2005-06 Inbound from Belgium
Date of Birth: August 7, 1987
Hometown: Neupre, Belgium
Sponsor: Seraing Rotary Club, District 1630,
Host: Southpoint Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida USA
School: Bartram Trail High School
September 3 Journal - "We were speaking
about what's difficult here and we have got the same problem with the
conditioned air! It's crazy! It's so HOT outside, and so FREEZING inside!"
October 29 Journal - "When I decided
to be an exchange student, I knew that it would be a cultural, funny,
incredible year. But actually, this is an adventurous emotional journey!"
January 21 Journal and Pictures - "I
just can’t accept the idea that this year has to end. Why can’t you live
your whole life as exchange student? I know that it is not possible, but
if I could, I would do it again."
May 8 Journal and Pictures - "I don’t
really care about what I’m doing during the day, as long as I enjoy every
day. I am not in a hurry. I don’t freak out anymore. I live one day at a
July 6 Journal - "It isn’t about
language or culture, it isn’t about a way of life or a mentality, it isn’t
about me or you either. It is about everything. It is about a life
|Hello! I'm Amelie from Belgium. I'm eighteen and I like
the theatre (acting, but also this crazy world!), playing basketball, soccer and
a lot of other sports, reading too.
To come here, in the United States, was a dream that I've
had for a long time. Often people asked me why. What could I answer? Just
that I wanted to see this nation by myself! It was a dream, it's now the
reality... so it's possible!
3 weeks ago, I arrived here. And since this date, I've
already lived some of the best experiences in my life! I've learned more
about this new environment, this new culture, this new way of life, and
about myself too than I would have ever expected! Only 3 weeks but already a
So... see you soon!
September 3 Journal
|40 days here... it's
incredible! Honestly, I only begin to
believe it! I've got the impression that it was so long... and so short at the
same time!! One second or the eternity! These are some of the most important
experiences that I've lived here...
The travel! With Carole, the other Belgian exchange
student, we passed at least 16 hours in the airports... that means that we
were awfully tired when we arrived, but what a relief when we have seen our
host families at the Jacksonville airport! Some flowers, a lot of hugs... So
sweet! The 10 first days, I was on vacation. Moving every time, doing so
many things... busy busy busy! With my host parents, we have really learned
to know each other! And as my parents (real) say: "You seem in some good
hands!". Exactly! I love them so much. Thanks to them, this difficult part
has been wonderful! It was so good, not to have the time to think about all
these persons that I had left! I know that they helped me a lot to keep
quiet, far from my little lovely Belgium.
To be honest, the hardest day has been my first day at
school (actually, the whole first week was awful!), I've had so many
problems with my schedule and all these stupid administrative things... when
I came back home, after the first day, I really thought "What the hell am I
doing here?"! But no problem, I perfectly knew that it was just a bad
moment, without any importance compared with this happiness all around me!
During my orientation weekend in Belgium, the responsibles
told us 1000 times: "ADAPT YOURSELF"! So it's what I did!
School & friends: knowing that I haven't had some real
homework for 3 years in my Belgian school, it has been very difficult for me
to accept all this stuff. After 4 weeks, I'm finally able to do everything!
It can look stupid, but it was a real challenge for me! The other big issue
at school was "How to meet some new persons, and have some friends?". The
answer: Smile! Every time SMILE! Consequence: now, everybody tells me hello
in the halls between the classes and I'm feeling so good about myself!
Bowling, beach, football game, clubs, swing dance... YES! I want to go, I
want to see, I want to live it!
Church: In Belgium, I never went to the church... here,
every Sunday morning and, moreover, Dana (the exchange student from
Argentina) & I go to the Youth Church's meetings! So, 2 times more each
week! And even if I'm not especially religious, I love it!
The conditioned air: With Carole, we were speaking about
what's difficult here and we have got the same problem with the conditioned
air! It's crazy! It's so HOT outside, and so FREEZING inside! So even if we
are in warm Florida, we always need a pullover or a jacket! Crazy!
The best time was, without any hesitation, the Orientation
Weekend with all the other Inbounds! Just being together, having fun with
some persons who live the same experience as you, who know what you feel...
So sweet... and just FREAKY AWESOME! (Editor's note: see Amélie's
pictures in the Inbound Photo Album!)
Adapt yourself... actually, it's even more! Some things
that I found rather crazy a few weeks ago look perfectly normal now! "Fill
it up", of course; a 16 year old teenager drives, usual (in Belgium, you
have to be 18); speaking English... without any problem... (except when I
listen to some French music at the same time!)!!
