My Nguyen

Belgium

Hometown:Port Richey, Florida
School: Ridgewood High School
Sponsor District : District 6950
Sponsor Club:Port Richey, Florida
Host District: District 1630
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Hèrve

 

My Bio


Bonjour! Guten tag! Hallo! My name is My Nguyen. My name is spelled “my” but it is pronounced “me.” My mom, sister and I came to the United States from South Vietnam and reunited with my father in 2001. We moved to Port Richey, Florida, in 2005 and lived here since then. Currently, I am a senior attending Ridgewood High School in New Port Richey, Florida. At school, I participate in two varsity sports: golf and tennis. I am Co-President of my Interact club, secretary of Spanish Club, events coordinator of National Honor Society, and a member of Future Business Leaders of America. In my spare time, I enjoy learning new languages and experiencing different cultures through watching T.V. shows online. I also enjoy making origami and crafts. When I first heard of this program, I knew it was for me and waited for the right time to pursue this topic with my parents. Through much effort, time, and persuasion, I succeeded. I am proud and honored to be selected as a 2014-2015 RYE Student going to BELGIUM! I am truly grateful for Rotary International, the Rotarians, host families, and this program for allowing students like myself the opportunity of a lifetime. I am thankful for everything I will get out of this journey: the connections, the experiences, the memories, the cultures, the language(s), and the principle of “service above self.”

Goodbyes are not meant to be sad, they are meant for an happy occasion; or that's how I see it in this situation.

Goodbyes are not meant to be sad, they are meant for an happy occasion; or that's how I see it in this situation.

	 I'm not packing that much, trust me. This photo is deceiving to the viewers.

I'm not packing that much, trust me. This photo is deceiving to the viewers.

Now, this picture is deceiving. Belgium looks amazing (which it does) but it was so cold! The temperature was 43°F!

Now, this picture is deceiving. Belgium looks amazing (which it does) but it was so cold! The temperature was 43°F!

Look who I found?! Caroline from District 6980!

Look who I found?! Caroline from District 6980!

My host mom and I were in front of Quick, which is a café at the airport.

My host mom and I were in front of Quick, which is a café at the airport.

This is my small, wonderful, 'best town ever', and friendliest town! This is Clermont, which is about 20km (12.8mi) from Germany and Holland.

This is my small, wonderful, 'best town ever', and friendliest town! This is Clermont, which is about 20km (12.8mi) from Germany and Holland.

This is my new exchange family: there are 220 of us from all around the world (about 50% from U.S.A), in three districts, and in the tiny country of Belgium.

This is my new exchange family: there are 220 of us from all around the world (about 50% from U.S.A), in three districts, and in the tiny country of Belgium.

Manneken-Pis: of course I had to take a photo with this little guy (22cm or 8.6in tall). It's a must!

Manneken-Pis: of course I had to take a photo with this little guy (22cm or 8.6in tall). It's a must!

We all sat together according to our countries in alphabet order. It seemed like we were real ambassadors rather than junior ambassadors.

We all sat together according to our countries in alphabet order. It seemed like we were real ambassadors rather than junior ambassadors.

I got to represent the United States of America and Florida in front of the Royal Palace! :)

I got to represent the United States of America and Florida in front of the Royal Palace! :)

The Eiffel Tower sparkles at every hour for five minutes.

The Eiffel Tower sparkles at every hour for five minutes.

YUM! Egg rolls! They LOVE them!

YUM! Egg rolls! They LOVE them!

My friend, Aurélie and I went to Maastricht for the day.

My friend, Aurélie and I went to Maastricht for the day.

All of my friends on the Paris trip.

All of my friends on the Paris trip.

These are the people I played golf with! :D

These are the people I played golf with! :D

I made cookies and they were delicious! It was hard without measuring cups but I managed.

I made cookies and they were delicious! It was hard without measuring cups but I managed.

American Museum with Christine, who helped me landed VIP seatings!

American Museum with Christine, who helped me landed VIP seatings!

The North Sea during winter. Why not!

The North Sea during winter. Why not!

Bucket list: milk a cow. Check.

Bucket list: milk a cow. Check.

American Museum in -2C weather and snow!!!

American Museum in -2C weather and snow!!!

A photo paints a thousand words.

A photo paints a thousand words.

	I presented and shared my story and experiences with the ladies of Rotary (Inner Wheel in Belgium)!

I presented and shared my story and experiences with the ladies of Rotary (Inner Wheel in Belgium)!

Me and Aurélie representing Belgium! <3

Me and Aurélie representing Belgium! <3

Me and my Czech, Terka! <3

Me and my Czech, Terka! <3

The clock that changes every hour!

The clock that changes every hour!

Me and Cat representing Belgium because we didn't have our American flag !

Me and Cat representing Belgium because we didn't have our American flag !

Me and my Belgian friends trying our first Trdelník, a famous pastry.

Me and my Belgian friends trying our first Trdelník, a famous pastry.

Friendship will never end and our love for each will not run out for you will be where you are and I will come back and visit.

Friendship will never end and our love for each will not run out for you will be where you are and I will come back and visit.

MIRO! For all elements come together and art is created with love, a history, and a story to tell.

MIRO! For all elements come together and art is created with love, a history, and a story to tell.

My dearest last family, Bruno and Isabelle.

My dearest last family, Bruno and Isabelle.

Picture with the famous Sagrada Familia with my classmates, Thomas and Gilles.

Picture with the famous Sagrada Familia with my classmates, Thomas and Gilles.

It's not champagne, it's a special beverage with bubbles.

It's not champagne, it's a special beverage with bubbles.

Mathilde, My, Marcel

Mathilde, My, Marcel

Representing in front of PISA!

Representing in front of PISA!

Journals: My - Belgium

  • My, outbound to Belgium

    OUTFI! Je veux rentrer en Belgique. >.

    It's been only three weeks since I got back. And I am just lost for words. It's over. Literally. When we are on exchange, people would warn us, "profite à fond," enjoy all of it before it lasts. What can I say, a wonderful year has passed. One with full of memories, challenges, laughter, smiles, and pure pain. Why pain? The pain of having to leave a place where you called home and coming back to asking, "Where is my home?" and responding, "I want to be at home [Belgium], I don't want to be here [Florida, USA], home."

