Bailie Staton

Belgium

Hometown:Jacksonville, Florida
School: Sandalwood High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club:East Arlington Jacksonville, Florida
Host District: District 1630
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Liege Cite Ardent

 

My Bio


Bonjour! My name is Bailie Staton and I am going to Belgium! I am 17 years old and will be 18 /19 on my exchange. I am a senior at Sandalwood High School and I cannot wait to start this new chapter in my life! I have one older brother and One older sister. My sister is living in New Zealand and my brother is in college. My parentss and my siblings are all very supportive about this process and wish me the very best. I love to play soccer and I played for my school but due to an injury I had to stop. But now, I focus most of my time on writing. I love to create stories in my head and jot them down whenever I can. This next year of my life will be a big one. I chose Rotary Youth Exchange because they are the best. They put everything they have into it and won't stop till their students succeed. I am hoping to tackle learning another language, kick homesickness's butt, and ultimately grow in ways that I never could have if I don't take this opportunity. I am counting down the days till I land in the beautiful country of Belgium.

The top of Liege

The top of Liege

So good...

So good...

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Rotary took us to the Christmas Markets in Aachen, Germany

Rotary took us to the Christmas Markets in Aachen, Germany

Our trip to London with Rotary

Our trip to London with Rotary

I love my Brazilian exchangers:)

I love my Brazilian exchangers:)

Thanksgiving with my Host Fam

Thanksgiving with my Host Fam

My district sitting on a tank

My district sitting on a tank

Journals: Bailie - Belgium

  • Bailie, outbound to Belgium

    May in Belgium

    Since Belgium doesn't have a Eurotour, they split us into two groups. We could either go to Spain for 10 days, or to Italy for 10 days. I went to Spain with all the other gringos, and all the Latinos went to Italy. And those 10 days were probably the best days of my life. We were crowded in this tiny bus driving 20 hours from Belgium to Salamanca, Spain. Sleeping, eating, and annoying each other the whole way. Another kid from Florida, David Newman, brought his bongo drums and didn’t stop playing them till 1am and another time when at 3 in the morning, my friend Zoe from Kansas wouldn't be quiet and another kid from Canada threatened to throw her out the window if she couldn't keep her mouth shut while we all were trying to sleep.

    But every day of the trip we had something to do like touring castles, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, met the Real Madrid team (well, we saw them from afar) then we got the rest of the day to explore and go tourist shopping if we wanted. Well, in comes these too Aussie newbies that I've never met before. Steph and Jessica, I ended up rooming with them the rest of the trip and still today they are my absolute best friends.

    I can't even put into words how amazing that trip was. When we were in Madrid, at night we had some free time till midnight. And our hotel was in the city center across from the Royal Palace, so we were out singing in dancing barefoot in the Royal Park 100 feet in front of the Palace. We almost got in trouble because our game of Duck Duck Goose got a little too noisy. At that hotel there was a group of American high school kids on an EF tour from South Carolina and they had the most southern boondocks accent that I haven't heard in so long. I got homesick right then. But it was kind of cool explaining to them that we're here in Spain on spring break and they all said in unison “You live in Europe?!” I guess it would be kind of dull for them to visit Europe just for a week and fall in love with it, then have to go back home to The States.

    But the last night of the trip, our hotel was right on the beach in Barcelona. We all sat on the beach and watched the stars. Some of us even jumped in the freezing cold water, and then ran back to the hotel for a hot shower. But that night was one of the best nights of my life. Everyone was so happy and carefree that I was wondering what it would be like without these guys in my life and I just couldn't picture it. They all have dug their claws deep into my heart and its going to be the worst thing in the world to say goodbye.

    But here it is, the time has come to where I have less than a month in this tiny little country. 27 days to be exact. And even though I love it here, I am so ready to come home. The Spain withdrawals are over and now the anxiousness of seeing my friends and family is setting in. I can't wait for a steady stream of heat waves, sweat stains, and sun tan lines from being at the beach all day. (And real fruit that doesn't taste like artificial chemicals).

    Don’t get me wrong, I'm going to miss this place like crazy and there will always be a place in my heart for Belgium. But now my comfort zone is calling me. My family and friends are waiting for me and I think 10 months is an appropriate time to start wanting real southern style Sweet Tea again. Just knowing that I’m going back makes the cravings set in.

    Looking back on my exchange, 10 months is a lot longer than I thought it would be. It seems like I’ve been here for years. I wish I had more philosophical things to say about my time here, but I think I'm still in shock that it's already over. The fall months went by so slow, and now the spring months are going by in a blink of an eye.

