Rose Gonzalez


Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine
Sponsor District: 6970
Sponsor Club: St. Augustine Sunrise
Host District: 1560
Host Club: Barchem


My Bio

Hoi! My name is Rose Gonzalez and I will be in the Netherlands next year. Currently I am going to St. Augustine High School as a freshman where my favorite subject is biology. I live in the beautiful town of St. Augustine where I have been since I was three. I am so excited to be going to the Netherlands and I am so grateful that I get to share this experience with Rotary and my family. At St. Augustine High School I study the arts as well as AICE Cambridge classes. Here I take an AP course, multiple AICE/Honors courses, and take Spanish. Afterschool I dance at a local dance company every weekday and on the weekends I host at a 50's diner. When I have free time my friends and I watch movies or go shopping. Without my family I would not be able to do anything that I mentioned above. They are my support system and I will miss them on this life-changing adventure. I live with my mother, father, and brother (but we share the house with a few pets). My goals with this program are to learn a new culture and language, make friends that will last me a lifetime, and discover the beautiful country of Netherlands. Thank you to everyone who helped me become part of this adventure. None of this would have happened without your support and love. Dank je wel! Thank you!

Journals: Rose – Netherlands 2016-17

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    I just turned 16 last Thursday (03/16). Birthdays in the Netherlands are done not too differently than in the USA. I brought some candy for everyone, someone brought me a party hat, and I ate way too much cake. Actually, my dutchies (aka my Dutch friends), bought a cake and brought it to school for me. It was chocolate and peanut butter and I couldn't believe that they had actually brought a cake to school. They sang "Lang zal ze leven" which is the Dutch happy birthday song. Other than that, the actual day of my birthday was pretty tame. I had gym that day. We climbed the rock wall, a thing I had never done before and hopefully will never do again. 

    The weekend before I went to Giethoorn, a cute town completely made up of islands. It was a Rotex weekend and they had rented us our very own island. I always love seeing my exchange friends. I can't believe how close we've gotten to be in only 6 months. The Saturday of said weekend was National Volunteering Day. So we took a boat out on to a different island and cut down dead trees. Although it was hard work, we also had a good time. The whole weekend had such beautiful weather. For the first time in a long time I didn't need a jacket to be outside. Now I don't know if that's because I'm finally getting used to the Dutch weather, or because it was actually warm outside, or if it was a mix of both. But in any case, the weekend was beautiful and awesome.

    This journal is not in chronological order, and for that I am sorry, but so many nice things have happened to me since my last entry. I have now been with my family for two weeks. They have been nothing but nice and supportive and helpful. They took me out for sushi on my birthday, put up banners for me, and have just been all around amazing. I also went out with my exchange student friends this weekend because once you are 16 you can go in to discos (aka kid clubs). We had a really fun time dancing the night away with each other. 

    I can't believe I only have about 120 days until I leave the Netherlands. I really don't want to go. I've had an amazing experience traveling around a small land packed with culture, history, and amazing people that I never want to let go of. Only 120 more days......

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    am more than half way through my exchange. That still hasn't really registered in my mind. Seriously, there's no way I am going back to Florida in four and a half months. Yet, looking back, I have done so many things in six months. A half of a year has changed me for the rest of my life. I've done things that I didn't even know where possible a year or two ago. 

    Next week on monday I move to my next (and last) host family. Seems quick to me. I have been with my current host family since Thanksgiving yet it feels like I just moved in last week. This family has been so nice to me and I'm so glad to have gotten to see into their lives. It has really helped me round-out my idea of the Dutch culture. They are totally different than my first family. The majority of the family spoke little-to-no English so I had no choice than to further my Dutch. I can't believe that I already have to say good-bye to them. I'm especially going to miss the pets. This family has just as many pets and I do back in Florida so it was nice to have that consistency around for a while.