    But as time goes by, everything heals. The process can take longer or shorter. It just all depends.

    Just remember, TIME heals all.

    P.S. Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way and guiding me on my journey to growing into a worldly person. Especially Rotary for giving me this once in a life-time experience. You know who you are. Tout le monde restera dans mon coeur. Gros bisous!


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    "You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird.

    To gain international understanding, I signed a contract two years ago with Rotary International to become a Rotary Youth Exchange Ambassador. Not only did I gained international understanding, but unforgettable memories, everlasting friendships, and personal growth from every angle. Keep in mind that our own understandings and point of views will always be different from those of others even if we walked down the same path. For all of us are unique.

    To quote my second host dad, "La vie est belle. Life is beautiful."

    This year might be over in less than 15 days, but life will continue. For life is a never ending process of learning. Appreciate what is given. Don't worry too much. No stress. Live every moment without regret. Everything is easier said than done but remember to just TRY YOUR BEST. Effort is all that counts in life. With effort comes results. Whether or not you like the result, just remember, you are the only one who can control it. Et surtout, soyez heureux. And mainly, be HAPPY.

    For goodbye is just an ending to a story for another one to begin. Without goodbye, there would not be a hello.

    I say this with the most sincerity from my heart :

    Goodbye Belgium
    for I will see you again, to say
    Hello Belgium

    ---
    Quinze jours. Seulement 15 jours. 15 JOURS! Et après, c'est fini, mon année d'échange en Belgique. En décembre 2013, j'ai signé mon contrat avec le Rotary International pour faire mon échange. C'était un contrat de trois ans. Voilà maintenant, j'ai déjà fini deux tiers de mon contrat. Ce n'est possible ça. Au début, c'était très difficile de croire : 3 ans, c'est trop! Mais maintenant, où le temps est-il passé? Jusqu'à maintenant, je ne croyais pas que je suis presque finie avec mon année en Belgique.

    Des souvenirs, des memoires, des amis, des voyages, des connections, et surtout des familles. Tout ça va rester dans le passé quand je prendrai l'avion dans 15 jours. C'est incroyable les choses que l'on voit, se sent, goûte, expérimente, essaye. Tout dans un an et après, la vie recommence comme rien a passé, mais non, pas du tout! Ma vie va continuer avec tout ce que j'ai appris pendant mon année à l'étranger. Et pour ça, je suis heureuse de quitter mon pays d'un an pour mon propre pays.

    ---
    Hier, le 6 juillet 2015, j'ai dit au revoir aux membres du Rotary pour la dernière fois. On a échangé nos fanions et nos remerciements.

    L'organisation Rotary :

    Rendre des
    Opportunités pour
    Toutes et tous
    Avec beaucoup d'amour, de
    Reconnaissance et d'avoir
    Y penser aux autres

    Le service au-dessus de soi-même.
    Merci pour ce voyage bien rempli.

    Thank you Rotary International, Rotary Youth Exchange Florida, District 6950 and Rotary Club of Port Richey (Florida), and District 1630 and Rotary Club de Herve (Belgium) for this indescribable and unforgettable year.

    Thank for giving the youth of today the opportunity to be the mature adults of tomorrow.

    See you all soon! GROS BISOUS de Belgique!


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Happy Memorial DAY! Thank you to all of those who served for our country for without them, we will not be able to experience what we are experiencing right at this moment. For those who have sacrificed their lives whether it was willingly or not, they fought for the future generations to come. And for that, I am grateful to be here because our men and women have given us a better life with peace, liberty, and freedom. I say all of this because this past Saturday, May 23, I was invited by my first host family to go to the Memorial Day Ceremony at the American Cemetery at Henri Chapelle, near Clermont.

    At that moment, I was truly touched by the altruism of those who have fought for freedom, for freedom is not free. After the ceremony, I got to meet the Ambassador of the United States of America in Belgium, Mrs. Denise Bauer. In addition, I got a shake her hands and got to get a picture with her. I cannot thank my first host mom enough, Christine, because we went to Henri Chapelle in December for a visit and there we were invited to come. I also got a photo with Marcel and Mathilde who are the owners of the Remember Museum (1939-1945) in Clermont. I felt super proud to consider myself a citizen of the United States of America. This event has ignited the fire inside me to relearn the culture I left nine months ago.

    I am so sorry for disappearing for a few months. I have been traveling a lot, moving, going to school, learning the Belgian culture, presenting, and finishing up my exchange strong.

    Traveling
    In March, I went to London, England with my best friend. I feel like I have a family from all around the world and I would like to say, THANK YOU ROTARY! I also visited Luxembourg and saw how champagne is made!

    In April, I went to Italy with Rotary for 10 days during Easter break. I got to visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, and Pompey. It was a dream came true! At the age of 19 and I get to experience all of this, it is one of the best gifts of my life. Then at the end of April, I went to Barcelona, Spain on my senior trip with some of my classmates and the others in the senior class.

    Basically, during two months, I have been to FOUR different countries!

    Moving
    I actually moved after my trip from Italy and I went to my last family in Fléron, which is about a 40 minutes bus ride to Liège. I am enjoying my time here with my last family. They are great! With them, I am learning the Belgian culture. My last family gives me challenges such as speaking Walloon (the old language of Belgium) learning how to swim, knitting, making bread, making concrete, etc.

    I have broken my exchange down to three portions:
    With my first host family, it was adaptation.
    With my second family, it was learning how to readjust.
    With my last family, it’s learning the culture.

    I believe this is the best way to describe my exchange year.

    School
    At school, I decided to do my senior project, TFE, and on the 22nd of May, I presented in French. It was about the different ways to learn many languages in a short period of time. How are we able to do all of that? The scientific answer: in our brain, we have two regions, Wernicke and Broca, that helps us learn another language. The region Wernicke lets us understand another language and the region Broca allows us to speak another language because it creates a specific portion in our brain for the adaption of another language. But also motivation!

    Learning the Belgian culture
    Learning another language is the easy part of exchange. But learning the way people live with a comprehension of the language is another ballpark. I cannot express how much I have learned all thanks to my last host family. The difference between certain words in French, the way the French people say certain words compared to the Belgians. The way we eat (lots and lots of frites!), the way we drink (a lot of beer!), the way we love one another, and the customs. We never stop learning and it’s amazing!

