelmed, but I’ve already begun leaving. My friends and I have begun a quiet withdrawal, with understanding on both sides that we’ll talk while I’m “over there”. I have someone I love more than anything who wants to see me when I get back.
Al joked about us outbounds misbehaving, so our parents wouldn’t miss us quite so much. And my mother and I, after an initial feeling of distance and discomfort and endless arguments, have begun working on being less mother and daughter, and more friends, and companions, and roommates. She told me that one thing she had finally learned about me was that I needed to make my own mistakes, but that I knew how to learn from them, so she was giving me my chance to be a kind of trial adult.
Thank you mom for letting me find my independence before I’m thrust out into the world, in a new country faced with all sorts of other unknowns.
Thank you dad for being my best friend and being that ear on the other end of the phone ready to listen to anything, even if it just involves several minutes of sniffles and comforting.
Thank you friends, for being there for me, for listening, for doing your best to understand, and for your confidence in me.
Thank you Al and John Brunner for reminding me of everyone who is there for me, all the Rotary people on both sides of this globe watching out for me, reminding me that I will by no means be alone on this endeavor.
And thank you all of my outbound class, I love you guys, I’m excited to read and hear about each of your adventures like we have with the last outbound class, except I know all of you, and think you’re some of coolest, most wonderful people I’ve ever met.
September 10 Journal
How do you describe being born?
How can you explain your world when every part of it has a story that needs to be told?
I guess I’ll begin the way everyone does,
I arrived at the airport…
Looking around in the plane, I smiled nervously at the other exchange students I’d met in the airport in Washington D.C. Some were anxiously adjusting luggage, some were discussing the French to use with the new host parents. Thanks to Bonnie from NY, I knew a couple of French phrases not to use with my new family.
We hurried off the plane, only to realize we still had customs in front of us. After much waiting, and collecting our mass amounts of luggage, we were faced with our first challenge “where was the door?” well tired as we were, collectively we knew enough French to escape, and there it was, our gateway to Belgium.
Right off the bat, I made my first cultural error. I tried to use the formal three kisses, while most everyone uses the informal one. Well no worries, everyone just chuckled, but I soon was faced with another challenge. My host brother Jerome was leaving for Canada, and I had a whole sobbing host family to handle. This is difficult after several days of little sleep, an international flight, and saying goodbye to everything you’ve ever known and loved.
Finally the car and the hour ride to Liege, my new home.
Sparing the gory details of the first day, difficult as it is for everyone, I recommend to all future exchange students to go to sleep as soon as possible. Don’t try to be Superman, don’t try to see everything yet, you have a year, sleep and the world will be a much brighter place.
French becomes easier with each passing day, but the fast paced French of students and teachers is still very difficult for me. I agree with Hannah on the easy habit of saying “oui” all the time and receiving that “that didn’t make any sense face” in return.
There’s a wonderful history of exchange here. Every January students arrive from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and some from Brasil. By August when the new students arrive, they’re called “oldies” and they take their responsibilities to the “newies” very seriously. Your oldie is usually designated by whether they’re in your host club host, but some will simply adopt you. This system is not managed by Rotary, but by a simple feeling of duty to others who are like, what you once were. An “oldie” can show you the bus system, introduce you to friends, explain cultural differences and just be there for you. We have traditions that reach back ten to thirteen years that are imparted to us by the oldies and that in January we will pass on to the new generation of exchange students.
School has started and it’s pretty difficult, but the teachers are wonderful and the students are amused by myself and my fellow exchange student Tina from the Philippines. Math is impossible, French unintelligible, Chemistry oddly satisfying, English is resisting the urge to teach the class, Art Expression strange but fun, and lunch as usual one of the best parts of the day. Tina and I are both 6th year students, so while new to the school, we still feel a sense of pride at being the oldest. Our Belge friend John has nicknamed the little students “hobbits”.
The concept of Belge waffles is one that I only thought I understood. They’re never for breakfast, they vary city to city, though only a Belge could explain how, and they’re amazingly good. Covered in chocolate, sugar, or sort of cinnamonized, I must learn to make them before this year is out.