    I have been taking history/Dutch lesson from a memeber of my Rotary club. At first we were just trying to make my Dutch better by reading childerens books, and although it helped, it was quite boring. Then I realized that there was a better way to do this. I was really interested in learning about European history before America's written history and she is a history major. So, to knock out two birds with one stone, we started reading out of my history book. Currently we are learning about Greece and Rome. I'm so in love with Europe and their history is so amazing. Plus, my teacher, Toos, is super sweet and very helpful. I always look forward to our lessons.

    Next week is a small break from school and in a little less than three weeks I am turning 16. Everything is happening so fast.

    I guess that's it. A short entry but hopefully more to report soon.

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    Here we are at the five month mark. Pretty much the halfway mark of my exchange. I have whiplash from how fast this is flying by. Five months don't seem like a lot on paper, but a lot can happen to a girl in that time. Yet, despite the large changes in my life, the time has seemingly disappeared into nowhere. 

    That's the strangest thing about exchange: it feels like it's going to last forever but it flies by you so quickly. Some days you can't wait to get back to your home country, back to your friends and family, back to what's familular. On other days you never want to go back and make a plan in your head on how to stay in your host country forever. Some days you feel like you are invinsible and nothing will ever bring you down; some days you cry because you saw the sun for the first time in two months. Truly, its a storm of emotions.

    The holiday season is over now. This was the first time being away from my family for the holidays. This didn't stop me from enjoying them, though. In fact, in order to keep myself from aways thinking about my friends and family back home, I busied myself with focusing on understanding the holidays here. 

    On the 5th of december there is a holiday called Sinterklaas. Although Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are based off of the same person, the holiday Sinterklaas is (although simular) not the same as Christmas. The story is that this guy, who is ageless, sails up to the Netherlands (and Belgium on the 6th of December) from Spain and judges if the childeren were good or not. If Sinterklaas thinks that you've been good lately, his helpers, the Zwarte Piets, put candy and presents in your shoes that you placed in front of the fireplace the night before. However, if you have been bad, Sinterklaas takes you away from your family and brings you to Spain with him. Although that might sound lke a nice vacation, the store says that he takes you and you are never seen again. Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be taken away from my family. There is actually a lot of controversy about the holiday, and not over how Sinterklaas kidnaps childeren in their sleep. Some people don't like the Zwarte Piets and here's why: Zwarte Piets are painted black on their face. Most claim it's from the grim in the chimneys, but some say that it traces back to slavery and is therefore racist. There were many arguments and protests over the matter, but if you ask me, I don't think the Zwarte Piets are going to stop being Zwarte (the Dutch word for black) anytime soon.

    The holiday after this was Christmas. This includes Santa Claus, but most of the childeren don't ever believe in Santa Claus (but they do believe in Sinterklas). Christmas is more of an excuse to get together with your family and eat a whole bunch of food. The family I am currently living with didn't do presents or anything on Christmas, which isn't completly strange here. Although most families exchangfe gifts, it isn't unheard of to not give gifts. Christmas was actually a pretty chill holiday. Unlike back home, most families observe the second and third Christmas days. During these days we just went around from house to house meeting family and eating so much food. 

    My favorite holiday to celebrate here so far is New Years (aka Oude en Nieuwe). During New Years Eve you just spend the day with the family, have a small get together to remeber the past year and talk about the upcoming one. But once the clock strikes midnight, the whole sky lights up with fireworks. Everywhere you turn you can see a spectacular light show. People buy hundereds of euros worth of fireworks just for this one night. After you blow up all of what you bought, everyone goes out to join a real party. You are supposed to party until the sun comes up to ring in the New Year. This night was so spectacular and I will never forget it.

    Now all of my oldies have gone back to their home countries. Oldies are the students from the Southern Hemisphere that come to your host country half a year before you. NOw that they have gone back, my class is now the "Oldies". Our newbies are all arriving this month. As if I needed another reminder that my exchange is flying by. 