    I know that soon I will be wearing my blazer, which weighs a whopping 6 lbs will all my pins on it, at Brussels International Airport boarding my flight to come home to the good ‘ole U.S. of A. I’ll hug my host family, and then go cry with all my other exchangers who made the trip out to the airport to say goodbye to me. It's going to be really hard to walk through those gates and possibly never seeing them again. They are what made my exchange unforgettable. They filled my memories with happy times, comforting times, and the best times of my life.


  • Bailie, outbound to Belgium

    So, its been a while since I’ve made one of these journals. Ive been wanting too for a while but whenever I would try to sit down and write it, I could never describe what I was feeling.

    I was happy that my dad was coming to visit me, sad because my Aussie friends had finished their exchange and left this country, alone because my new host family isn't as interactive as my last, and confused whether or not I want to stay here forever with all my new friends or go home to my comfort zone.

    But I do know one thing, this experience is ending too quickly.

    Its been 7 months and its gone by in a blink of an eye. This truly has been the greatest time of my life so far. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve danced to Stromae (famous Belgian singer) with 300 people, I’ve eaten so much Turkish food I couldn't move, I’ve ran to catch numerous buses, I've caught trains at 4 in the morning, I've seen the world from another person’s point of view and I can never see it my old simple way again. This world is so much more beautiful than my little corner of this Earth.

    I don’t feel homesick as I did in my last journal, I’m finally comfortable calling this place home. I’ve lived in Belgium for for over half a year and this country will always hold a special place in my heart along with everyone in it. I’ve made too many amazing memories to just say it was a year when I was 18.

    I am truly proud to call myself American and thankful for everything I have, but I never want to be a part of my culture again. I want to be everything. I want to be a part of this entire world. Being an exchange student is the greatest accomplishment of my life. I go home in 3 months, I don't know how I’m going to survive.

    I had a little taste of home all last week when my dad came to visit me. Reverse culture shock at its finest. I never noticed the little things that were so “American” that he did. The way he dressed, the way he talked, the way he viewed things. I was so shocked that I could see an American man from a European’s point of view. I have actually switched my way of thinking and its kind of awesome.


  • Bailie, outbound to Belgium

    Yesterday was my 4 month anniversary in Belgium and I still can't believe how fast it is going. It seems like yesterday I just stepped off the plane into this magnificent country. These few months have probably been the most influential and rewarding months of my entire life. I have caught countless buses, had many lost in translation conversations in French, taken day trips to different countries with some of my best friends, made a huge Thanksgiving dinner for all of my host families, gotten lost in Christmas Markets, and learned some very valuable lessons that I had to learn the hard way. But as we were warned the holidays is a time in the exchange when many exchange students start going over a bumpy road.

    I remember at the June Orientation when Rotary told us, “It’s not ‘if’ you get homesick, its ‘when’.” That phrase has been in the back of my mind since this past Thanksgiving, I knew these next few months were going to be hard, so I tried to put on a brave face.

    I am having the time of my life in this frozen wonderland, but the homesickness is starting to sink in. Rotary here tries to keep us busy because they know a lot of us are struggling, but it still hits you like an oncoming train.

    I was sitting in Chemistry class a few weeks ago, the teacher was going on about scientific waves to the class when I noticed something. I saw a shine in my eye and when I looked down I saw the that the girl next to me was a wearing a Pandora bracelet. She had a bunch of beautiful charms surrounding it. My mom wore Pandora bracelets and during this time of the year I would be buying her a new charm for Christmas. That was all I needed to start crying in the middle of class.

    It's that easy.

    Something so small can bring back so many overwhelming emotions. A smell, the way someone laughs, a dream, seeing someone who looks familiar, even a car honk can set it off. It’s a ticking time bomb. And when it explodes, no one knows how big it's going to be.

    When Rotary said not to dwell on it and to get out and do something to take your mind off of it, they meant it. It has helped me immensely these past few weeks.

    And that's one of the reasons why I love Belgium. There are so many things that can keep your mind busy. Ice skating in the town center, shopping in the Christmas Markets, drinking hot chocolate with another homesick exchange student in a pub that was built 600 years ago, or even hopping on a train to go on a day trip to Paris, Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, or England. The options in this small little country are endless.


  • Bailie, outbound to Belgium

    I picked up Austin Carroll, a filmmaker from RYE Florida, at the train station. She came here to film me, my school, my friends, and all the 300 exchange students in Belgium for her Documentary and to shoot a promotional video for RYE Florida. She accompanied me to school, which was kind of a nightmare from the administrators to let her film, and came to my house where she gave the initial interview. The next day I met her back at the train station, all dressed in my RYE blazer for a Rotary day in Namur. On the train to the event, Austin got to meet two other RYE Florida kids and they got to share their experiences as well.