Chocolate, also amazing, though the Belge laugh at how much we want to eat it. Then there’s the beer, such a huge cultural thing. Our Rotary club actually gives us two beer tickets for our dance, and after being here awhile you can only laugh and say “how Belge”.
Being here means:
No top sheet
Weird spreads for sandwiches
A strange obsession with Pitas
Beer is water for the Belge
It’s not fries, it’s frites, and they’re bigger and better
Frites as a side dish at dinner, in sandwiches, everywhere
You never insult the fries, beer, chocolate or waffles
Mayonnaise on everything
Dog poop on the sidewalk, don’t know why
Bad opinions of the Flemish part of the country
Nutella, never peanut butter
The only American music is rap, and cheesy oldies
cigarette butts in every single crevasse of the cobblestone sidewalks.
bisous (kisses) and bonjours from everyone
military time, but only some of the time
Exchange student best friends from every part of the globe.
Running for your bus.
Getting locked in the bathroom because you can't figure out the key.
Accidentally speaking in French when talking to your friends back home.
Using msn instead of aim.
Being asked for your card after hanging out with exchangers
Belge French being different in random ways than France French
Serious pride for living in Liege vs. Bruxelles
Nightmares after only a couple of weeks about leaving
A month off for Easter and a week for Carnival
Boys with better fashion sense than the girls
Appreciating all that the world has to offer.
Having been here almost three weeks now, I want to thank Florida district 6970 so much for beginning an exchange with Belgium, this is truly an incredible place.
October 20 Journal
So now, I’ve been born, and I can tell you about growing up, and learning to speak.
It feels like a week ago I that I wrote my last journal, but I remember that feeling of reading the outbounds' journals and wanting desperately to know what it’s like to live in each different country. So, for those considering Rotary Youth Exchange, here’s my journal.
I will have been here two months tomorrow, and while the first month went much like months do, the second has passed in the blink of an eye.
School is still incredibly difficult, but not having understood anything the first month doesn’t help. The professors are used to my blank expressions by now, and my math teacher stubbornly greets me with the most heavily accented “Hello” he can. The students are great, yes there is somewhat of a language barrier, but we both do our best. I have grown to love and depend on the morning bisous, the exchange of kisses and casual ça va’s? And nothing to pick you up on a dreary morning of cold, rainy Belge weather than a barrage of welcomes, and being called mademoiselle to make you feel special.
I decided the best way to pick up more French would be to take a class, and I found a good one at the local University. There are a lot of Erasmus students (college exchange) in Liege and consequently my class is very diverse and filled with students committing all different sorts of grammar mistakes, which is great, we cover the gambit in class. But from the absolutely painful level exam, I must have changed classes 10 times. I was given a class far too easy and at absolutely the wrong time for me, and as of today, I’ve had to move up two class levels, and two time changes later, we’re there.
So having begun to get French, I’ve acquired this bizarre craving to learn any number of new, random skills. I’ve joined a yoga class and an oriental dance at another branch of the university, and am planning on taking a guitar class at the start of the New Year. It’s like conquering what I thought was the impossible task of being able to speak French, learning the bus system, adjusting to a new family and way of life, and any number of little things, I’ve defeated my fear of beginning any new task. I now have an insatiable hunger for knowledge of anything. You know those random skills that some kids have? Like being able to juggle, or skateboard, or do any talent show worthy thing? I’ve felt my entire life like I was left out in that department, reading wasn’t something to flaunt, it’s to my knowledge impossible to horseback ride on stage, and now I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone, I just want to learn everything.
There’s also something called Guides here which is much like Girl Scouts back home. I joined the other week and am now a counselor for the Nutons, aka the really little girls. But, my intentions of going on a Saturday for a session just to check it out backfired, as usual. What I thought was just a trip to check it out, turned into me going with some other counselors on Friday, and spending the whole weekend there and returning home Sunday afternoon. Mind you, I knew no one there. But situations like that is what being an exchange student is made of, you make the best of it, and make new friends. I had a couple of uncomfortable moments, I personally I’m not at all affiliated with any particular religions, at least Western ones, and apparently Guides is Catholic. No big deal I thought, I can do prayers before dinner and such, but an hour or more worth of singing religious hymns and such, made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. These things happen though, and I took it an opportunity to learn some new French words.