    School is going well. My second test week is coming up and I will be taking the Dutch, English, and biology tests. A word of advice for exchange students, you will not get 100% in your home language. I promise. I currently have like a 60% in my English class. Don't expect to be perfect because in all likelyhood, you will fail in that class. 

    But other than that my life is pretty normal. Well, not normal but I am getting used to being a Dutch girl. Of course there are aspects to my day to day life that are still very different to what my life was like in America, but I am really starting to understand the Dutch culture and I am going to bring some of the Dutch culture back to America. Like hagelslag and frikadellen. My stomach growls just thinking about it.

    Ik ging bijna dood van de sneu buiten, maar ik leef nog. Het is moeilijk om in de sneu te fietsen. Maakt niet uit want ik vind sneu zo prattig. Koud, maar prattig.

    Dank jullie wel en tot volgende maand.

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    When they told me that this year would fly by, I had no idea just how fast it would go. I move out of my first host family's house and into my next one. Although the houses are pretty close, I am going to miss my first host family. The have done so much for me and I can't think of anyway to thank them enough. 

    Last weekend I went to a nearby city called Zwolle to meet with some of the other exchange students. My host mother drove me halfway there and I took the train from there. I would just like to say that the public transportation system here is amazing. I wouldn't have been able to do half the things that I have done if not for this. Anyways, I love the other exchange students. We've all become so close in such a short time. We always have a blast together. After a couple hours of hanging out with them I took a train back and I saw a movie with a Dutch friend of mine. The movies here are all in their original language, just with Dutch subtitles on them. The next day I went to Rotterdam with my host parents. We went to the Maritime Museum, took a water taxi (craziest taxi I have ever been on), and ate at Hotel New York. We also went to this new food court and I tried haring for the first time. Honestly, for raw fish, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I had a great time that day despite the winds blowing me off of my feet. Literally.

    A couple weeks ago I went to Amsterdam with my host parents and my Italian friend. We first went to the Anne Frank huis. In my opinion, the museum is very humbling and a very well done memorial to the Franks and to all of those percecuted by the Holocaust. After that we all went to the Ballet and Opera house to watch what was the best ballet I have ever seen. The cast of La Bayadere was perfect, I honestly didn't see a single flaw. The costumes and make-up were absolutely breath-taking. The building all by itself was really a piece of art. I was amazed to say the least. After the ballet we had to walk back to the train station, so we went the shortest way. We were walking, Anneke and Rick in front of me and my Italian friend when all the sudden the surroundings seemed to get darker. I looked up to the street sign to see "Bloedstraat" which translates to Blood Street. Then I realized exactly where we were: the Red Light district. I couldn't stop laughing. Although me and my Italian friend where terrified, we joke about it all the time.

    My art class and my theatre class have finally started. I love the both of them so much. In art we are doing sculptures and I am very excited to start mine today. Also, we are doing a play in my theatre class that I once saw on Broadway and absolutely fell in love with. I am so excited for that as well.

    I never would have thought that this is what would happen in my exchange, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    It's almost been three months since I arrived in the Netherlands. I can't even begin to believe that it's been that long. It feels like yesterday that I hoped on a plane to Amsterdam with dreams and fears in my eyes.

    Since my last journal I have traveled to what seems like every corner of the Earth. I went on a day trip to Germany about a month ago. It was only a 30 minute drive! My host dad and I went to Bocholt, Germany together on a sunny day. Getting in seemed too easy; there was no border control between the Netherlands and Germany at all! Despite how close we were to the Netherlands, it seemed as though we had stepped into a new universe. Everything was different, from the architecture to the way people walked, there were few simularities. My host dad and I just walked around the city and explored the shops and old churches. I also ate the German Currywurst which was amazing. It's like a bratwurst but with curry sauce on it. 