    Rotary Presentation
    I presented to my Rotary Club of Herve on the 19th of May. Instead of describing my exchange year with my travels, I decided to give anecdotes, tongue twisters, laughter, and words from the heart. I would like to say, I have the BEST ROTARY CLUB ever! The members are super caring and super supportive. I would like to say, my Rotary club is my family. I know every one of the club members and their names. I am truly blessed to have them as my family. In addition, I cannot say thank you enough to my Youth Exchange Officer, Philippe, who loves me like his own.

    Time
    As seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months; I am not letting the time restrict me from anything. I am truly enjoying my last two months here in Belgium. But one thing I can say for sure, as time ticks and ticks, people and places will change. However, the time I have been here since the beginning of August will forever be captured by all of the photos I have taken (over 15 thousand photos!). In addition, how I touched people hearts and changed their lives, those impacts will not change.

    Future Outbounds
    I believe the best advice I can give to you all is: treasure your time on your exchange but also in life for we do not have much time here on earth. For our time is limited. I would like to put a lot of emphasis on treasuring your time. This means, spending quality time with your host family.

    The one thing that I would like to change the most during my exchange is spending more quality time with my first and second host families. I was very interactive and participative but instead of learning about them and spending quality time with them, I decided to spend my time with other exchange students in the first six months of my exchange. Doing this has negatively impacted in certain aspects such as my French speaking ability. No worries, I speak close to perfect French. But it bothers me because I feel like I didn’t get to reach the one goal I set myself out to reach. But please, do not be too harsh on yourself. For learning a language takes time, we cannot rush it. It might come and it might not. Quand même, profite au fond! Remember to enjoy your time on earth! Care a little more, speak a little more, share a little more; it doesn’t hurt anyone but it brings a smile and a feeling of warmth, it’s the recipe to being the most memorable person or exchange student. ;P

    Hope to write soon, for my family and friends, I miss you all dearly. For the future and the unknown, I am excited to explore, learn, and share.


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Well I would like to say that I’m in the middle point. The point where my English is getting bad and my French isn’t getting any better. The transition point where I’m kind of getting better at French and my English is slowly deteriorating. This is the point where I feel like I’m not improving in French because the progress is not as visible as before. I also feel that my English is leaving me slowly. It’s just a really hard feeling to explain because sometimes I don’t understand it myself.

    Apart from my language, I would like to say that I am quite an adventurer. (It’s getting harder to write some words in English because I would think of the French word first! >.

    I switched families the 4th of January right after my trip from the North Sea. For me, I thought I was really good at adapting but boy was I in for a bit of a surprise. Normally, I would remind myself that we must change families to learn more. Let’s just say, the experience is TOTALLY, COMPLETELY, and JUST different. I cannot use any other word to describe my mixed and biased feelings because I do not want to offend anyone. It’s just DIFFERENT. But different is good. Different means I get to learn more of what not to do.

    I learned that compatibility is truly important in a relationship. No matter how hard you try to get someone to like you or you to like someone else, it just doesn’t work out because there are no common shared interests. I feel like in order for there to even have a relationship, first there must have some type of interest whether if it’s food, sports, religion, etc. Without an interest of wanting to learn more or know more about a person, it’s a bit hard to create and maintain a relationship. I’ll just let that sit in your head. Think deeply. If you have done just so, you will understand what I am trying to convey.

    On the bright side, I am blessed to be able to change families because I get to influence more people. I get to meet more people. Sometimes, I feel that we get too used to our environment that we don’t consider the people around us. Do you know your neighbors? You live next door to them but you might not get to talk to them or even meet them. That’s how I feel if I just stay in one family. I would only know one family. Thank you Rotary for making us change as a MANDATORY obligation. Because of this, I get to know more than just one family and potentially have more than one family.

    On the 13th of February, my second host dad said the one thing that made me feel like I have done and accomplished my mission of doing this exchange, “I am really happy that Rotary is giving me this experience where I am learning daily.” This phrase has made me realize that this is a TRUE exchange, where I am learning about the Belgian culture and exchanging my culture and vice versa.

    Instead of living in a small village five minutes from the bus stop, I now live in the countryside more or less. I now live about 15 minutes from the bus stop where I have the liberty to walk home, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the scenery and on top, fit in some exercise some days after school. Before on Saturdays, I would travel and visit the cities throughout Belgium because it was convenient but now, I mostly rest at home and hopefully get to spend more time with my second host family. I find that I am cooking and baking more, which I would have never thought I would do. To the point where one of my Belgian best friends gave me recipes books in French for my birthday!

    In the month of January:

    • I went to the Opera House in Liège two times! The first was with a Rotarian couple where we saw a classical music concert. The second one was with my host mom (it was her first time!), Karine, for a Rotary event where we saw a show in German!
    • I presented and shared my story and experiences with the ladies of Rotary (Inner Wheel in Belgium)! We exchanged our Rotary banners and I gave each member my homemade Rotary pin! ☺
    • I went to eat an afternoon snack with a lady from Inner Wheel at her house. We shared our photos from our Vietnam trip and she invited me to go to Germany with her for a weekend in the near future!
    • I cooked a three-course meal for Karine’s birthday the Sunday before her birthday! The family enjoyed it very much! I am ecstatic because I now have a rice cooker. No more bread for me!!!!

    Throughout the month of January, I learned more about myself. I really don’t know how I do everything but somehow I just do. It’s a miracle.

    In the month of February:

    • I got to ride a horse for the first time! ☺
    • I changed my hair! The perks of having a host mom who is a hairdresser!
    • I did a weeklong exchange to the Czech Republic with my school. It was a week of English, French, and a little Czech. I lived with a host family and it was just an incredible and unforgettable experience. We went to Prague, Czesky Krumlov, Tabor, Lidice, and a couple of other places. I got to see Cat, who is doing her exchange year in Czesky Krumlov. I now have another family within another country. It’s unbelievable the people you get to meet and the things you get to do just in one year! I actually got to eat Banh Tet on Vietnamese New Year in CZECH REPUBLIC! Talk about international! So I got to represent Belgium when I was in Czech Republic and that was pretty cool!
    • I celebrated my birthday with some of my Belgian friends on Wednesday. We went to eat hamburgers together. Then on Friday, we celebrated the Belgian way! :D
    • I got to share my Vietnamese New Year a week before with my second family by letting them taste one of the Vietnamese New Year’s candies! ☺

    Thank you Rotary for this unforgettable experience! I feel very loved from getting to do all the things I get to do! I am very fortunate because initially I was not able to go to Czech Republic but in the end I did because I have made many strong relationships. One of my Belgian friends gave up her spot for me to get to go.