I haven’t yet gained that infamous Rotary 15 yet, but I’m really hoping that’s 15 lbs, not 15 kilos (2.2lbs). But, Belgian food is not for maintaining a trim waist, and I don’t care! That’s my triumph of the week, my friend Thea and I have named our stomachs, and work on considering it well earned. Rotary makes you look past the exterior anyhow.
So, life being life and all, even if you do live in Europe, there’s been a fair share of frustration and the resulting waterworks. A couple of weeks ago I was explaining what leaving my friends and family was like, and if I was interested in having them visit later in the year and how it would affect me. I kept trying to explain that having done it once, I knew what to expect and felt I could handle it again. My host parents didn’t understand the explanation in French however, so they asked me to say it in slow English, using NO French words, and that for me is hard, I speak pretty much Franglais now. Nope, that failed too, by then I’m frustrated, fed up, and ready to give up on the explanation, when they ask me to then write it in English. So I begin to try, and the tears just start flowing, it’s a sensitive topic anyhow. My family though really did the best thing, they let me finish, they didn’t even mention that I was crying, which probably for me would have made it worse, they just let me have my peace and continue on as normal. Today, for example was one of those mornings where you wake up and end up wanting to hide under the covers because nothing goes right. Somehow between reaching for something on the bathroom counter and holding my perfume, the perfume slipped and hit the edge of the sink, somehow that broke the thick container and it knocked my container of tea tree oil for my nose piercing on the floor along with some of my makeup, the glass of course broke, and now I’m sans tea tree oil and my favorite perfume. This is life, merde happens, and hey, now my bathroom smells really good. Plus, I then went downstairs and explained the entire situation in French and used the “je ne suis pas dans mon assiette aujourd’hui” (I’m not on my plate today) expression that I’ve been meaning to try out, and my host parents couldn’t have been more understanding.
The more that happens to you, the better equipped you are to handle the next thing that comes along. Everyday I’m thankful for the bad that’s happened to make me stronger, and the good that keeps me coming out of the covers every morning. And, I’m proud to say writing this was incredibly difficult, I can no longer spell in English, and a dictionary was even necessary once or twice.
To thank Rotary, I’ll leave you with a few anecdotes.
I was lost in the village near my house a couple of days ago, and asked an elderly woman for directions. She was more than happy to help and she took me by the hand and led me to where I needed to go, she told me “I know it must be very difficult for you, my daughter was a Rotary exchange student in America years ago”. I also discovered last week, that my good friend Florencia, from Argentina, is the daughter of the family Christian is living with. Rotary, thank you for making the world such a small place.
December 16 Journal
I’ve quite honestly forgotten where we last left off, everything that’s happened since my last journal. But, that’s a good sign, it means I’ve been keeping myself busy, and looking forward.
Right now I’m a bit like a child of divorce. I have since changed host families, to my second, several months ahead of schedule because of certain unfortunate events causing my first host brother to be sent back from Canada and leaving me short a bed chamber. As of this moment though, I’m not even with my second host family, I’m with their lovely neighbor Dominique and her sons, who have adopted me while my host mother visits her daughter in Australia for two weeks. Moving literally across the street for two weeks was a change I was quite upset about making. I had just gotten really settled in and comfortable with my host family, when I had to pack up my life again, and move across the street for two weeks?! This seemed to me ridiculous, very very sucky, and unnecessary. I did it though, I’m an exchange student, we bite our tongues, buckle down and do what is demanded of us. As good fortune had it, Dominique and her boys are wonderful, I feel perfectly at home here, and have discovered a common passion for horseback riding with Dominique, I may even be able to ride now!
School, well the students at my school have exams now, and the couple I’m taking are next week, so I’ve really begun missing the grueling routine of waking up at 6am, talking a half an hour bus ride and walking 20 minutes in the freezing cold to see my school mates. I miss being challenged to thumb wrestling matches in class, surprising the students with understanding when they’re talking about me, and the general routine it gives to my week.
I’ve been keeping busy though. I volunteered to help a woman from my Rotary club pick up presents and bring them to an orphanage, and next week I’m going to see the children open them for Saint Nicholas. I wouldn’t say it was just a weekly good karma thing, it was a real wake up call for how fortunate I am with my life and how much of a home I really have here.
