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.