Madison Smith 
2012-13 Outbound to Belgium
Hometown: St. Augustine, FL
School: Pedro Menendez High School
Sponsor: District 6970, FL
Host: District 1630, Belgium
The Rotary Club of Malmedy Hautes-Fagnes

November 1, 2012

So here it is, I've been in belgium for 49 days. I’ve learned that I'm a horrible packer, I have no clothes for this freezing weather! (Today was 1 degrees celsius…) How to properly hold my spoon and my fork, that a lot of words are the same in french as in english, Europeans love America and American icons, but hate the "American Way." That I miss my dog, my family, Sunshine, The beach, waves, the smell of the salty air and the warmth! but I've also learned that I love belgium! the different culture, the language, the new friends I've made, the chocolate, the close distance between different countries, the friendliness, and how welcoming belgians are. Also the way my host dad and real dad are so similar. How my host sister and i had an automatic "sisterly bond." <3 Wearing cute scarfs, The cow farm next door and feeding the babies. 
But lets rewind to my first few days. I left the safety of my family and friend, my sweet little town, and my beloved country to arrive in a place unknown. It was my first plane flight from Jacksonville FL to Philadelphia PA, alone I might add.. At first I cried a little bit, but my long plane flight from Philly to brussels Belgium made me feel 10X worse.. an 8 hour flight felt like 20 and I cried for the majority of the time, not only because I was leaving everything I've know for 18 1/2 years, but because I didn't know what to expect once I got there! The food tasted horrible and I couldn't sleep. Finally, I arrived on August 21, it was overcast. When I first saw my host mom I went to hug her, she went to bisous (kiss) me on the cheek. Once I finally realized what she was doing it was too late we were already walking to the car. Not much was said on the car ride home, due to them not being able to understand me, and me not being able to understand them. Once we got home we ate lunch out in the back yard at the picnic table. I went and tried to unpack and to discover my new house. My neighbors came over a few hours later to greet me, although they were never nice. I didn't go to sleep until about 12 that night I had been up for more then 24 hours. The next day my neighbor Dorita, who is my host moms best friend came over and we went into our cute town named Malmedy. One of the only things I knew how to say was hot fudge sunday and ham (dame blanche and jambon) so they took me out for hot fudge sundays, assuming I loved them since I knew the word. Yes, they were amazing! Over the next few days I tired to become acclimated to the time and weather and my new surroundings. Finally, I got to meet the other exchange student, who ended up living next door to me. His name is Yael, from Mexico. We have become very close, since were the only ones who understand what it’s like. Over then next few weeks my new family took me to s ee Liege, Luxembourg, and took me to shop for about a straight week! which of course I didn't mind at all. The exchange students met in Brussels one weekend and got to see parliament and the beautiful town, and all the exchangers from so many different countries. After a little bit of time Yael and I took a trip to Liege at about 6:45 we decided it was time to catch the train home, we got lost on the way to the station and for some reason thought our train would still be there once we finally arrived. so we got on and after a hour of riding (when our destination was only 45) we realized we didn't recognize anything we saw pass by out of the train window.. We finally found the train guide and asked where we were headed, and he replied Berlin Germany… once the shock of heading to a different country very far from our town set in, we realized we should get off at the next station. We did and there was not a single person there. So, we called Yael's mom, a nd she came to the rescue, although she laughed at us the whole way home. We should have arrived home at 8:00 and instead arrived home at 10:45, with my first day of school the next day. On my first day of school it was easy to make friends, a lot easier then I thought it would be, people just kept coming up to me, even though I wasn't understanding a word they said. But they were all very nice and welcoming. At 1:00 we had a "meeting" in the courtyard, it was to announce that Yael and I were at the school and everyone needed to welcome us very kindly. I didn't know what the principle was saying but once I heard "the Mexican and American Yael and Madison!" then everyone one looked at us. The next few weeks went by quickly. I became acclimated to my school and family’s routine. I love eating chocolate and Hot tea at 5:00 when I get home from school. I don't like waking up at 6am to get ready for school though, and having my school day s 3 hours longer than normal is a little bit rough. I find it strange how small Belgium is, and how close it is to its surrounding countries yet people do not travel often. To drive 45 minutes away to the next big town is a big deal! I think its quite funny, considering we drive 2 hours to Orlando and drive to Jacksonville all the time and its no big deal. About 2 weeks ago my Art History class took yael and I to Paris, it was an amazing site to see! We saw the Eiffel Tower when it was lit up, the louvre museum, The Lock Bridge, Noter Dame and The Arch of Triumph. The best part of all was that I saw a man with a Florida Gators sweatshirt on! If you know me you'll understand why this was such a big deal. Go Gators! The first time I saw snow was this week, I went outside at about 10pm and thought it was rain until I realized how white and big the pieces were. If it hadn't of been so cold I would have stayed out there for ever to watch how pretty it was. Sunday mornin g I woke up to find it all over the ground. Although I love seeing the snow, a Florida girl is not cut out for this weather! I will travel to London to see a friend on Nov. 2nd which I am very excited about! I went skiing in a fake snow place and it was one of the hardest things i've ever tried! But I'm going with my host sister and her friend for a week the day after christmas to the Alps in Austria… Skiing that will be a funny sight for everyone to see! My host family is taking me to poland to see Auschwitz, since I find it very interesting, and I will also go to Italy with my Rotary here for 11 days along with a bunch of other students in Rotary. Needless to say I now love to travel! I can't wait to see what my upcoming months have to offer! J'aime la Belgique