I’ve also finally picked my return date home, and while having a real ending to the year makes it seems far less yawning and intimidating, it also makes me want to be super exchange student! I will watch cheesy soaps and understand them in French, I will get to know the names of everyone in my Rotary club and attempt to be at every meeting! Of late I’ve found myself just wishing to go down that rabbit hole, lose all contact with everything, and become Belgian, dun dun dunnnnnn…. Immerse myself so deeply that at the end of the year, I look up, find so much accomplished, and still ask myself where the time went.
Hey my fellow outbounders!!! Keep up with those journals, I love you guys and can’t wait to see you in 7 months or so! I know it’s hard sitting down and explaining such a crazy year of our lives, but seeing each of your perspectives on your year is almost like getting to live there and experience it all with you, and right about now, I wouldn’t mind sharing some of that Brasilian weather with Jessie.
Oh yea, and I kinda did that exchange student thing and cut my hair…
February 20 Journal
I know, I know for sure that life is beautiful around the world.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Yada yada, the usual apologies for my tardiness in this latest journal. As every exchange student out there can sympathize with, I’ve been very busy.
Today I find myself in good health, and relatively good spirits. Tomorrow is my 6 months here in Belgium mark, what was only too recent feels like a lifetime away. The other night I had my first dream that I can remember at least, in French. It involved rainbow colored bridesmaid dresses, exchange students, and blueberry muffins, decidedly odd. I’ve successfully watched Amélie and L’Auberge Espagnol (The Spanish Apartment) in French and understood them completely. I watched my first Opera, in German, with subtitles in French and Flemish and kept up a running translation for some of the newly arrived exchange students. I found myself nodding along to the story line, and chuckling with members of my Rotary club over the dirty jokes in the second half of the story.
At the moment I can only find myself looking forward to all that awaits me as I enter the last stages of my year as an exchange student. Tomorrow is my last day of school for a week and a half as Belgium begins its celebration of Carnaval. Carnaval is really only an excuse to eat lots, drink lots of beer, relive hundreds of year old customs for a few short days, and then begin a month of repentance on Lent Wednesday. I plan on traveling around Belgium with a few fellow exchange students and maybe even a Belge or two and experiencing as much culture as possible. This means I will find myself wearing a ridiculous mask, avoiding drinking live fish, watching Flemish men dress up as ladies, dodging oranges, and all sorts of other charming local customs. Then, next Thursday I will be changing to my next, and last host family family the Cremers March 2.
Their daughter Amélie is in Florida (Salut Amélie!) and my friend Thea will be staying in their house about another two months after I arrive. The family consists mom Bernadette, dad François, twenty something older sister Delphine, my fellow American Thea, and their cat, Pussy. We’re working on becoming one of those strange and wonderful families that only Rotary can bring together, with a dad who’s a bee keeper but allergic to bees, an incredibly sweet host mom with an insight that has us convinced she’s really Jesus, a host sister who’s fond of snowball fights, tweety bird, and TATU. A cat who’s name is Pussy, and is pronounced as such, with her own chair at the dinner table, and Thea, an American with a Michigan accent, my other half in some alternate universe, and a penchant for couture and rap music. My current family is a dad named Jean François who owns an insurance bureau in town, and is obsessed with food and everything associated. My host mom Martine is a blonde after my own heart, who enjoys breaking out into monkey impressions, giving hugs, making fun of the boys in our home, and chocolate. I have a host brother Steven from Australia, who’s been in the house since mid January and is slowing working on turning me Australian. I still fear Vegemite, but I have actually said cheers mate, duner (instead of duvet), brekkie almost came out instead of breakfast and other numerous slips. I’d like to think that he is slowly turning a bit American as well, and has certainly picked up numerous Anna and Theaisms, to the point that his family back home think he ‘sounds funny’. Our life is an adventure as we navigate things like understanding the mechanics of the drain in French, chocolate breasts and penises for Saint Valentine’s day, and above all surviving this country and its infernal weather. It can actually snow and rain at the same time here, be within one day snowing hard, gray cold, beautiful blue and sunny, snowing, and raining.