I enjoy this experience, I live it as much as I can, and I
give everything I have! Sometimes, I miss my little Belgium, sure, but I'm
here, and I love it! Thank you so much for permitting me to live (and love)
this exchange student's life! I love y'all!
October 29 Journal
3 months, 3 months !! That sounds crazy! Some days, I just
wake me up and I ask myself why things look different... probably because
they are different! Every day, I try somehow or other to keep my eyes & my
mind opened. A lot of things look usual in this new American daily life, but
each experience, each discovery, each meeting brings me something different!
These last 2 months, I've lived plenty of wonderful,
crazy, funny or stressing experiences... First of all, the exchange
students' organizations: little one day trip with Dana & Carole at
Fernandina Beach, Jose's lovely town where we have spent a great day
shopping & profiting of the beach; cooking of a Belgian meal for Carole's
host family, mine, & Al and Sue Kalter (the hardest part was to find all the
ingredients... & even if we are not the best cooks in the Belgian world, I
really think that everybody had a great time!); and, lately, Fall Outing at
DeLeon Springs Park with (almost) everybody (what a great pleasure to see
everybody again...). Secondly, the Floridian American life: Gators' game,
Jaguars' game, beach's trips, homecoming (the craziest week I've ever spent
at school!)... Thirdly, the student life: homework, oversleeping, rebellion
attempts in French class (not successful!)... To be an exchange student is
full time work!
When I decided to be an exchange student, I knew that it
would be a cultural, funny, incredible year. But actually, this is an
adventurous emotional journey! While I was living my little Belgian life, I
perfectly knew what was my past, my present, and my future. No real
surprise, just a constant daily life, a reassuring boring routine. Here,
without my family & friends, my emotions are constantly on a up and down
road. I have to be aware that if I'm crazily happy, my state of mind can
radically change & I can be in a very bad mood in few minutes. Exchange
student's life is like an emotional rollercoaster. Up and down, quick and
slow, laughs and tears. We can do nothing against that. Homesickness is
always stronger than us. Homesickness... if you could imagine how much I
hate this word! In a conversation, it sounds good... when you live it, it's
another song! It is a part of the exchange, we thought that we knew what it
would be... I was far from what it really is.
When I decided to be an exchange student, I knew that it
would be a hard, but wonderful year. Now that I'm an exchange student, I
know that it is even harder & more wonderful that I expected. This
experience is "just" the greatest thing I've ever lived. No doubts, no
regrets. So, two words that I'll never say enough: Thank You.
January 21 Journal and Pictures
|Hello everybody !!
No way!! I am the worst exchange student concerning this
Rotary journal! I haven’t sent one for almost 3 months! Incredible but
true!! During these 3 months… many things happened… and I’ve decided to tell
you everything! So get ready for a long story…
3 months as exchange student, or when you can hardly
recognize your own life!
First of all, Halloween!!! Just one word: woww!! I
was very proud of my costume, designed in 3 minutes: Belgian Rotary Queen!!!
Wearing my Rotary jacket, a soccer supporter’s hat and the Belgian flag as
cloak! That was just great!! In 2 hours, I got more candies than I could
ever eat! Moreover, I should probably mention that I don’t really like
candies… so that was way too much!! I had seen Halloween in Belgium for a
few years but it was nothing compared to this craziness that fills every
house during one night (and the week before). That was really sweet to hear
the little kids screaming “Trick or treat”, that was so cute!
Few days later, the 4th of November, I moved to my
second host family, Cynde & Barry Covington. I was completely lost.
Packing everything again… that was like going back to the beginning of the
year (with a little bit less difficulties for the language and the culture).
I know that it is a part of the experience, but if I can, I won’t live it
anymore. Fortunately, Cynde & Barry proposed me to stay at their house until
the end. I accepted. Saved!!
The following weekend, from the 10th to the 13th, Ms.
Hernandez (who is a Spanish teacher at school) invited Dana and I to
spend few days at her house with her. Dana and I were both very surprised,
because usually, the teachers don’t invite their students to sleep over… do
they?? The relationship between teacher and student is way more personal in
here. Many times, I’ve heard students telling a teacher “I love you”, and
hugging him/her. That is so weird!!! Every time I see it, I’m really
surprised… and kind of disturbed!! Actually, I like it a lot. I’m not really
able to do it, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to, my culture and
education forbid it, but it gives a little bit more feelings to school.