    I also went on a trip with my school to England! We stayed in a little farm house in Settle, Yorkshire. I had always wanted to go to England, and it was really cool getting to do some things that I normally wouldn't be able to do. For example, we got to spend a day in a British school. It was very interesting to see how different the British school system was from the Dutch or American school system. We also went to the Manchester United stadium. Soccer is such a big deal in Europe so I was glad to have gotten an inside look on how things work within the sport. Although we didn't get to go to London, I loved the trip none the less. The north part of England is absolutely breath-taking and I wouldn't trade that trip for the world.

    In addition to these adventures, I finally got to meet all the exchange students. The week after my England trip I had my Rotary Dutch Orientation Course. I had the privilege of meeting students from 17 different countries. At the DOC we had Dutch lessons, learned about the Dutch government, and talked about the culture of the Netherlands. But, of course, the week wasn't just work. We ice skated and went traveled around the area a little. Getting to know some of those exchange students was the best part. I came to be fairly close with a girl from Italy, a girl from Indonesia, and a boy from Peru. It's truly amazing to have friends from everywhere that I would have never met if I hadn't done this exchange.

    Recently I celebrated Halloween with a Canadian family. To be honest, because my favorite holiday is Halloween, I was feeling a little homesick. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air to speak English all night and celebrate something like I would at home. But now I have America out of my system... For now.

    I went to another Rotary meeting today. I'm starting to make connections and it's also really helping my Dutch. My Rotary club is hosting a Santa Run soon. I am helping out and am very excited to be helping and not running. Joking! (Sort of).

    I just can't believe that this year is just flying past! 2016 is ending in two months. I just can't wrap my mind around it. 

    Tomorrow I have my first test in Dutch. Wish me Luck...

  • Rose, outbound to Netherlands

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    I cannot believe that it has been a year since I applied to go on my exchange! Looking back on the moment I decided to do this, I have never made a better choice. When I first applied I never would have imagined it would have such an affect on my life.

    I have been here in the beautiful country of the Netherlands for exactly 6 weeks now. Time is really flying by! So far I have been to Amsterdam and Utrecht, as well as the surronding cities near me in Gelderland. Each city I have visited seems to be living and breathing; each has it's own distinct character. Amserdam was busy yet beautiful. It reminded me of the quote "thirty, flirty, and thriving" from 13 going on 30. Old architecture met new technology and people rushed around from shop to shop. Canals stretched for miles, and there was a new one everytime you turned a corner. Utrecht, on the other hand, had thin streets filled with ice cream stands and quirky little stores. If you looked down into the canals you could see the houses built right next to the water, below where you were walking. Utrecht was a sort of sleepy town despite it's size. Music drifted through the air from live street performers; classical guitar followed you walked from street to street. 

    I now go to school at Staring College in Lochem. School is much different here than in the states. So far I have really enjoyed my time at Staring. The teachers are really very helpful when it comes to homework or tests. Also, my friends are always giving me their help which I am boundlessly thankful for. At school I take normal courses like history, english, dutch, and math. I also take music and drama and art history. The building itself is three stories tall, so I have been trying to get used to the stairs. It makes it much more tiring when I also bike to and from school. Nine miles. Everyday. But at least my leg muscles are toned.

    The food here is amazing, bottom line. Every morning (and lets be honest, I eat it again for a snack almost everyday) I eat bread and butter with hagelslag. Its basically just chocolate sprinkles, but its also so much more than that. I can't explain it but my mouth waters when I think about it. Also, two words: THE CHEESE. I will never be able to eat chedder cheese again. The cheese here is amazing. I have tried some dutch foods like frikandel, stroopwafel, and bitterballen. All of which are amazing in their own ways. Honestly, the only reason I haven't gained my "exchange student 80" yet is because I bike 18 miles. Everyday.

    I have already been to a Rotary meeting. The Rotarians are so kind and thoughtful, they made American food that night for the whole crowd. I can not thank them enough for everything they have already done. 

    This is all I have to report for now! If you are considering exchange, do it. By all means, do it. In just six short weeks my life has changed in ways I never could have imagined. I have met friends that will last me a lifetime. I have been introduced to this whole new world and I am loving every single second of it.

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