    Overall, her visit made me a little homesick. But when she sent me the promotional video to watch, I almost cried. This experience is so much more than a bad host family. Its about building your own family from all over the world. She got to put our crazy selves onto video to see how students from so many backgrounds and languages come together to make friendships that are lifelong.

    And later this week me and all those crazy exchange students are going to London with Rotary and were definitely going to make it the best 4 days of our lives

    See my bio and photos : http://www.ryeflorida.org/2014-15-bailie-belgium

     

     

     

     

  • Bailie, outbound to Belgium

    I've gained 5 pounds on waffles and chocolate alone. 

    I don't even know how to begin to explain my adventure so far. I have been here for 35 days and it only feels like I've been here an hour.

    Saying goodbye to my family was probably one of the most bittersweet things I've ever had to do. Watching my parents cry made me cry all the way to Atlanta. But, I arrived with another exchange student from Florida, Savannah Stephens, and another girl named Megan from New Jersey. The flight was long and the grown man kicking my chair the whole way was getting on my last way, but the anxiousness was too overwhelming to do anything about it. When we got off the plane, I lost sight of the two girls with me and followed the crowd to the Immigration line. Little did I know that there were two lines, one for EU citizens and one for others. Guess which one I got into and had to backtrack all the way to the back of the right line.

    We arrived early in the morning so my host parents decided to show me around Brussels. I saw the Royal Palace, the Royal Art Gallery, we had hot chocolate in a bar built in the 16th century in the Grand Place, saw Mannequin Pis and his "sister statue" that was a little girl peeing. I was amazed at how well the architect recreated the female genitalia to the point where it was a little uncomfortable...

    My first few days I was overwhelmingly tired, but within those days, I met the other two families I will be living with and I was welcomed with open arms. They laughed at me when they saw my face after eating a piece of uncooked red meat, which is a "normal" meal here. Thank god this place is known for waffles and chocolate, because I don't think I will be enjoying the red meat dinners that much.

    Since Belgium is such a small country and there are many exchange students here, we all go to festivals and hang out a lot with each other. After school we meet in the city for lunch or spend the night at each others houses. I see the other RYE Florida kids every couple weeks and it's nice to have someone to go to complaining how cold it is here and they actually understand because they're just as cold as you are!!!!

    In my host family I have two sisters, one in my grade one a few grades younger. After school we all go our separate ways and end up at home at different times. Every Tuesday and Thursday I get home real late because I take a French class in the center of Liege from 6-9pm and then take the bus home. I finally fall into bed around 11 and then wake up 8 hours later for high school.

    For school, I wake up at 7am, my host mom drives all three of us kids to school, its about 45 degrees outside, and go until 4:20pm. I have 11 classes in total but the Belgian School system is so unorganized compared to the States that I have to ask my Belgian friend to help me with understanding what forms I am supposed to be constantly filling out.

    I have become best friends with the English teacher. She is so witty and sarcastic and has the greatest responses to questions I've ever heard. And the funny thing is that the kids don't understand what she's saying in the first place and when I am bending over my desk laughing so hard, they just look so sad and confused. Its quite entertaining.

    But my classmates have welcomed all six of us exchange students into their school so easily. Were all friends and they are coming to us for help with their English and at lunch we all eat on the steps outside and we all joke around with each other as we give them hard English words to pronounce and then they talk to us really fast in French and me and this exchange student from Finland with AFS just looked at each other like he was trying to communicate but the gibberish words were alien to us. But my favorite time is when they ask me stereotypical questions about America.

    1. Do you know Beyonce?
    2. Do you know any gangsters?
    3. Have you ever seen a terrorist attack?
    4. Did you bring any guns?

    My favorite time with references to guns....My host mom was driving to the supermarket and some guy pulled out in front of her and she slammed on the brakes and started honking the horn and cussing in French. She whipped around to me and screamed, "BAILIE! GET YOUR GUN!"

    Rotary here is so relaxed compared to the United States. We laugh, make jokes, and have a good time at the meetings. I tell them funny stories and it doesn't even feel like a meeting. It's just friends hanging out in a really fancy room with everyone wearing plaid sweater vests and suede shoes, sipping on their wine with their pinkie up.

    Everyone here is so graceful but that gracefulness does not transfer over to their driving. I literally say a prayer every time I get in the car here. The cars come within inches of each other and my host sister laughs when she sees me wince at the closeness of impact that had just happened.

    And now onto the Language. I have come to realize that French may well be the hardest language in the world. I'm starting to understand what's being said to me now, and though I'm trying my hardest to speak back in French, the amount of smiling and nodding I've done should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. But it's only my first month, I still have 9 more to go and a lot more to learn.

    The first month in Belgium has been a complete success with Culture Shock but I'm having the time of my life here:)

    See my bio and photos : http://www.ryeflorida.org/2014-15-bailie-belgium


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