That’s really cool!! Anyway… Ms. Hernandez drove us to St. Augustine.
What a gorgeous city!!! We walked by the little shops, laughed, danced in
the street… just enjoyed the old city! We had a great time. Ms. Hernandez
had invited us to allow us to breathe a little bit, to escape few days from
our host families! We all know that, even if our host family is really
great, it’s still difficult some days. That is the same with our real family
actually! Everybody needs space some days…
The 14th, on Monday, I talked to my French teacher to know
if I could stop French and take Spanish. It wasn’t because I disliked
my class or anything like that, it was just really boring. My English
getting better and better, I didn’t need this French help anymore! Spanish
would be a useful and interesting class to take! Meeting all the exchange
students, it opened my mind to all these languages, all the cultures… all
these things that I don’t know! I want to fill this lack! 1st step:
Spanish!! Thanks to my former French teacher’s help, my new Spanish
teacher’s approval and the Guidance office’s kindness, the 16th, I had moved
from one class to another! This first day, I couldn’t understand anything!!
But since, I improved myself a little bit and Spanish doesn’t sound weird
anymore, just strange!! ;-) I have this feeling that I began Spanish
yesterday. I remember it so well! It looks like the three last months went
by so fast…
At the end of November, everybody was ready for
Thanksgiving… I imagined a big party, with the whole family and way too
much food. It is exactly what happened. Except that the whole family wasn’t
really big. We were 6! I personally have 20 uncles and aunts, and 33 cousins
(some married, with children) in Belgium. It means that, when we receive 20
people, I think that it is not a lot. It means that I was really lost at
Thanksgiving! We had so much space at the table. For the first time in my
life, I didn’t hit the person next to me while I was cutting the meat!!!
Isn’t great??? So… concerning family, I was partly wrong. Concerning the
food: I certainly wasn’t! So much food!!! Of course, we had a traditional
fried turkey!! But the best was sweet potatoes with marshmallows… Pretty
disgusting when you think about it, but absolutely delicious! Everybody
Finally… it was the 1st of December. 1st of December…
which means: DISNEY WORLD!!! What an awesome weekend!! Once I
entered, I couldn’t stop smiling anymore! Everything is so pretty, perfect,
happy! Every nervous breakdown could be cured at Disney World! It is not
possible not to be happy in it!!
Thursday - MGM Studios: Great shows, great rides!! That was a fun day, and
the show at night was really impressive!!
Friday – Magic Kingdom: THE park that everybody knows! My impression is that
it is too perfect, too pink and purple… but it is the perfect park for young
kids, and that is a great tradition… “An American tradition since 1971” ;-)
Saturday – Epcot: I was really excited to see all the different cultures.
Being with all the exchange students, we could “check” that it was true!!
That was a lot of fun!! The show at night was absolutely gorgeous! Each
one of us comes from another country. We don’t think the same way; we don’t
act the same way. Sometimes, our differences become oppositions. But in
front of this show, with this message of peace, this universal understanding
was being sung, we were crying together. Tears were rolling. Hugs were being
given. Tears and hugs have no nationality and no language. We all are from
the same world!
Sunday – Animal Kingdom: a little bit of green after all this “pinky pink”!!
That was a real relief to spend one day in a more “natural” world! And it
was already the end of this weekend! Without knowing it, everybody was
leaving. Without knowing it, we left a magic world.
The 6th of December is a very special day in Belgium. This
day, Saint-Nicolas brings some gifts and candies to the good kids
(this is our “Santa”; at Christmas, we give presents to one another, but
there is no “Santa” bringing some; but we still know him… I wonder why??). I
had told my host parents about this tradition. Explaining that, the night of
the 5th, we had to put a glass of wine for Saint-Nicolas, and some food to
feed his donkey. The 6th, around 6:30 (what is way too early for me,
especially after Disney World), my host mom wakes me up and tells me that
they really have to talk to me about something, that there is a big problem.
I was thinking: “What?? What did I do??”. I’m not an angel, but I couldn’t
remember having done anything explaining the fact to be scolded so early in
the morning! Hardly awake, I go painfully to the kitchen, where both my host
dad and mom were waiting for me. Here is the little “conversation” that
followed (I wasn’t very talkative…):
-Amelie, we had told you that you couldn’t drink alcohol.
(-What? What are they talking about?? Which alcohol? --- I didn’t say it,
but my face was very expressive…---)
-Look, there is an empty glass of wine, and none of us drank it. So it has
to be you.
