Tinson Nhon
2012-13 Outbound to Belgium

Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
School: St. Petersburg Collegiate High School
Sponsor: District 6950, FL
Host: District 1630, Belgium
The Rotary Club of Esneux-Aywaille

Tinson's Bio

Bonjour, my name is Tinson I am seventeen years old, and currently a senior at St. Petersburg Collegiate High school. After I graduate, I will be going to Belgium through the Rotary Youth Exchange from 2012-2013 and I could not be more excited! I live in St. Petersburg, FL and I’ve lived here for all of my life. My parents however did not have the luxuries that I did growing up here since, they were born in Vietnam and worked so hard just to get to the states to have a better life for themselves, and I am so grateful for all of the support and help they have given me. I am currently a Fine Arts Major, and I eventually want to get a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. I haven’t really taken any formal art classes yet, except for the ones in Elementary school but I will be taking my first formal classes at SPC this semester so I am kind of nervous, and excited to see how that goes. Although I haven’t taken any classes, I kind of just draw on my own time and just keep on practicing in hopes that I will get better that pretty much consumes most of my free time as well as practicing yoga, going to the gym, and playing League of Legends or various games on my PS3. The first time I traveled was when I was five years old, and my parents surprised my brothers and I with a cruise to the Grand Caymans and Jamaica although I don’t really remember the details of that trip, I remember how much fun I had. After that I went on another cruise, and after fifth grade, I went to Vietnam to see my family that was still living there. Although travelling was fun, I didn’t fully enjoy all the joys of travelling until the summer after tenth grade, when I went up to DC on my own and visited my uncle. While there I got to go out and about DC on my own and it was so much fun, this helped me to realize how much there was to experience in this world. I feel like being an exchange student would just be one of the most amazing experiences in my life, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity this great. I don’t really know what to expect from this exchange, but I plan on enjoying every experience to the fullest and using my surroundings for artistic inspiration.

Tinson's Journals

This probably sounds so typical, but it's only been two months and it's extremely difficult to try to describe how wonderful my experience has been so far. It's been pretty crazy but in the best way possible. It's still a little surreal because sometimes I catch myself thinking oh my glob I'm in Belgium right now, and it just happened again while I was writing this sentence. I'm not really sure where to start but I guess I'll start with my first impression of Belgium. Also sorry if I make a bunch of grammatical errors, my dad has already gotten on my case for that. I sent an e-mail to him and he was responded normally and at the end was your grammar is getting bad, and I was just like cool… love you too.

So it's somewhat hazy, but I remember when I was on the plane and I was getting closer and closer to Belgium and I caught myself thinking " What am I getting myself into?" But all of that doubt went out the window as soon as I landed got all my belongings and met my host family. I don't really remember what it's like to be an infant, but I felt like one as a sat in the car on my way to my new home, everything just seemed so new and unfamiliar and trying to absorb it all while listening to French. I think I would have a better chance of solving a crossword puzzle written in Sanskrit than I would of trying to describe all of the emotions and thoughts that were flooding my mind during my first couple of days in Belgium. I'm not sure but that flow might be constant and if that is the case I've gotten used to it. So I thought this was kinda funny but I left my family in Florida with two older brothers who were 23 and 26, and then I came to Belgiu m and my two host brothers are 23 and 25 which I just thought was weird but I probably think it's funnier than most people. Also my host brother did his exchange in Florida so he speaks English really well, but we mostly communicate in French unless I don't truly understand. I also have a host sister, but she's in Argentina doing her exchange, however I did get to meet her 3 days before she left. I think I got extremely lucky with my host family and I don't think I could've asked for a better one to start off with, I actually don't want to switch host families although I know it's inevitable. But I think one of the greatest things about my host family is that my host mom is extremely interested in the arts, and it's just great to talk to her about the arts, and things. Although language is sometimes a problem, it's slowly getting better.