    Only four months left, but many more wonderful memories to come!
    A little preview of my adventures:

    • London, England in March with my Belgian best friend, Aurélie
    • Luxembourg in the end of March with Rotary
    • Throughout Italy during the two weeks vacation in April with Rotary
    • Barcelona, Spain at the end of April with my school
    • Germany some time in the near future

    One year. One memorable year filled with unforgettable memories. One chance to discover everything: the food, the culture, the people, the voyages, the language and the way you react.

    The moment when you accidentally click enter ...

    Please check out the pictures and be heartfelt! :P Just kidding!

    A thousand thank you Rotary for everything you do. For inspiring us to be the best we can be and for cultivating thoughtful and internationally aware youths throughout the world!

    Gros bisous,

    My

    Je suis contente d'être en Belgique. Je ne veux pas un autre pays parce que Belgique a capturé mon cœur! Il reste plus ou moins quatre mois et je me sens que le temps passe trop vite. Arrête un peu pour moi. J'ai plein de choses à faire!

    My return date is July 22nd, one day after Belgium's National holiday!



  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Après ayant une mauvaise semaine et une âme perdue, j'avais trouvé moi-même en ce froid jour avec la neige et le drapeau belge. J'ai trouvé la paix, les deux dans mon âme et dans mon cœur. Pour ça, je suis contente.

    I found my peace. After soul searching for a while, I finally found my peace. It didn't come to me until after a having one of the worst week of my life. I used to think that I was SUPERWOMAN. I can do all things as long as I have God within me, giving me the strength and courage to move the unmovable. It wasn't until this past week did I realize that I am human after all. I realized that through being sick, having 30-35 hours of school a week, having changed families, integrating into the life of a Belgian student, and Rotary events; I need SLEEP! Without sleep, I am diminished from about everything. But through this very valuable lesson, I found that I am not invincible physically, but I am invincible mentally. Just one more hour, which turned into one more day, just one more day I would think and tell myself. I found that, I am human and I am allowed to make mistakes. By making mistakes, I can reflect and grow from them. I realized that I was too harsh on myself and that I do not need to be a perfectionist, I just need to be myself and give my best effort. I found my home here in this tiny country and that brought me peace. I found that I need to be fair with both others and myself and once I achieve that, I will have peace. I found that after accepting and loving my host families for who they truly are, I am at peace.


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Je ne peux pas croire que le temps passe très vite. C’est déjà quatre mois! QUATRE MOIS! C’est impossible! Mais c’est vraiment possible parce que je m’amuse bien. Je suis un peu triste à dire que j’ai déjà changé ma famille d’accueil (mais, je sais bien que je vais adapter très vite et quand le temps arrive pour le prochain dérangement, je serai un peu triste aussi).

    J’habite à Housse pas à Clermont, mon petit village. Il va me manquer. Oui, Clermont est MON village, pas UN village. Les jours avec ma première famille ont passé très vite. Je me rappele le premier jour quand je suis arrivé en Belgique mais particulièrement dans la maison de ma première famille. Maintenant, ce n’est pas ma famille D’ACCUEIL mais ma FAMILLE.

    Je trouve que j’ai changé. Je comprends mieux et je parle différemment. Je ne suis pas la même personne j’étais quatre mois avant d’arriver en Belgique. Oui, je suis My mais pas totalement My. Après ces quatre mois, je réflechissais beaucoup de ma vie, mes idées, mes buts, mes passions, qu’est-ce que je veux faire après, etc. Cettes questions résonnent dans mon cerveau. Mais, tout va bien. Cette année, je découvre moi-même.

    I cannot believe that the time is passing by really fast. It’s already four months! FOUR MONTHS! It’s impossible! But it’s truly possible because I am having fun. I am a little sad to say that I have already changed host families (but, I know well that I will assimilate well and when time pass until the next family change, I will be sad too).

    I am living in Housse not in Clermont, my small village. I will miss it. Yes, Clermont is MY village not A village. The days with my first host family have passed by really fast. I remember the first day when I arrived in Belgium but particularly into my first host family’s home. Now, it’s not my HOST family but my FAMILY.

    I found that I have changed. I understand more and speak differently. I am not the same person I was four months before arriving in Belgium. Yes, I am My but not totally My. After these four months, I have been reflecting a lot about my life, my ideas, my goals, my passions, what I was to do after, etc. These questions resonate within my brain. But everything is going well. This year, I am discovering myself.

    Being here in Belgium, I have learned that in order for us to truly understand our culture, we need to take time off from it. You may think you know everything about your culture, but in reality you really don’t know everything. Just like a language, you believe that you’re fluent but in reality, you’re not. While in Belgium, I learned so much about the culture that I tried to suppress for so long (my Vietnamese culture). I came to appreciate the way I was brought up, what I was taught, not just how to communicate, how to be self-conscious but importantly how to live righteously. I learned the abstract meaning of a language. What you think you said is correct but in reality, others perceive it differently. Yes, the dictionary tells you what you want it to mean but others misconstrue the meaning. Welcome to the world of languages.

    During my free time, I tried picking up Mandarin Chinese on my own. It’s not that bad. I thought that I got the hang of French (considering I dream once a month in French, I don’t know how but it just happens to be so), so why not pick up another language that has been intriguing me for the past couple of years. Initially I wanted to go to Taiwan because I adore Chinese but I DO NOT regret the decision I have made going to Belgium (I have to thank the Rotarians for that). I believe that the Rotarians have selected each and every one of us for a reason and they sent us to a certain place for a reason. The lives I am affecting here in Belgium is amazing. I have made so many bonds and relationships with both Rotarians and Belgians alike.