(-What??? --- I was completely lost…---)
-Moreover, there is a note in French just in front of it: “Merci pour le vin
et les mandarines. Saint-Nicolas” (Thanks for the wine and the tangerines.
Finally, I understood what it was all about! Looking up, I saw on a table:
gifts and candies!! Saint-Nicolas had traveled to Florida, just for me! ;-)
Seriously, my host parents had run all over Jacksonville to find all kinds
of Belgian chocolate! Moreover, they had hidden a box that my real parents
(alias Saint-Nicolas) had sent to me for this day! Thanks to the amount of
chocolate that they gave me, all my friends have known its great taste all
December long!! :-D
That was such a great surprise!! Thank you Cynde and Barry! I love you!
The 10th of December, Jeff Edwards, a member of South Jax
Rotary Club, had invited Gulten, Dana & I to fly with him above
Jacksonville! We flew to Deland to observe some parachutists. We have been
able to observe Jacksonville downtown, the St. Johns River, St. Augustine,
the beaches… or at least when we were not practicing our “Tummy tickling”!!
Thank you so much Jeff, that was such a great opportunity that you gave us!
Now, it’s time to talk about the worst time I’ve
had since I’ve been here. Christmas and the holidays got me. It began around
the 12th of December, the day I finished the semester. It went until the
22nd, when I finally told myself that it was time to react. I had depressed
enough for the month! (Of course, I wasn’t all happiness the following days,
but at least I had decided to improve!!) During these 10 days, I wasn’t
staying in my room all the day long, but I didn’t enjoy this experience as
much as I should have done. It began because of the Christmas lights; all
these lights, all this happiness all around. Shopping, decoration, and
family… it pushed me down. Because of homesickness, I was constantly in a
bad mood. It wasn’t easy to deal with me during these days!! It wasn’t that
I was bad in here, I was just thinking a little bit too much about over
there… where my heart is. Now, I kind of regret these days. I regret because
I lost 10 days. But at the same time, that was another kind of experience.
Every day is not perfect. Some have to be harder… otherwise, how would we
recognize a good one?? There is no Good without Bad, no Heaven without
MERRY CHRISTMAS… (=> JOYEUX NOEL…) The 24th,
Southpoint Rotary club’s president, Clark Vargas, invited my host parents
and me to his Christmas party, with family and friends. It was really a nice
party!! The 25th, we all gave each other gifts. I got some from persons that
I hardly knew, and it was so nice… because I really felt that I had a place
here, that I wasn’t alone.
… and HAPPY NEW YEAR ! (=> et BONNE ANNEE !) With
all the exchange students, we were in the Gator Bowl Parade!! Wearing our
jackets (which get more pins every time we see each other!!), carrying our
flags! That was so great. We looked absolutely terrific! Moreover, Jose and
I got interviewed! I was very stressed but it was ok actually! Few people
from school saw me on TV… they are very excited about it, they think that it
is really great… Yeah! ;-). After the parade, we got our New Year’s party!
That was so cool!! We danced, sang, hugged… just enjoyed this special day!
Have any of you thought that, for the first time of our life, we all passed
from one year to another at the same hour!? It’s just a thought that I got
during the party! Welcome to 2006! Thank you, Ms and Mr Harrington for
having shared your house with us!! Thank you so much!
The 7th and 8th of January, a dozen of us helped at the
interviews of the maybe future youth exchange students, outbounds 06-07
from District 6970. Actually, we just had to entertain the parents. There
were no dances or songs, but I think that they still enjoyed our company.
They asked us questions about our countries, our experience or about us. All
together, we tried to give them a good idea of what it was to have been an
exchange student for 5 months and a half. Were they confident or scared that
their child becomes a little bit like us, I couldn’t say; but I’m sure that
they understood what it was all about. It is all about a unique experience.
Lately, from the 13th to the 16th, I went on a ski trip
with church. That was really a lot of fun. When I came back, I was
thinking that it was normal to come back “home” in Florida. My new home is
in Florida. I still have my Belgian one, but for few months, I’m belonging
to this place.
Few little things are new in my daily life…
I stopped biting my nails and eating my fingers!! I think
I had tried to one hundred times at least but I had never reached my aim!
This time, I did it, thanks to… manicures!! My host mom made me discover the
pleasure to have pretty nails, painted and everything! I quit!! That is a
miracle!! I’m trying to have brown hair, and not red anymore! And I don’t
intend to braid it!! I replay tennis! I’m currently conditioning and work
(kind of) hard to be in the team!! I used to play, but stopped 3 years ago.
