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From Belgium to Flora

By: Samantha Limbos

When I filled in the papers to participate in the Exchange Students program, I truly wanted to end up in a small town; I wanted to experience a different lifestyle since I come from a capital city, and mostly, I wanted to experience what I thought of as being the real American life.

When I received my host family, I was excited to discover where I would live for a year. But when I saw my house, I saw a house in the middle of nowhere with cornfields and woods all around it. I am not going to lie – I was scared; scared of being far from everything, from the friends I will make, from the shops, scared to see that everything was really going to happen. I remember asking myself, “Sam, why are you doing this?”

Seven months later, I was on a plane, ready to live one of the best experience of my life.

When I arrived in Flora, I wasn’t scared anymore. I was excited to see what this town had for me. The first day of school was probably the scariest day of my life. I was in a new town, in a new country thousands of miles away from my home. But the scariest thing was that I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t speak the language. I was thinking about all my friends still on vacation, enjoying the sun at the beach and getting ready to start university. I thought that I would regret coming here because I would miss my first year at university with all my best friends. Then I remembered that university could wait, that I would start the next year and experience the exact same things as my friends did while I was in the USA. But what I was living here, none of them would ever live it.

The thing that surprised me probably the most was that everybody was talking to everybody. Since everyone changes class every hour, it is easy to talk and to meet a lot of people. In my school, we had approximately 3000 students with 1,400 students only in the French section. In Belgium, students don’t see new classmates every hour since you all have the same classes, you choose an option in 7th grade and everybody in this option has the same schedule and the same classes, so it’s harder to make friends, I think, if you’re new.  

The first day, a lot of people grabbed me in the hallways and asked me if I was an exchange student, what was my name, and all the basic questions. I thought it was really nice since I was stressed and scared.

Another thing that surprised me was the fact that the students have a really good relationship with the teachers. They talk about what they did during the weekend together, about their life, make jokes with them. In Belgium, you only know your teachers’ last names and that’s maybe it. You can have a good relationship with some of them, but most of them are just there to make you smarter, not to socialize with you. Also, the teachers change classrooms every hour and not the students, and when another faculty member enters in your classroom, the students have to stand up as a mark of respect. I definitely think that my school in Belgium was “hell” compared to Flora, aha! Once I saw Mr. Peace going through the hallways on a hoverboard, and I remember wondering if this was serious or if I was dreaming. Here the school is so chill that my friends in Belgium tell me that it’s every day a pajama party at school!

Since I’m a teenager and able to travel on my own, I always told myself that I would never stay in Brussels for the rest of my life and that I wanted to discover the world. Now that I’m here, I realize that I miss Brussels so much and that I don’t see myself living anywhere else. Of course, I still want to travel as much as I can, but I think I would always want to come back home after a little while. I never thought I could miss absolutely everything about Brussels: my friends, my habits, the places I go eating and even my high school. What I miss the most is my independence. I can drive in Belgium, I can take a bus or a tramway whenever I want, and I don’t necessarily need to ask my dad. Here, I always need to depend on someone to bring me somewhere, and I always need to ask before, which is a big change for me. I also miss just walking in the city with my friends, without knowing where I am going and ending up in a cafe, in a park or just ending up shopping for the fiftieth time of the week. Actually, I just miss the city lifestyle, even if I love the small town lifestyle.

In 6 months here, I did things that I never thought I would do in my life. I woke up at 4 A.M. to go hunting with my host cousin, I dressed like a country girl, I went to DQ at 9:50 just to get an Oreo blizzard, I cheered for my school (in Belgium we don’t have  school spirit at all, since we don’t have school teams), I went to school dressed like an old woman and so many other kinds of stuff that I am so glad I experienced here.

Even if I look forward to returning to my country, I am a little bit scared. First, because I know that when I am leaving Flora, it means that my exchange year is officially over and that I don’t know when I will come back. I am also scared to see how my relationship with my friends has changed. I know that distance reveals true friends, so I wonder how our relationships will be when I return . Most of all because I left my life in Belgium for a year, and when I come back I will continue it where I left, but my friends just kept living their lives without me in it. I am scared to come back and see everything has changed. But even if everything is different when I return, I know it was worth it and I will never regret it.

When I get back to Belgium, I will definitely miss all my friends here and my host family. I couldn’t have imagined that I would meet such fantastic people. It may seem surprising, but I also will miss high school and my teachers. High school here is so much fun, for me who came from a relatively strict high school, and the teachers really care about you and your life. I’m also going to miss the triple chocolate brownie from DQ since we don’t have DQ in Europe, and the Mexican restaurant. A lot of people can eat there only twice or three times a month, but I don’t understand why becasue it’s so good! Basketball games and watching my friends cheering are activities that I will miss a lot too. Actually, I’m just going to miss my life here in general. But I also look forward to getting back to my hometown to go on vacation with my dad and sisters, go get a drink with some friends late at night in town and just watch the sunset after. I just hope to get all my little habits back.

Posted by on February 22, 2019. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.