    Anyways, back to Chinese, it’s a very difficult language so bravo to my friends in Asian countries right now. I would like to say that it’s exhilarating to be like “I know that character or that word.” I also like to add that I am blessed to be learning French because in my opinion it’s very similar to English and some words in Vietnamese. But yes, Chinese lived for about three days during my winter vacation. But after those three days (about two to three hours a day), I was able to write small sentences and semi-comprehend simple structured sentences from my small vocabulary range. After learning and understanding foreign languages, it’s gradually getting easier to pick up another one. By the way, at school, I am writing my TFE, travail de fin d’étude, (sorry for misleading you all in one of my last journal, whichever one it was) on the language capacity of the human brain. I will present it in French but I have both copies in English and French. It is quite intriguing to know the brain’s capacity. My brain hurts though.

    Back to the first four months with my host family. One word. Indescribable. I cannot begin how much I have learned. I learned how to love someone who was before a stranger but now the closest person to me. I learned how to miss. (I went to Comines to visit a friend for two days, and I missed my family back in Clermont. That was the first.) I learned how to adapt to the point where Christine, my host mom, was telling everyone that I did exactly what she would do. I learned that I could sacrifice so much for the people I love. I consider my host family like my very, own family. Therefore, to help take some load off of Christine’s shoulders, I help around the house like it’s my very own. I believe that in this world, we need to treat others the way we want to be treated.

    These tiny little efforts have taken me far for I know that I will miss them the same way they will miss me (Assimilation to its fullest!). I have truly created a home in a stranger’s house. I have truly gained a spot in a stranger’s heart. I have truly gained their love for me like their own child. For all of this, I am truly blown away by these past four months. I have learned to forgive and accept. Forgive others for their wrongdoings towards me and accept others for what they are and will become. I do not dwell in the past like I used to but I am moving forward with my life.

    I am truly blessed but honestly, life, as an exchange student can be tiring at times. Over my break, I began packing because I change families the fourth of January. Oh my goodness, I have soooooooo much stuff, which means my exchange is going well. Just, WOW. I am truly loved by my first family. My very first white Christmas with lots of presents, a real Christmas tree, and family dinners. As you can probably guessed, I received a lot of gifts but it just makes packing really hard. I am sooooo glad I am not leaving so I do not have to deal with luggage weight. Thank goodness it’s just packing to change families and not to go home. The day I leave will chip away a little part of my heart for I know Belgium has captured it. This tiny country will always be a part of me.

    “There is this phrase in Vietnamese that I remember daily from what I have learned from my dad, “ ‘Đi cho người nhớ đến bạn và ở cho người yêu mến bạn.’ “ This means, ‘Travel or leave a place for a period of time for others to remember you and stay for others to love you.’ I believe I have done just so. “Come whenever you want. You are welcome. Just come. You will come back to visit us right?” Mostly everyone I know in Clermont and surrounding areas asks me these statements and questions. They just prove that I will not be forgotten and I have created a positive impact or a few positive impacts.

    Just to quickly recap what happened in my busy life. LITERALLY. It may not seem a lot but trust me, it was.
    • I got to milk a cow and then drank fresh milk. Yummy. :D
    • I went to Aachen, Germany with Rotary and then again with my Vietnamese/Belgian friend. (It was great because at his house, there were four languages going on all at once: Vietnamese, English, French, and German).
    • I went to Ghent/Gand with a friend from Maryland.
    • I used more of my cooking skills here in Belgium than I did back in the States.
    • I made waffles. :D I made 60 crêpes for Scouts and then for my friends. I also made pancakes.
    • Oh, I passed my Christmas exams and had a really good first semester. I got a 93/100 on my English exam and apparently it was rare in my school. I received at 19,5/30 on my French essay (which is really good for an exchange student).
    • I made over 1,000 eggrolls and I even made vegetarian eggrolls.
    • I saw snow for the first time and was super excited about it. After a while, it just becomes part of the Belgian life.
    • I experienced three strikes.
    • I experienced St. Nicolas with both my school and Ben’s (my host dad) family. St. Nicolas at school was just wow.
    • I went to Maasmechlen Village, an outlet mall, in Belgium but one needs to pass through the Netherlands to get there.
    • I went to the North Sea with my host family for the New Year.
    • I went to Bruges with Rotary on the second of January.
    • I went to five different marché Noël, which is like Christmas shopping.
    • I volunteered with Rotary Club of Verviers and asked for food donations in French.
    • I went to the American Museum in Henri-Chapelle with Christine and we landed ourselves VIP seats for the Memorial Day ceremony in May. I will be able to meet the ambassador of the United States to Belgium. Oh, these wonderful connections all thanks to Rotary.

    All in all, even though a third of my exchange life is gone. I like to say that I lived and cherished every moment. Each and every one of us has a different exchange life because we choose and make different decisions. These small actions affect our lives tremendously. But for me, I do not regret my decisions. I believe the decisions I have made are just and I believe that these decisions will take me far. Others might think I am crazy for doing what I am doing with my exchange life but I believe that others are crazy for thinking that I am crazy. It is all about perception. How we perceive and accept things.

    You’re probably wondering. Has she gained weight like the other exchange students? Oh, how can I forget about that! I should probably have not weighed myself but for me it’s important because I really cannot afford to get more clothes. As you can tell, I have two suitcases, a carryon, a personal bag, and SIX additional bags on my move day. Even though I cannot get my true weight (ranges between 53-56 kilos which is like 116-126 pounds [I weighed 50 kg/110 lbs before exchange]), I judge by my clothes. I can fit in my clothes but I pray that will stay the same for the next six months. Don’t worry. I am still eating like an exchange student. I just somehow manage to stay the way I am. (Careful planning and lots of walking, HAHA, just kidding! Just lots of walking and running.)

    Future exchange friends, please please please learn your target language. Don’t be arrogant and be like “I got this” but in reality you kind of don’t (if you kind of understand what I mean, if not it’s okay too). The point of learning your target language is so you can communicate with your host family and experience the year of the life without misunderstandings and miscommunications. Also, once you got that done and down and you board your plane to go to your target country, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE heed and follow Rotary rules, especially with integrating yourself (family, school, culture, etc). IT WILL TAKE YOU SO FAR! I write this in caps because I have received so much love from everyone around me because I did what I did: followed the Rotary rules to a tee. Don’t worry you will still have fun but it’s the BEST of BOTH worlds. But then again, it’s your exchange and I’m just giving you some advice. If you choose to take them, then be prepared to have the BEST year of your life. If you don’t, still be prepared to have the BEST of your life but also prepare for some obstacles.