I have passed my 17th birthday recently with small celebration, and am already beginning to feel much advanced in my years.
I have just signed up for the SAT in June and of course anticipate it with much relish (I kid). I find myself being young and cursing the conformity (my fellow outbounds understand) of standardized testing, school requirements, and oh my god I have to apply to college in the fall, stress. I think for the most part I’ve decided on art school, who knows where, to study Art History, and Photography and at some point pick up Spanish and Italian. I’m beginning to assemble a portfolio of my photography, work on a few photography contests and have convinced a few friends to be subjects. Scheming on how to somehow spend a month in Australia, Brasil, Italy, and visit every exchange student friend I’ve met.
I’ve discovered that I have very few free weekends from now until I leave in a little over four months.
Feb 25- Belly dancing Spectacle, ah I have to perform in front of a crowd with my class!
Feb 27-3 Carnaval, traveling Belgium and changing families
March 7- Death Cab for Cutie Concert in Bruxelles
March 11- Mexican Party
March 17-19 Paris with my third host family
April 1-17 Easter break, Ireland?
April 23 Walibi theme park with Rotex
April 28-1 Holland for the Tulip Festival
May weekend- Visit to the North Sea with third host family
May 25-27 Talent Show with Rotary, aka making exchange student boys belly dance
June 3 SAT
June 15-29 Euro Tour -Munich, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Venice, Sienna, Florence, Pisa, Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Avignon, and Lyon
July 2 FLORIDA
This of course doesn’t include various cultural parades and visits with Rotary to sights of interest in Belgium.
Have no fear future exchange students, you will not have time to miss home after Christmas.
I think for now that’s about all. I’d like to include a quote from my mom
Mom’s friend- “I’m really looking forward to meeting your daughter”
I love you mom and family, and congratulations to my brother and sister in-law on the birth of their beautiful new baby boy Dane. I’m now an auntie twice over!
Happy Valentine’s day to all, until July 22 at the Welcome Home Banquet!
Pictures will be sent after Carnaval
April 21 Journal
Putting off the inevitable of course will not make anything easier, so two months after my last journal and I have finally been knocked off the most recent journals list, I have seen the future outbounds take the same exact pictures we took the year before in our fresh, white Rotary tee-shirts, I might as well fill you in on my multitude of goings on. Today, I have been here 8 months in Belgium, and I’m not sure I can even remember all the things I’ve done since my last journal.
I last left you right before my week off for Carnaval anticipating pictures which can be found below. A small group of us decided finally to go to Binche in Northern Belgium, to what is one of the biggest celebrations of Carnaval in the world, and avoid being hit by oranges. The day consisted of being rained on, snowed on, confettied on, and being politely handed oranges by a small little boy in the traditional costume of “les Gilles”. That was not the best Carnaval ever, better came a month later. I also participated in a local dance festival with my belly dancing class (danse oriental) to celebrate Oriental Dance from around the world as well as Arabic culture.
After a year of conquering scary moments such as; learning a foreign language, getting on a bus and being lost for 3 hours, figuring out how to change trains in a Dutch speaking city, hokey pokeing in front of a room of ex exchange students, moving to a foreign country for a year, and crying in front of a family you'd only known for 12 hours, belly dancing on stage with my classmates in front of a large audience of strangers didn’t really feel that scary. I did it, I did it rather well I think, finessed my way out of my scarf falling, and enjoyed the evening watching people from the ages of 5 to 60 enjoying the art of dance on stage.
Finally came the day when I went through the incredibly painful process of changing host families, packing up my life into two suitcases (and a couple of extra bags) and moving a little farther into the country Chez les Cremers. Obviously the transition wasn’t too traumatic as my best friend lived there and I’ve been visiting the family all year, but all the same, it was a weird feeling, knowing that the next time I packed my bags like this would be when I went home, that there was no more “next family” here. It was the beginning of March, 4 months left. Lucky Lucky me, a week after moving in with my new family, we all went to Paris for three days to see the Eiffel Tower, les Champs Elysses, Montmatre, Notre Dame, the Gardens of Luxembourg, just you know, the usual Paris sites. But this time, I went (well took the elevator) all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the very top, the itsy bitsy bit at the top, and I’m terrified of heights, absolutely terrified. It was probably one of the most frightening moments of my life, and I lived! And opening my eyes coming down in the elevator from the top floor was such a rush of accomplishment.
