Maranda Lyon
2011-12 Outbound to Belgium

Hometown: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
School: Duncan Fletcher High School
Sponsor: Southpoint Jacksonville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Esneux-Aywaille, District 1630, Belgium

Maranda's Bio

Salut! My name is Maranda Lyon and I am proud to say I will be an exchange student with Rotary Youth Exchange, to Belgium! I am 16 years old and a sophomore at Fletcher High School, when I go on exchange I will be a junior. I live in Jacksonville Beach, FL with my father, mother, sister, grandmother, dog, and cat. My favorite things to do are just hangout with my friends, ride bikes, camp, go to the beach, and listen to music. I know I am going to miss everyone here so much, but in the end it will be worth all the hard work, every second, every breath, and every tear! But I sure am going to miss American football!

The more I read about Belgium the more I fall in love. I mean who doesn’t love chocolate, waffles, and French fries? Also the more I read about Belgium the more I think there isn’t a better place in the world for me to be. There always seems to be something going on in Belgium and I love to stay busy.

Let’s just begin with I am very outgoing, adventurous, giggly, and love to meet new people! I am looking forward to traveling the world and getting to know myself even more and maturing! I come from a VERY big family that has always been here for each other, and they are supporting me every step of the way.

I can guarantee if you are with me there will never be a dull moment. I’m a spur of the moment kind of person; I don’t like to just sit around doing nothing. Why waste your life away when you can be discovering new things? I remember the day so clear when the people from Rotary came in my Spanish class and told us about the exchange, as soon as I got out of that class I called my Mom and told her I was leaving for a year!

Last but certainly not least, I want to give a big Thank You to Rotary for giving me this change of a lifetime! There are honestly no words to describe how happy and excited I am to discover all the new things to come! Thank you so much!

Maranda's Journals

September 14

Ahhhh! I have been in Belgium for a month now. That is SO crazy. How do I even describe this experience? So much has happened so far; I have met so many people, and have eaten so much! :D I love Belgium and all the people who live here.

Thinking about leaving Jacksonville wasn’t hard, it didn’t make me sad, and I honestly thought I would be the last person on Earth to cry. At the airport with my family and friends, I was just as happy as could be, dancing around in my rotary blazer with my sister and trying to crack jokes for my two best friends Alexis and Kayla who were crying their eyes out. Then the moment I actually had to be a grown up and venture off on my own through the Jacksonville airport, I started crying so hard. It was the weirdest thing. I honestly can’t even explain it. I know every single tear that I cried at that moment would totally be worth every single second of this life changing experience!

I remember my first glimpse of Belgium, cloudy. I got here at the airport and I remember being so confused. There were three tunnels to go through and I had no clue which one to go in! I chose the one with the most people that had American passports, haha. When I got to the front of the line, the passport-checking guy asked me why I had so many pins. I told him I was an exchange student here from Florida, and he gave me a pin! From there I picked up my luggage and headed on my way. I turned around the corner and saw so many people waiting, and you want to know what my clumsy self did? I dropped my suitcases everywhere, so embarrassing. I still yet to this day know if my host parents saw me drop them. At first I didn’t see them anywhere and I got so confused, then I saw them jumping and waving, I then proceeded to have the biggest smile on my face ever! They were so cute welcoming me with their little Belgian kisses on the cheek and offering to help me with everything!

My first week here everyone kept on asking me “Are you okay? You look lost. Ça va Maranda ça va? ” I was just taking everything in and trying to get my brain use to everyone speaking French and the time change. It was so embarrassing my first day here I went to my nephew’s Birthday party with a few of my family members here, and while I was watching the soccer game on TV I just passed out. The whole first week I slept so much! Also, during my first week I had a wonderful host sister named Naomi. I’m super glad I got to meet her because she explained a lot of things to me, introduced me to some people, and showed me around a bit! I love when someone ask me where I am from then I say Florida, they then get super excited and say “Me-am-me beach?!” Then I have to say no, but I live at the beach.

My second week was a lot better, because I got use to the time difference and I had a sleepover with my second host family! My host sister, Pauline, her friend Manu, and I all went to a dance party in my town. I met a lot f new people; it was a lot of fun! I love hanging out with my host sister Pauline, and it is easy since we live so close to each other! Usually at night time I go to the park in my town and hangout with a lot of people I have met here! Everyone here is really nice, even though a lot of them don’t speak English.