Now, I’m more motivated than ever before! I just want to play… and win!! I
began Keyboard (“piano”) at school. Learning to play piano was something
that I had ever wanted to do, but I had never found the time… now, I can
take it at school! Isn’t it great?? I’m interning at the Guidance office in
3rd period. I walk all around school, delivering papers, I learn about the
system… At the beginning of the school year, I used to go there when I had
any question. As the counselors finally knew me pretty good, they proposed
to take an internship. I’m so happy to do it!
Lately, I’ve had to take many decisions concerning the
end (I hate saying this word!) of the year, and the following years
of my life. First of all, I decided to do 2 Rotary trips during this year :
the first one is in March (Eastern Adventure Tour) we will to Washington DC,
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Niagara Falls… I’m sooo excited!! I’m
looking forward to see all these places and to meet even more exchange
students!! The second one will be at the end of June (Western Adventure
Tour). We will go to Salt Lake city, Reno, San Francisco, Yellowstone,
Yosemite, Grand Canyon… I can hardly imagine that it is possible to see so
many things in a year! It is like living a dream of a year!! Next, I have to
decide what I’ll study next year at University. Before coming here, I was
completely lost… no way to decide! Now… I’m still not sure. If I had to pick
something now, I would say Sociology. But there are so many other things
that I could do… I have no clue! Hopefully, when I go back to Belgium, I
will be rid of the fog that prevents me to see what’s my destiny. Waiting
for that… do you have any suggestion?? Please send me your advice if you
have any… A piece of advice is useful in all circumstances!
That was hard to think about next year, but I had to do
it. I just can’t accept the idea that this year has to end. Why can’t you
live your whole life as exchange student? I know that it is not possible,
but if I could, I would do it again… at least once.
I’ll miss every single part of what makes this
experience so wonderful. I’ll miss both good and bad days. I hope it will
I love y’all!
No day but today
May 8 Journal and Pictures
Here we are… after more than 3 months of silence, I’ve
finally decided to write this journal. Actually, I have to be honest with
y’all, and with myself. I am not such a wonderfully “on time” person as I
would love to be. Every morning, I’m 5 minutes late. Even when I wake up
earlier, I’m late. And, bigger problem, I’m a last minute person! Give me a
deadline, I will work or study the last day. I might know that I should do
it before… I won’t! I will tell myself “Ho boy, I can do it tomorrow… or
next week !” Was I already like this coming here ? Or is it new ? I’ll
answer at the end of this journal if you don’t mind.
I just picked up my
agenda… and these 3 months are worth to be told! It is time to begin… 3 –
2- 1 – GO !!
At the end of January,
from the 26th to the 29th, all the exchange students
from district 6970 (except Jose, of, almost all of us!), the exchange
students from South Florida, West Florida, and a bunch of American Students
from South Florida and Michigan met in the Keys for an incredible
“International Weekend”, for this Sea Camp in the Florida Keys
!! During 4 days, we got to learn about our oceans: the way it works, what
does matter, and how to preserve it. Good for us, we weren’t stuck inside of
buildings most of the time! For the first time in my life, I got the
opportunity to snorkel… and you know where?? In the Keys!!! Gosh… it was so
cool! More than just learning about our environment, we got to meet all
those people. Each one of them is unique. I would have loved to have more
time to get to know each other better because once again, these 4 days
seemed way too short !!
The following weekend,
the 4th and 5th of February, I got to snorkel for the
second time in my life… with manatees! Those big animals are so cute!
At least, they are cute as long as they don’t swim right at you! In that
case, they are pretty scary! Anyway… My host parents, Gulten and I really
The 11th of
February, I attended the first orientation of the Outbounds 06-07!
Once again, all us Inbounds heard the same rules, quite the same stories…
and sometimes, in the middle, we caught a new piece of information! I don’t
believe that any of us (Inbounds) went there to listen to the program. I
simply believe that we wanted to be there to be together, and to relive what
we have all lived last year, in our home country. I often remember my
unique orientation weekend in Belgium: a lot of talking… and a lot of inside
thoughts! I had a lot of hope. I was trying to imagine this year. I was
looking at those rebounds (=Rotex) and even if they were just one year older
than we were, they looked so different. I begin to understand now. I think I
look a lot more like them now…
From the 17th
to the 20th of February, my host parents and I traveled to
Charleston, SC. I completely
fell in love with this city! It is full of life, absolutely gorgeous, of
historical importance… and simply unique! In four days, we got to walk the
streets, observe and visit few architectural wonders, “tourist”-shopping,
visit an old Southern Plantation, enjoy the craft work from the area… and
eat a lot of excellent food! I simply loved it. It is one of my favorite
city in the US so far… and I have seen quite a lot actually!