    GROS BISOUS/BIG KISSES,
    Mimi/Mymy (Nickname from my Belgians


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Wait, what? It's three months already?! As I always say, we have time. But in reality, we don't. But then again, what is time? It is a concept? It is an abstract? It is something we just adapt to and accept it as it is? Just like time, being an exchange student is the exact same thing: we adapt and accept. We adapt to being an exchange student. Everything we do: the way to wake up in the morning, the way we eat, the way we interact, the way to walk, and even the way we go to bed at night. Then after understanding the concept of assimilation, we accept it. It's everything we get to learn and do within the short amount of time we have as exchange student, which ranges from 10 to 12 months (depending on how lucky you are and where you come from).

    WARNING: please do not cry (whether tears of joy or pure sadness). But it's just a disclaimer; you can do as you please. It is your free will. You may or may not cry.

    This is the life of an exchange student: waking up every morning to someone else’s bed, home, and family; eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a foreign country where a completely different language is spoken; immersing in another country; immersing in another language while not comprehending anything; going to school and potentially getting bullied (both indirectly and directly) daily (not just only by peers, teachers, and/or host parents) for not understanding, answering fast enough, or thinking in the language; having to learn the materials in school and outside of school; is expected to interact with everyone; always selfless and always sacrificing something, whether sleep or time, to learn the new language as fast as possible; having to step outside of one’s comfort zone and adapt; and this process is repeated over and over again for the next 10 to 12 months. But do you know what? We put up with everything because we WANT to learn, we WANT to adapt, we WANT to fit in, we WANT to form families and connections with others, and most importantly, we WANT to experience the life of an exchange student. AND to do all of this, we displayed an exceptional amount of COURAGE to accomplish what we WANT in life.

    Exchange is one of the most rewarding years of one’s life but also one of the most stressful, strenuous, and life-changing year of the student’s life. This is the one-year where a student can experience everything: memories; food; courage; love; bundles of joy; acceptance; the feeling of being rejected; tears of frustrations; homesickness; isolation from others because we are different; pain; difficulty with learning the language; fear; frustrations due to others not understanding and from oneself for not understanding and accepting what is all happening; feeling drained everyday; the concept of waiting; the concept of not getting everything we want in life; not having people (family, friends, and acquaintances) understand your situation and what you are going through both from your home country and your host country; having asked “WHY?”; independence; dependence; sadness; disappointment; laughter; sleep deprivation; tiredness, monotony in having to re peat another year of high school; immaturity; maturity; personal pep talks of “YES I CAN”; feeling alone but is surrounded by people; knowing when to say and do the right thing at the right time; physical, mental, and spiritual deprivation; making a family with other students; success of being able to communicate; being able to share all of this to others; and most importantly self-realization and CHANGE. This is the one-year where courage is given to a student to do about anything that he or she could not do before and it is achieved with the most rewarding smile at the end of the year. Exchange is not a year of a person’s life; it is life within a year. A year for students to experience everything; to exchange our ideas, our hopes, our dreams; and to share the memories and lessons we have learned with the world, the people back home, the people we meet on our journeys.

    En seulement trois mois ici en Belgique, je peux parler, écrire, lire, et penser en le français. J’ai fait beaucoup de connections, amis, et souvenirs. Je peux comprendre et communiquer avec ma famille d’accueil, les belges, et les autres étudiants d’échange. L’idée qu’une étudiante avant d’arriver dans un autre pays peut apprendre une autre langue, une autre culture et réussir est incroyablement ahurissant.

    In only three months in Belgium, I am able to speak, write, read, and think in French. I have made so many connections, friends, and memories. I can understand and communicate with my host family, Belgians, and other exchange students. The idea of a student before arriving in another country can learn another language, another country, and to succeed is incredibly astonishing.

    But do you really know what I want to say: I'm thankful everyday for what Rotary has given to students like myself. Sometimes, when I go through a day where all I do is reflect on my decision, the choices I have made, the things I have done, and potentially the things I will do; I think of how blessed I am to be here today. When I am having a rough time, I think about how fortunate I am while other are not as fortunate. Therefore, I count my blessings and vow to make a world a better place for others.

    FUTURE OUTBOUNDS (some of you know who you are): LEARN YOUR TARGET LANGUAGE. You don't understand how proud you can be of yourself when others compliment you on how well you know your target language. As you all know, I'm coming along quite well with my target language: French. To the point where I'm starting to speak like a Belgian, display lots of grammatical errors in English, forgetting how to spell in English (thank GOD for spell-check on computers), and dreaming in French. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES! That is the process of learning.

    "Hard work is not just physical but also mental and spiritual. All three have to work together for the end product: success and personal pride." – My –


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    31 octobre 2014

    J'ai beaucoup d'amusement ici en Belgique et je sais que je ne veux pas partir. Je crois que je vais avoir plus d'amusement. Mais, les mots ne peuvent pas expliquer toutes mes expériences et émotions. Quand on ne comprend pas quelques choses, on pense que tous est difficile mais après comprendre, on pense que tous est facile. Comme moi, il y a deux mois, j'ai pensé que le système de bus était très difficile mais maintenant, je le pense que est très facile.

    I am having a lot of fun here in Belgium and I know that I do not want to leave. I believe that I will have more fun. But, words cannot explain all of my experiences and emotions. When we do not understand something, we think that everything is difficult but after understanding, we think that everything is easy. Like me, two months ago, I thought that the bus system was difficult but now, I think that it's really easy. (My LIFE depends on bus 738 and 138).

    I have done so much throughout these past two months. Everyday is a day full of adventures. I have made a lot of friends and connections. Everyone is either familiar with my name or my acquaintance. I believe that everyday I am positively impacting at least one person whether if it's the bus driver or a person I say "Bonjour" to on the street.

    School is going well. I attempted every test and I am passing most of classes. At school, my schedule has changed three times already and I am not exactly sure if it's definite yet but I love every class. Even though I already learned most of the material, I am actually learning more than I expected. At School, I have communication and relations, religion, English, French, gym, history in 5th and 6th year (equivalent to junior and senior class), and math. After school, I have additional French classes in Verviers, which is a twenty minutes bus ride from my school in Herve. It's not as rigorous as to what I was used to back in Florida but it's strenuous because I have to do three times the work.

