Hey! Iím Madison Smith. Iím 17 years old, my favorite color is pink, and Iím a senior at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine FL. I love to dance! Iíve been involved with a singing and dancing group called ShowTime USA for 8 years.
I also dance for the Jacksonville Giants ABA basketball team. Itís very fun to dance for the Giants since there are a lot of fans and you get to perform in front of large audiences. I have the best friends in the world they are all so excited about me having this opportunity, but are also sad I will be gone for so long. I love to hang out with all my friends; going to the beach, downtown to have fun, or to the movies. We also love shopping! I hate scary movies; Iíll have nightmares for weeks!
I have 3 older brothers, Brad and Jeff are twins and theyíre 31, and another brother Josh is 23. I have a 3 year old nephew named Jackson and I love him to death! I sure will miss him while Iím gone!
My mom and dad are very supportive of my journey abroad. I think my momís most excited about being able to come and visit.
I heard the Rotary Youth Exchange presentation at school, 4 times! I knew this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. I went home and told my parents about the program, and come to find out they thought it was a great idea, too! After the first orientation meeting, I was hooked!
I knew that this was just what I should do.
I would like to thank Rotary International for this life changing opportunity, for the opportunity to learn so much, make lifelong friends and to be a great role model for our country!
Iím so excited to get this adventure started!
Madison- Outbound to Belgium
November 1, 2012
So here it is, I've been in belgium for 49 days.
Iíve learned that I'm a horrible packer, I have no clothes for this freezing
weather! (Today was 1 degrees celsiusÖ) How to properly hold my spoon and my
fork, that a lot of words are the same in french as in english, Europeans
love America and American icons, but hate the "American Way." That I miss my
dog, my family, Sunshine, The beach, waves, the smell of the salty air and
the warmth! but I've also learned that I love belgium! the different
culture, the language, the new friends I've made, the chocolate, the close
distance between different countries, the friendliness, and how welcoming
belgians are. Also the way my host dad and real dad are so similar. How my
host sister and i had an automatic "sisterly bond." <3 Wearing cute scarfs,
The cow farm next door and feeding the babies.
But lets rewind to my first few days. I left the safety of my family and
friend, my sweet little town, and my beloved country to arrive in a place
unknown. It was my first plane flight from Jacksonville FL to Philadelphia
PA, alone I might add.. At first I cried a little bit, but my long plane
flight from Philly to brussels Belgium made me feel 10X worse.. an 8 hour
flight felt like 20 and I cried for the majority of the time, not only
because I was leaving everything I've know for 18 1/2 years, but because I
didn't know what to expect once I got there! The food tasted horrible and I
couldn't sleep. Finally, I arrived on August 21, it was overcast. When I
first saw my host mom I went to hug her, she went to bisous (kiss) me on the
cheek. Once I finally realized what she was doing it was too late we were
already walking to the car. Not much was said on the car ride home, due to
them not being able to understand me, and me not being able to understand
them. Once we got home we ate lunch out in the back yard at the picnic
table. I went and tried to unpack and to discover my new house. My neighbors
came over a few hours later to greet me, although they were never nice. I
didn't go to sleep until about 12 that night I had been up for more then 24
hours. The next day my neighbor Dorita, who is my host moms best friend came
over and we went into our cute town named Malmedy. One of the only things I
knew how to say was hot fudge sunday and ham (dame blanche and jambon) so
they took me out for hot fudge sundays, assuming I loved them since I knew
the word. Yes, they were amazing! Over the next few days I tired to become
acclimated to the time and weather and my new surroundings. Finally, I got
to meet the other exchange student, who ended up living next door to me. His
name is Yael, from Mexico. We have become very close, since were the only
ones who understand what itís like. Over then next few weeks my new family
took me to s ee Liege, Luxembourg, and took me to shop for about a straight
week! which of course I didn't mind at all. The exchange students met in
Brussels one weekend and got to see parliament and the beautiful town, and
all the exchangers from so many different countries. After a little bit of
time Yael and I took a trip to Liege at about 6:45 we decided it was time to
catch the train home, we got lost on the way to the station and for some
reason thought our train would still be there once we finally arrived. so we
got on and after a hour of riding (when our destination was only 45) we
realized we didn't recognize anything we saw pass by out of the train
window.. We finally found the train guide and asked where we were headed,
and he replied Berlin GermanyÖ once the shock of heading to a different
country very far from our town set in, we realized we should get off at the
next station. We did and there was not a single person there. So, we called
Yael's mom, a nd she came to the rescue, although she laughed at us the
whole way home. We should have arrived home at 8:00 and instead arrived home
at 10:45, with my first day of school the next day. On my first day of
school it was easy to make friends, a lot easier then I thought it would be,
people just kept coming up to me, even though I wasn't understanding a word
they said. But they were all very nice and welcoming. At 1:00 we had a
"meeting" in the courtyard, it was to announce that Yael and I were at the
school and everyone needed to welcome us very kindly. I didn't know what the
principle was saying but once I heard "the Mexican and American Yael and
Madison!" then everyone one looked at us. The next few weeks went by
quickly. I became acclimated to my school and familyís routine. I love
eating chocolate and Hot tea at 5:00 when I get home from school. I don't
like waking up at 6am to get ready for school though, and having my school
day s 3 hours longer than normal is a little bit rough. I find it strange
how small Belgium is, and how close it is to its surrounding countries yet
people do not travel often. To drive 45 minutes away to the next big town is
a big deal! I think its quite funny, considering we drive 2 hours to Orlando
and drive to Jacksonville all the time and its no big deal. About 2 weeks
ago my Art History class took yael and I to Paris, it was an amazing site to
see! We saw the Eiffel Tower when it was lit up, the louvre museum, The Lock
Bridge, Noter Dame and The Arch of Triumph. The best part of all was that I
saw a man with a Florida Gators sweatshirt on! If you know me you'll
understand why this was such a big deal. Go Gators! The first time I saw
snow was this week, I went outside at about 10pm and thought it was rain
until I realized how white and big the pieces were. If it hadn't of been so
cold I would have stayed out there for ever to watch how pretty it was.
Sunday mornin g I woke up to find it all over the ground. Although I love
seeing the snow, a Florida girl is not cut out for this weather! I will
travel to London to see a friend on Nov. 2nd which I am very excited about!
I went skiing in a fake snow place and it was one of the hardest things i've
ever tried! But I'm going with my host sister and her friend for a week the
day after christmas to the Alps in AustriaÖ Skiing that will be a funny
sight for everyone to see! My host family is taking me to poland to see
Auschwitz, since I find it very interesting, and I will also go to Italy
with my Rotary here for 11 days along with a bunch of other students in
Rotary. Needless to say I now love to travel! I can't wait to see what my
upcoming months have to offer! J'aime la Belgique