Katie, Outbound to Netherlands

Let me begin by saying I apologize for how long I’ve gone without writing a new journal, I’ve been insanely busy the last few months since my last journal. But I am ready to tell you all about my past few months, so settle in, get ready, indulge yourself in some popcorn, because this will be a lot to read.

Now, the last time I made an update about my exchange was January 3, 2018, the day I moved to my second host family. The Van Doorlemolen’s. Leaving my first host family was very hard for me, I made such a connection with them that they started to feel like my real family, and sometimes it sounds very weird to say but I sometimes found myself calling my host parents “mom” and “dad”, but that’s exactly how they felt to me. I had so many wonderful memories within my first host family, and it felt like my real family. Plus, moving to my second host family meant that I was halfway through my exchange and that’s sometime that scared me so much because at the time I couldn’t even begin to think of this year ending. When it was time for me to leave my first host family, I was crying my eyes out, it was like I was leaving Florida to go on exchange all over again. At the same time though, I was excited to get to know my second host family more, and they instantly took me in and made me feel super comfortable. Little did I know at the time, that I would slowly grow to love this host family as much as I loved my first host family. I was only there a few days before I left for a Rotary event, a swim marathon for Shelterbox! I was in 3rd place for swimming the most laps, and we raised a lot of money for shelterbox that way. Then when I got home to my host family, the next day I ended up getting the stomach flu! Ahhhh, it sucked so bad, I was between the bed and the toilet for 3-4 days at least. I couldn’t go to school at all that week because of how badly sick I was. Funny thing was, my host family and I joked about how I had only lived there with then a few days now and my gift to them was the stomach flu… yep, I ended up passing the stomach flu to my entire host family. Whoops… then later on I also ended up with just the flu. I’m glad they were there though, it sucked a lot because I stayed in my room a lot at the beginning because I was so sick all of the time with them and I didn’t want to get everyone else sick. Safe to say, that after January I wasn’t too sick anymore.

January 14, my Rotary club had a huge get together for New Years, it was super nice to see everyone, but really I was just excited to see my first host dad since it had been two weeks since I had seen him. We implemented a thing when I changed host family that I couldn’t see or talk to my first host family for a while since it was so hard for me to switch, which helped with me getting used to my second host family, aside from me being sick so much. My host dad and I planned that the next weekend I could come over and have dinner with them and stay the weekend! Before that Friday, I got to know my second host family a lot more, we sat one night and looked at baby pictures the entire night laughing at old videos and pictures. Silke (my older host sister) and I were sending pictures of them as kids to her sister on exchange in Illinois. Then came along that Friday, when I walked in I saw my old dog, Welsie, she was so happy when she saw me, that she ended up peeing on the ground! Now everytime since I go to see Welsie she whines and pees on the floor because she’s so happy to see me again but also so sad that she hasn’t seen me in a while. I love Welsie. But once I walked in that Friday, my host brother, Wessel, instantly said “Oh no” and we laughed at that while I cleaned up Welsie’s mess. We all sat down and played monopoly together, and of course Wessel won the game, but I sold all my stuff and technically lost the game but still claimed that I won by being the first one out. It was such a nice feeling being back there, it was like I had never really left and we just picked up where we left off and talked about the past few weeks.

In February there is a holiday that is very popular in the South of the Netherlands called “Carnaval” where people dress up like it’s Halloween and stay up for days on end dancing to some of the worse music in the world, but to be honest I really like carnaval music, it’s my favorite.

It ended up being so cold around the end of February that we were able to ice skate on natural ice, it was so cool! But also, insanely cold.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to move to my third and final host family. Ruiter-Journee. It was different this time switching host families, I didn’t cry this time, and I went and visited my first host family the same day I moved because it was my host mom’s birthday. Then later that week my mom and brother were here to visit me! It was super cool but also very weird to have them here. Together we went to Belgium together, and explored Brussels for a day before returning to their hotel and later that week, they came all the way from Amsterdam, to a tiny area in overijssel called Wijhe. The day started with us arriving at Wijhe station and getting picked up by my first host dad who took us around the village for a while and then to his house to show my rooms and to my second host families house to see where I lived and then we arrived to my third host families house to be greeted by everyone there. My mom and brother met all of my host families, my counselor, and inbound coordinator. It was a very traditional Dutch night with the food, and my mom said her grandfather made food like stampot and I found out that I actually have some Dutch in me! The entire night was very nice, everyone got to meet and talk with my mom and I got to chat which a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a while. My mom even brought gifts for everyone and said thank you to everyone for hosting me. Then I took them back to the hotel so I could see them off in the morning.

In the past months I’ve gotten to explore more cities in depth like Zwolle, Deventer, Maastricht, and Leeuwarden. All of these places are so uniquely beautiful, I hope I get many more chances before I leave to go explore these places a few more times before I leave.

My third host mom took me and my little host sister to see The Lion King – Live! Of course, I cried when mufasa died and my host mom couldn’t stop laughing at me for that. I also went to the Keukenhof with my third host family and we definitely took way too many pictures of flowers that day, but it was a lot of fun. My host dad and I have even started training to bike from Maastricht to Groningen, basically the bottom to the top of the Netherlands. That’s 217 miles! We plan on being able to bike it within two days… wish us luck!

Then came along a very big day in the Netherlands: Koningsdag, Kingsday in English and it’s a celebration for the king’s birthday! The entire country is dressed up in orange and out in the streets celebrating. It was an amazing day of just celebration, we met up with a lot of exchanges students that day and explored Amsterdam, we saw so many markets and people playing instruments and so many different shades of orange that day. We ended the day with pizza and when we were done eating everyone had left Amsterdam and kingsday was over.

Now, here we are today. A week before I go on eurotour, and I’m sure I’ll be writing another blog post after those two weeks of pure exploration around Europe with exchange students. There is one thing I have to say about this part of my exchange right now. I guess you could call it “homesickness” (?) but I’m not entirely sure that is what it is, but here let me explain it. On one side of it all, I’m very excited and ready to go home to see family and friends that I haven’t seen for almost a year, but at the same time I don’t want exchange to end and I don’t want to leave my new home. I know that everyone back in Florida I was going to see again, but with everyone here in Holland, I never know the next time I’ll see them, and I guess you could say that’s something that deeply scares me since I love it here and love everyone I’ve met this year. This is definitely so far been one of the hardest years of my life, but it is also just the beginning of my many adventures in life that I’m going to take and go on. To exchange students who are about to go on exchange or thinking about becoming an exchange student, cherish every moment you get, not only on exchange but also day-to-day life because we’ll never be as young as we are now or as old as we are now, and life is so short, but time goes so fast that we have to live for every moment we get. So don’t you dare waste one!

Tot de volgende keer iedereen. Ik hoop dat jullie hebben deze journaal leuk gevonden! En voor mijn andere hollanders, ben ik te vak van mijn fiets gevallen... grappig hé?!

Doeeeeei! Katie

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