    At school, the seniors (rhétos) have to a TFE (Travail Fin d'École), which is like a senior project. My subject is on the how humans can understand and interact with more than one languages. At the end of the year, I will find the answer and give a presentation. Personally, I believe I already know the answer but it is not valid without factual evidence. Being an exchange student has amazed me daily because it is eye opening getting to see people in Europe switch from one language to another. Where do they store all of this?! But I can see it in me too; I switch from French to English to Vietnamese. Since I live really close to Germany and Holland, I am also picking up from words in those languages too. It is truly a wonder how we are created and our abilities to soak in another language.

    Outside of school, I have Rotary events that I get to attend along with my Rotary meeting once a month. There are 55 Rotarians (male) in my club of Herve and I get to give a bisous (kiss on the right cheek) them whenever I go the meeting. I believe a bisous can take a person far because it is the fastest way to make a connection with a person you don't know. Through the bisous, I was able to play golf in Belgium for a Rotary event. Let me add that golf is not a cheap sport. I have made such a solid connection with my family and Rotary club that I get to play golf for free and had clubs provided for me. While golfing, I met a wonderful German couple who would love to host me one summer for me to learn German. I believe that being an exchange student is one thing, but it's also what you want to make out of your exchange.

    Just last weekend, I went to Paris for three days and was able to see many wonderful monuments that I would never believe in my wildest dreams that I would see. But I did all thanks to Rotary International and the Rotarians for helping me get to where I am. I fell in love to the Eiffel Tower and the boat ride down the Seine River to the museums and let's not forget the Louvre. Besides sightseeing, the friendships I have gained are invaluable. The friends and memories I have made will be with me for the rest of my life.

    Since Belgium is literally situated in the middle of Western Europe (not precisely, but to me it is), I got to go to Maastricht (Holland) just yesterday. I just hopped on two buses from my house to the train station and then take the train to Maastricht with my Belgian friend, Aurélie. The transportation system here is a miracle worker but sometimes it can go the other way. Like how the bus comes late to one place and I miss my second bus home.

    I love my host family. I have accepted them like my real parents because my host grandmother (on mom's side) asked me about my family and I thought she was talking my family here in Belgium and not in Florida. I believe is a great thing that I am accepting and adapting but to my family in Florida, I mean no harm, trust me. I love you all but being here, I have learned that I can have more than just one family. I know for sure that leaving this family in January will leave me in tears so let's not talk about that. I am sharing my Vietnamese and American cultures to everyone here In Belgium. I have made both Vietnamese egg rolls and chocolate chip cookies for my family and friends. Everyone loves them!

    À tantôt et bisous,

    My

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

     

  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Home is where the heart. My heart is at home. I feel at home already and it's only been one month. Imagine what one-year will do to me. Just imagine.

    Français: Aujourd'hui marque mon premier mois ici en Belgique et je l'adore bien! J'aime bien les gens, les gaufres, les frites, les chocolats, les langages, les cultures et mes nouveaux amis! Mais, je n'ai pas oublié les gens et mes amis aux États-Unis! Les Rotariens, merci pour m'aider avec tout! J'ai beaucoup d'amusante, des amis à l'école, et des connexions avec les gens en ma petite ville et mon club hôte de Herve. Je peux parler, écrire, et lire en français. Je peux comprendre mes professeurs à l'école et je peux communiquer avec mes amis. Mais, pour moi, en écoutant à les conversations pour les comprendre est plus difficile que lire ou écrire.

    English: Today marks my first month here in Belgium and I love it! I love the people, the waffles, the fries, the chocolates, the languages, the cultures, and my new friends! But, I have not forgotten the people and my friends in the United States! Rotarians, thank you for helping me with everything! I am having a lot of fun, friends at school, and connections with the people in my town and in my host Rotary Club of Herve. I can speak, write, and read in French. I can understand my teachers and I can communicate with my friends. But for me, listening to conversations to comprehend them is harder than reading or writing.

    Here is an update on my adventures in Belgium. There is so much to say and I want to write them all but I wouldn't be able to because it's really late here already.

    Side note: I am writing a book about my adventures. Maybe one day I will publish it.

    Before landing, the pilot told us the temperature was 43°F and it was a beautiful day! It was a beautiful day but was too cold for me at first. My flight from Philadelphia was delayed for about half an hour from the day before. Therefore, I arrived in Brussels International Airport at around 9 in the morning on Saturday, August 23. Before getting to meet my host family, I helped a lady from the Philippines find her bags. She told me that I am doing a wonderful thing in my life, being a junior ambassador. After pushing my cart full of luggage and pulling the lady's checked bag for her to the exit, I found my host family (my host mom, Christine, and my host brother, Antoine).

    I spotted my host mom because she was holding a sign that said "Bienvenue My" and the Belgian flag around her. We had a quick chat at the café, Quick. Afterwards, we left for home. I got to see my town after an hour or so car ride from Brussels to Clermont. I saw my town: it was perfect then, perfect now, and will always be perfect. After one month, I like to say that this is my home. Everyone and everything is so familiar. Thinking about leaving now brings tears to my eyes already. I can already see that at the end of my exchange, I will have two big round, red, puffy eyes. Therefore, I am going to try to not think about it. After getting settled in, Christine and I went to my school just for a look because it was closed. For me, I love school regardless but I was in for a big surprise.

    On the 28th of August, all of the exchange students from the three districts in Belgium (1620, 1630, and 2170) went to Brussels for the day. We got to see the Royal Palace and Parliament. We were able to trade pins and interact with each other. It was a fun day full of laughing, interacting, smiling, thinking what we have gotten ourselves into, thinking about the memories we will make, making friends, and knowing that at the end of the exchange, we have built another home together. All 220 of us. For before the exchange, we were strangers and after the exchange, we are friends who share many memories together. To quote a previous exchanger, "Exchange isn't a year in your life, it's a life in a year." For I am having a time of my life: I get to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do before my exchange.

    For District 1630 exchangers, we all met at Liège Guillemins, which is a train station, (it's beautiful and huge) where we took a bus to Brussels. Making friends is my specialty; I was able to just go around and strike a conversation with someone from Japan or Brazil. It was amazing to see how fast we can relate to each other and accept each other even though we are complete strangers.