While I'm on the subject of the arts, I am at a an Art school in Belgium called St- Luc Secondaire and I love it so much. St-Luc was not the school I was supposed to go to originally, in fact I was supposed to go to an English immersion school called Saint Veronique that my friend went to. Her name is Victoria and she was an inbound in Florida last year. Actually if I had not met Victoria I probably wouldn't be at Saint-Lu at all. It's because I was able to meet and talk to her father who is a Rotarian from my club (and also my neighbor here in Belgium) about my interest in the arts, and he set up everything for me to talk to the Director of St-Luc and I have him to thank for me being there. The students at my school have a genuine interest in art, and it's awesome to be able to see their work and at the same time for them to see mine. School is so different here, I mean not only because the teachers speak French at light speed but also the general attitud e of the student body, and HOW LONG SCHOOL IS, 8:30 till 4:30 after going to Collegiate For example on Mondays I have a two hour math class, and after that I have 6 hours of Composition which is an art creation class and one of my favorite classes here. On Tuesday I start the day off with 4 hours of sketching, and we've done things like going to the Gare de Guillemins and just sketched whatever our heart desired, and we've also gone to the Botanical Gardens by my school to draw plants. Thursday I have sculpture which I don't hate but I'm not a huge fan of sculpting. One of the strangest but coolest things that I've seen at my school is my science teacher. I mean this guy is the complete opposite of what I would expect a science teacher to look like. The first day of science class this guy walks in with a band t-shirt skinny jeans, and crossword puzzle converse on, and to top it all off he has an awesome mohawk it was awesome. Maybe not the coolest thing I've ever seen but probably somewhere in the top 20. Also I'm going to go to Venice with my school in March for 6 days and I'm so excited I want to explode. Sorry this post is such a disorganized mess, my head is all jumbled. I guess I'll end this post with some random things that I've done in Belgium.

Well on my first day I ate this thing called Filet Américaine which is raw beef sometimes with spices sometimes not. I feel like most people would be put off by it I was at first, but it was actually so good that I couldn't stop eating it. It was funny because it's called an American Filet but it's not American at all. Also I had mayonnaise with truffles for the first time and I was like oh that's probably a Belgian thing so I went to a Friterie and asked if they had mayonnaise with truffles that I could dip my fries in and everybody that heard my broken French looked at me like I was crazy. I think one of the more embarrassing things that has happened to me so far is when I was in my sketching class and we were at the botanical gardens with my class and we were just sitting around sketching and talking. I take a step back to look at something and I fall into this thing full of water and plants, and my pants are soaked up to my calves and everybody started laughing at me including myself, but I wasn't even surprised something like that happened to me because I'm so clumsy. One of the things that I hear most often is that I am always smiling, and people the Belgians at my school are like why are you so happy you're in Belgium, but my answer is always the same I'm just like you would be smiling all the time too if you were on exchange, it's inevitable. WELL I guess I'm going to end this post now, but I think I'm going to try writing in a journal to make this process easier, although that's probably not going to happen.

A Bientôt,

Tinson Nhon

January 7, 2013

It's incredibly difficult to believe that 4 months have already passed since I arrived here in Belgium when it only feels like yesterday that I was on my way to the airport. This period of my exchange is getting pretty weird because it's almost time for me to change families. I suppose it's weird because the home that I'm living at right now really does feel like a home, and once again I will be uprooting myself to experience another way of living. My family life is rather calm because everyone is usually off doing their own thing like school or work up until around 5 and then everyone just kind of settles in while my host mom cooks, and then usually around 7 we eat and everyone gathers to the table to eat. For me this is kind of weird because back at home I was just used to getting myself something to eat and I wouldn't eat with my parents often because they would usually be at work. My host parents I enjoy going to museums and expositions so on the weekends if we have time we usually find an expo or museum to go to. I think of my favorites that we visited was a museum in Bruxelles that had a permanent exposition on René Margrite who was a Belgian surrealist artist, mostly because Surrealist art is probably my favorite kind of art. The last exposition that we went to was an exposition on Salvador Dali and I remember being in the gift shop looking at post cards when I saw some of the paintings that we have in the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, and it kind of just took me back home for an instant and it was a really surreal feeling. However it's even more surreal that I've reached the point in my exchange where I will be changing families.I find it amusing that before my exchange there was this mixture of anxiety and curiosity welling in my stomach in anticipation of what was lying before me, and it's kind of odd to experience it again during exchange. I have met my second host family already and the y seem like wonderful people it's just going to be weird to have to get used to another new routine all over again. However that is exchange and I already have friends who've done it so I suppose there isn't much to worry about.

