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.