Ella Smith
2013-14 Outbound to Belgium

Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
School: Leon High School
Sponsor: District 6940, Florida
Host: The Rotary Club of Liege chaudfontaine

Ella's Bio

Salut! My name is Ella Smith, I am about to turn 16 years old, and I am from Tallahassee, Florida. I live here with my mom, dad, older brother and my cat. I am currently a sophomore at Leon High School, but next year I will be a junior in Belgium! I simply cannot wait to begin my adventure abroad and am so excited to experience Belgian life! Here in Tallahassee, I spend a majority of my time drawing and playing the Steel Drums. I like to think that I am a creative person and Leon High School is the perfect place to develop my creative spirit! The Steel Drums are an instrument unlike any other. "Steel Pan" is a fairly new creation. They were developed in Trinidad and Tobago and are basically old steel oil drums that have been beat in with a hammer and finely tuned to make a variety of lovely melodic sounds. I am in "Jouvert", the intermediate band, and I know I will miss the program while I'm gone. However, what I will be leaving behind doesn't even compare to all the things I know that I will gain in Belgium. One of the main reasons I was attracted to Rotary is my love of different cultures. Something about how others live their lives truly interests me. When I heard about this program from my Uncle, it sounded like something I would love to be a part of! Because of this, I began the process and now here I am, preparing myself to live in a completely different country next year! I simply cannot wait to begin my exchange. I know that it will change me for the better! This whole experience is exciting, and a little terrifying. I still haven't completely wrapped my brain around the fact that I am leaving, however, with time I know I will come to fully understand. I am so thrilled to be able to call myself a member of District 6940! Thank you all for your support! I am ready to begin my adventure!

Ella's Journals

September 3, 2013

When I hear the words “Culture Shock” I picture this old lady who keeps fainting when she walks into a room and sees that everything is different. Things here arent so shockingly different. Sure, there are a FEW things that I cant get over. For example:

How big groups of thug boys still greet one another with a kiss (I love this so much).

How there is no soap in the bathrooms.

"Ninja" the turtle, a machine that drives around their lawn and mows it automatically.

How everyone drives with reckless abandon. Like, forreal. My host mother drove in the MIDDLE of the two lanes yesterday. And they dont pull over. they literally just park on the sidewalk. Its so scary.

And finally, how even though im thousands of miles away people still live in patterns. I am able to understand as much as I do because I know the outlines to these mundane everyday conversations. When we went to the bank the woman behind the counter asked my host mother about Valentine, her daugher who is on exchange in Belfast Maine. When Astrid (HM) told her how much she missed her the woman answered with the EXACT same spiel about “what a great opportunity it is and how brave she is” that my mother has received hundreds of times. I was shocked. And then I realized. Just the language and location are different. People will always be people. Thats what shocked me the most.

January 11, 2014

While its been awhile since i've arrived in Belgium (almost 5 months.. gulp) I feel like I truly arrived last week. Already my oldies have departed and a fresh group of Aussies and Kiwis have arrived to replace us as newies. Its been quite awhile since my last journal and Im truly sorry about that, but I've not had a down moment since then. Ive changed host families and visited 5 countries (Monaco, France. Italy, Germany, The Netherlands), learned French (thats right, i'm almost fluent!!!!), made friends, passed my exams (miraculously) gotten homesick then once again happy. Ive had time to think about also how lucky I am to be a part of this program. Its changed me already for the better.

This vacation I went to Monaco and Carcassonne for Christmas and New Years, two of the most beautiful places i've ever been in my life. I'll admit, it was one of the hardest things i've ever done emotionally though. No presents, no christmas tree, no family fights and cookies and hokey music. One thing that was the same was that we went to a midnight mass. The second I walked into that church I was blasted out of my funk. I felt closer to my real family than I have in a long time. The dim lights, the crosses, the one old woman who sings louder than anyone else, and the smell. I was hit with all these memories of being a small child in New Hampshire where I used to spend christmas with my very catholic grandparents. I was hit with a feeling of "Oh wow, it's truly a small and relatable world." Its weird to say, but It was so comforting sitting there in a small church with strangers halfway across the world from all my family and friends and realizi ng it was going to be ok. It was going to be ok. Even though our lives and languages and traditions and cultures may be different, and sometimes we feel completely alone in the world, be comforted in the fact that at least all churches smell the same.