A couple of weeks later, my host sister, my host father, and I went to the Carnaval of Stavelot in Belgium, not too far from our house. Here we experienced another kind of carnaval, being beaten by masked men and boys with balloons blown up from intestines, hit by dead fish on poles, and absolutely drowned in confetti. Here also my host father played a rather nasty trick on me knowing my absolute dislike for cheese, he handed me over to a float where they put me in the stocks, spanked me with a piece of wood, and rubbed my nose in the nastiest cheese in Belgium, quel horreur!
Then came Easter break, oh lovely Easter break, lasting from the April 1-17. While my host sister was gone for a week visiting with her “real” parents, my host father and I went on a day tour of Belgium, visited the German speaking borders, one of the little villages that Hitler spared called Montjoie or Munchen in German I believe just because he found it so charming. There was this little plaque in the city as a memorial to those who died in the World Wars, and it was unnerving to see the names of entire families, men and women alike, in such a tiny village. We then went and visited the largest American cemetery in Belgium with thousands and thousands of graves forming a giant star. It was jaw dropping to see in person the sheer number of dead, it was almost unbelievable. Over Easter break I also read my first real French book, on World War II called Le Reseau Corneille, or in English Jackdaws by Ken Follet, 600 pages long!!!!!! Big moment of self accomplishment, I could now read in French, and understand! Boosted by this new found discovery I went on to read another two French books in a span of several days, suddenly, new entertainment!
And now, now comes me talking about the future and what I have before me. There rests just over two months left on my exchange filled with car trips with host parents, Rotary scavenger hunts, Eurotour, and a hundred last minute things.
I have since my last entry, dreamed in French two consecutive nights in a row, begun to think in French, found new European mentalities in myself, and realized to what extent I have become un-American. Called a friend from home and he was unable to recognize my voice, really really had the feeling that I don’t want to come home, and finally have begun feeling in my own skin, happy with everything, at home and a real member of a European family, and in essence, not foreign.
Here rests all my weekends until I leave, forced to make a schedule by my host dad, may they rest in peace.
April 22 Wallabi theme park with Rotary
April 23 Rotary Rally Practice
April 29 Rotary Trip to Royal Crypts/ Atomium in Brussels
April 30 Rotary Rally
May 6 Tulips in Holland
May 10 Fort d'Eben Emael with Rotary
May 13 Mexican Party
May 25-28 Belgium/Amsterdam trip with host parents
May 31 International folklore dance festival
June 3 SAT/ North American Party
June 10 Barbeque Goodbye Party
June 14-29 Eurotour
July 2 Florida
Good luck to you future outbounds, my only real words of advice are, enjoy every moment because before you know it, it’s over, and it’s the good old days.
La vie de l’étudiant d’échange est trop belle, et trop court.
July 1 Journal
Perhaps leaving my final Rotary journal until the day before I’m leaving wasn’t the best of ideas. At first I’d thought ‘hey, I’ll write it after Eurotour when I’m feeling all introspective and full of adventure stories’. Well I suppose I am both, but I am also overwhelmed, far too busy, sad, and decidedly incapable of encompassing all of what I’m going through right now in a journal entry.
Thursday, returned from my two week tour of Europe with 70 other exchange students. It was probably one of the best ways I could have chosen to end my exchange. Surrounded by close friends, exploring the Europe we’d come to love, full of adventures and a state of denial that most of us were leaving not long after the end of our voyage.
Reaching the end of the trip, I found myself in one of the most emotionally intense moments of my life. A flood of 70 exchange students, crowded around, sobbing, saying their farewells to friends they may or may not ever see again. None of us want to admit that we might never see each other again, but it’s there in the back of our minds when we’re tearfully begging each other not to go.
Time left, one day.
This evening, a final barbeque at my first host family’s house accompanied by my third host family.
Tomorrow, 12h10 Bruxelles to Washington, Washington to Jacksonville.
As for parting words, simply, treasure everything.
La Vie Est Belle