    We got to Brussels. In front of the Royal Palace, we all took selfies and group photos. We were having fun but the real fun didn't begin just yet. The real fun began when students from all three districts came together.

    After exploring the Royal Palace, we walked to the center of Brussels (I believe but not exactly sure) for lunch, which is spell 'dinêr' and sounds like 'dinner' but is actually 'lunch'. For lunch, we had boulettes with frites, which are meatballs and fries.

    Lunch was delicious. But, what happened after lunch was unforgettable. For me, I got to take a picture with my beloved, Manneken-Pis! Sarangheo (shout out to Keely and Eli) little guy!

    Then we began our trek to Parliament. We went the chamber where the politicians meet. There many speakers talked to us about how they are happy to have us in Belgium and how they wished us many adventures and luck in our futures. Each country was able to take a group picture with the special speaker, who was an exchanger herself back in the 70s to the United States. At the very end, we gave her our fanions, which are our Rotary Club flags.

    Let's talk about school. There are so many things to say, so many things to do, and so many things to see; such limited time.

    Fun facts about my school:
    -It starts at 8h30 and ends at 16h25
    -Very fashionable
    -No electronic devices at all (if found, the product will be confiscated for a week)
    -No water during class time
    -No restroom passes during class time (unless it is an emergency)
    -Two breaks excluding lunch for fifteen minutes each (one in the morning at 10h30 and one in the afternoon at 14h30)
    -Fifty minutes lunch
    -Waffles are sold everyday during the morning break time, which is at 10h30
    -Five flights of stairs
    -I'm in a rhéto (sixième or sixth year), which is equivalent to a senior
    -Being a rhéto, I get a special room to study or hang out in with the other rhétos
    -Being a rhéto, I get to go on a trip at the end of the year (which I get to choose one out of four) like a senior trip with the class
    -Frites are sold are Mondays
    -Gym class is a fun twenty minutes walk from the school
    -Homework isn't everyday

    A little about my life in Belgium:
    -I wake up at 7 every morning for school
    -I help around the house (separate the trash, put away the dishes, keep my room tidy, help my host mom iron, etc.)
    -I participate in a lot of activities (Les Scoutes [equivalent to Boy and Girl Scouts] on Sunday mornings, walking with the ladies of Inner Wheel [equivalent to Rotary], participating in Rotary events [only men are members of Rotary], jogging, attending masses, and many more to share)
    -I participate in school as much as I can
    -I do my homework
    -I hang out with my Belgian and exchange friends
    -Surprisingly, I find a balance through ironing for my host mom
    -I am busy but in a good way

    All in all, my exchange is going great! Thank you District 6950 and Florida for preparing me so well. I'm indebted to all of the Rotarians, from those who have helped pushed me to where I am today to those who I haven't got a chance to meet or don't know yet, for being generous and caring people. Without you and your view on changing the future through the youth, we wouldn't be where we are right now.

    I would like to say BIG shout out to New Port Richey Rotary for being so very generous and kind to me! It would be my pleasure to share my stories when I come back!

    À tout à l'heure!

    Bisous,

    My

    To prospective students: If you happen to just come across my name and get to read this, click on the outbound form and fill it out. YOU will REGRET it if you DON'T trust me. I was in the same boat that was going back and forth until I mustered the courage to go on the exchange. Looking back, it was a calling from God because at my orientation, I saw that same image I saw in my dream. So, you will never know where you will end up but a tinge of courage will take you far. Being fearful will only prevent you will growing, gaining lifetime experiences and memories, and making connections with people who you will never forget.


  • My, outbound to Belgium

    Back in junior year of high school, I was walking nonchalantly down the hallways one day and I saw this quote.

    "Be the change you want to be in the world," Gandhi. At that moment when I saw Gandhi's quote, I started to embrace it. I vowed to be such, to be a change within the world. To this day, 22 August, I have taken the risk to live up to my vow I made a two years back.

    Episode 1: The Departure

    First off, I would like to thank all of the Rotarians who have put this program together for students like myself. Without you, Rotarians, we will not be able to "live a life within a year"! Thank you Rotary International for having this wonderful program!!! A special shoutout to my District Chairman of 6950, Mr. Doug Lobel, and my Outbound Chairman of 6950, Mr. Ned Barry, for always being there for us outbounds!! Thank you, thank you, thank you The Rotary Club of Port Richey for sponsoring me!! Also, special thanks to my parents for always supporting me, my loving sister for being there for me, and everyone who have listened to me talk about my exchange!!

    Deuxième, je vais à Belgique!!!! BELGIQUE!! En dix heures, je vais être en Belgique, où je vais appeler ma maison pour un an. Je suis trop enthousiaste! (For those who do read French, pardon the grammatical errors. For those we do not read French, I will translate. :D)
    Second, I am going to Belgium! BELGIUM!! In ten hours, I will be in Belgium, where I will call my home for a year. I am very excited!!

    So this is how my last few hours in Florida went. I woke up like it was a normal day, BUT it wasn't. It's all in the mind. Then I went to help my mom for the last time within this year and ate a VERY, VERY unhealthy breakfast. But hey, we only get to live for a limited amount of time. (Please don't tell my liver that!) As we (my sister, my father, and I) left for the airport, we ALMOST got stuck in traffic which was horrible. BUT, we still made it within the two-to-three hours time period. PHEW!

    We then found CAROLINE and her family! :D After we checked in and chatted for about an hour, the 'goodbyes' were popping up. But hey, goodbyes aren't meant to be a bad thing. Yes, my parade got rained on within this past week because everyone was so sad. But, 'goodbyes' are also meant for happy occasions, like this one where I will be embarking on my year-long journey to a new country, new culture, new language, and new lifestyle. In order for a 'hello' to resurface, a 'goodbye' must be said. In order for a new beginning to occur, an old one must end. Therefore, in order for me to resurface as a new person, I must shed away from my old one.

    T-minus 40 minutes before boarding and here I am grubbing off of the airport's WIFI and electricity! It's not as bad as its seems. But hey, we need our charge to accelerate into the unknown.

    Bye bye for now and stay tune for the next episode on My's blog! À bientôt as they say it in French, see you soon! :D


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