I'm glad that changing schools isn't something I have to do because I've made friends who have gotten to know me better, and that we've become so familiar with one another. It's so different from when I first arrived there I just remember being lost in this giant crowd of students and not knowing where to sit so I just kinda sat by myself. Personally I've always been to shy to approach people that I don't know but it's something I had to do if I wanted to make some friends on exchange, and I suppose making friends is a good way to get a better grasp of French. Which has improved dramatically since I've arrived. Before I was hardly able to speak, and now I'm able to understand a lot of the things people say to me, and carry on a conversation. I've also had a dream in French so that was kind of exciting. Although I was talking to my professor and was saying that my French has gotten a lot better compared to before, but sh e then told me that I kind of talk like a child because I actually said that my french is getting a lot more better. A lot more better is something I've said in French so many times that I instantly became embarrassed and tried to correct myself but ended up saying it again. But I've gotta start somewhere I guess.

I find it a little bizarre not being able to drive myself around anywhere, or to school. However this doesn't derange me too much because the transportation system here is awesome. You can get to a lot of places within the city just by taking a bus or walking, and the system seems to be pretty organized which makes it easy to take/ navigate. At first it was kind of weird to see how many people take the bus here, but after a couple of months I realized that sometimes it was more practical than having a car at least here it is. I guess one of my favorite things about the bus is that it allows me to get to my destination without having to focusing on the road and it just gives me time to relax and just think, and it's kind of nice. Although I am usually greeted by rainy grey skies every morning, I kind of find it to be somewhat nice. I mean I suppose the weather is dreary, and there isn't much sunshine but at the same time it just holds this air of tranquility th at I can't really describe. Well I don't really know what else to talk about, so I should probably go ride the bus some more and keep that for the next journal.

À Bientôt,

April 11, 2013

Welp, I forgot where I left of on my last entry so I visited the site and ended up reading my previous entries, and it's really really bizarre. I find it bizarre because it's so weird to look back at what I was thinking, how I've changed, and how much time has passed since. Speaking of change, I will be changing to third host family this Sunday and I'm not sure what to feel. I'm actually not too sad to leave my second host family, because I'm going to come back every Tuesday to do Silat with my host dad. However it does make me a little sad to think about the great times that I've had with this family, and how much they've helped me. Specifically my host mom, because of her I've made so much progress on my end of the year project for school, which will be the first dress I've ever made and designed myself. I know that it's not much, and that there are people who make dresses all the time, but I've been dreaming of this moment for the past three almost 4 years, and finally it' feels like it's starting to come together, and I can assure you that this would've never happened if I had still been in Florida. My host mom took me to the store where we looked at fabrics for over 2 hours without even realizing it, she encouraged me to do my best, and helped me with making the pattern. I can't thank her enough or my host sister because she agreed to be my model, and because she deals with me getting all spastic over my project.

Speaking of school, the week before Easter break we went on a trip to Venice for 6 days where we went to various museums, and went around the city drawing the buildings and scenery. But to be honest the weather wasn't too agreeable, and it was really cold. There was one point where we had snow, hail, and rain all in the same day. SNOW. IN. VENICE. I was with my friends and we were just like this is the worst joke in the history of jokes. It was funny cause I remember all of us being on the bus like hopefully it's not too cold in Venice, maybe it will even be nice. We arrived in Jesolo where our hotel was and it was raining and we were just like greeaaatttt. Besides the weather the city itself was beautiful, and the people were wonderful. Well I had other friends from school who told us that the people were not nice at all, but I think they were only nice to me because one of my friends that I was in a group with spoke Italian fluently. I think that one of the greatest things about the trip was that I was able to get even closer with my classmates, there were nights where would we stay up late at night just talking, having a great time, and even though the weather wasn't great a couple of the nights we went to the beach just to see it and to hangout there. I found it funny that for me 7 months of not seeing the beach was like an eternity but I had friends that haven't seen it for over 2 years, and I was just felt so bad for thinking 7 months was long.

Besides that, nothing else has changed I'm still drawing all the time, and now I have a new project to consume my time and I'm so grateful. However I'm going to have to cut this short because I'm going to go see my neighbor's cow have a c-section which I've never seen and I asked them to call me when they have one. I'm pretty excited and might take a video. Thanks for listening.