My third week here I started school, and before I walked into the school I was SO nervous. I was so scared of school and I thought of every bad possibility available. Luckily, my guidance counselor introduced me to three girls who are super nice and are now my new Belgian friends (they even invited me to hangout with them after school the first day!) They helped me all through out the week get around school. I also met a few other girls in my other class that are also super nice and have asked to hangout! I also now take the bus! On the way there it isn’t so bad because I have people to ride with, but the ride home I’m always scared I get on the wrong bus or I missed it, or I’ll miss my stop. Hasn’t happened yet though! (: Oh, and gym here, let me tell you, I don’t think I will be gaining any weight. So much running!

I hate to say it, BUT I seriously don’t miss home, at all. There is always so much going on here that there’s no way I’m ready to go home any time soon. I love my house here, I love my families here, I love my new friends here, I love the food here, I love the air here, I love the smell of my town, I love my school (even though I understand nothing), basically I love everything. Except the conversion rate of Dollars to Euros, that kind of blows.

Thank you SO much to the Rotary for this opportunity and all the support of my friends and family.

xxx Bisous

Favorite questions so far:

“ Is there a swamp in your back yard with alligators?”

“ So, do you travel to New York and California since they are so close to you?”

“ Is your favorite singer Flo Rida?”

February 2012

Hi there! So my journal is long over due, Oops, but without any further a due…..

My time here in Belgium seriously has gone by so fast! I’ve already been here for 6 months, and I only have 4 months left! So much has happened. Since my last journal it’s hard to compact it all, but I will try! :D

So, the day before Christmas I switched families. It was sad because I loved my first host family they were super cool and some of the nicest people I have ever met! My second host family is really cool too though. I already knew them before I moved in so all is well. I’m really close to my host sister, and spend most of my time with her, my host brother is pretty cool too, sometimes I hangout with him & his friends. Sometimes it’s hard getting use to having a brother and I just want to punch him, which I usually do, but I’ve always wanted a brother so it’s also really nice.

In December it snowed here, and at first I was like aweeee yeah this is so cool, I freaking love snow. I had a huge snowball fight all over my village with a few of my friends and some of the neighbors. Then came 7 in the morning walking to the bus stop. Needless to say I sure was missing my Florida sun and roads without slippery ice! I had boots on with about 5 pairs of sock, and I wore 2 pair of leggings under my jeans, and a forever amount of shirts with jackets and a scarf. I was still cold. Now, I get excited if it’s 40 degrees. That’s a good day for me.

I think one of my favorite things to do here is go to “soirées” because I always get to meet new people and just dance all night long. It’s also kind of strange because the only music they play at soirées is dubstep and bass & drums. I love music like that but after I leave the party, I always think I will go deaf afterwards. Super good feeling.

I haven’t really gotten “home sick” yet, but yes I do miss things from America…like food and money. Something all exchange students know the feeling of. I mean of course I miss my family but not the way I miss chick-fil-a, the ocean, or country music on the radio. No offense. <3

Oh by the way, I dropped by France, London, Holland, and Germany for a little visit. No big deal. My favorite of them all was London. The atmosphere there was just incredible, not to mention all the boys with beautiful accents that made me want to cry! In the center of London, I had a dance off with a random stranger….and I totally won. Honestly, one of the scariest/happiest moments of my life!! Everything in London just seemed like a dream. As for Paris; it was breath taking. I remember entering Paris, and seeing the Eiffel Tower off in the distance, and all I could think was my life right now is so unreal. Every little thing I saw in Paris was so lovely. All the museums had so much history and all the landmarks as well. Oh, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, unforgettable. I felt like I was on top of the World. I went to Holland with my first host mom and my friend Klaudia (in Belgium from Florida.) I’ve never seen so many people riding bikes around; they even had their own lane and lights. It was really strange just to see sheep walking around on the roads like it was no big deal. Germany was really cool, because I went there during Christmas time and there were little markets everywhere. In April I will be visiting ITALY for 2 weeks!!! I’ve only dreamed of going to Italy my whole life. I’m sure I am going to cry.

Yeah, so basically Belgium is really cool and everyone should come here on exchange and bring lots of warm clothes. That’s all.

A big thanks to Rotary for all they have done to get me here and support me! Also a big thanks to my family for supporting me every step of the way without any doubts!