Anyway, the funniest thing was that we
were staying at a place located 1 hour far from Charleston downtown. Even
when I think about it, it doesn’t sound that bad, an hour drive… ok. Not too
bad… but when I think that this hour, it is like driving from Liege (my home
town) to Brussels… what means crossing half of Belgium… I just think that
y’all Americans are some very interesting ( = weird ;-)) people with a crazy
way to look at distances! Haaa those Americans! Just kidding! It really
seems longer when I think the Belgian way. Here, I believe it is absolutely
normal! Bizarre, isn’t it?
On the way back, we
stopped at Beaufort and Savannah, two other absolutely charming towns! That
was a great weekend… no bad things to say about it!
The following Friday,
Southpoint RC’s president, Clark Vargas, invited me to shoot clays
with him and a few other Rotarians. I was really apprehending this shooting
thing. Actually, it is really fun… or it becomes fun once you have exploded
one! You just want to hit another one! At least, it is just a sport like
another! Kind of…
February has been very intense for me. I was very busy and was having fun
experiencing a lot of different stuff… More than all those busy weekends, I
saw a Broadway show (Hairspray) with Gulten, went to the movie
and the mall like everybody, got 2 singing Valentines on
Valentine’s day and so on. An incredible time. Yeah sure, but at the
same time, I wasn’t incredibly happy. I was dealing with a big homesickness
and everything was just looking like going wrong. For example, I learned
that I wasn’t allowed to play in the tennis team because of a (stupid) state
rule or so. When I think about it now, it doesn’t really matter anymore, but
it deeply affected my state of mind during few weeks.
Actually, I simply
needed a pause. I had to deal with too many things. I couldn’t stand it all
anymore. I needed a pause… this pause came on time.
From the 3rd
to the 13th of March, I went on the Eastern Adventure Tour
with 104 other exchange students from all around the US. Dana, Gulten, Nard,
Gabi and Julie were on this trip too. The 3rd, we flew to
Columbus, OH. Over night, we stayed with Carol and Al Forsythe. They
wonderfully hosted us! That first night, they took us to a Turkish
restaurant! You should have seen Gulten’s face! :-D Having hosted 7 exchange
students in the past, they knew how to deal with us all! The 4th,
we finally met all the new exchange students… and drove to Washington DC.
The 4th and 5th: Washington DC. The 6th:
Philadelphia. The 7th and 8th: New York City. The 9th
and 10th: Boston. The 11th and 12th: drive
to Niagara Falls. One word: AMAZING ! (Even better than the Amazing
Race… yeah, I know, it isn’t funny! What do you want… Belgian humor! Only
French people might understand!;-)) In 10 days, some of my biggest dreams
came true. I had dreamed about all those places plenty of time. They had
always seemed out of reach. And I was there. Even now, I hardly believe it.
The 12th at
night, we were back at the Forsythe’s. They tried to cook a Belgian dish!
They kind of changed the recipe actually, but when I saw it, I perfectly
knew that it was something that I had already seen somewhere… I will
never thank them enough for having tried! Thank you Al and Carol, for what
you have done for us, and for everything else. There should be more people
like you in the world. The 13th, we flew back home. We left few
tears behind us. I brought back a new hope.
We were 6 from this district, but we
didn’t stay all together 24/7. We were rooming together (Dana, Gabi, Nard
and I in one room… interesting room will be our comment => great I think!
Julie, Gulten and 2 other girls in another one), but we didn’t spend all our
time together and I believe it was the right thing to do. Have you ever met
somebody, and in a second, you perfectly knew that she/he would be your best
buddy, friend, without any doubt. Those are unique friendship. I can’t stop
the words. I met some people that I simply love even if I hardly know them.
Those are the best. Those are the ones I will be friend with for a very long
time. For ever maybe. Who knows…
These 10 days completely boosted me!
Afterwards, everything was going right! I know that the things were the
same, but the way I was looking at them was different. I was looking at the
same world and I was smiling. Since then, this smile hasn’t left me.
The 23rd of
March, I went at school to see the play “Midsummer Night’s Dream” by
Shakespeare. It was the second time that I got to see it, and so it helped
me to understand it (and to explain it to Carole who didn’t know it!)
because this old English is still too hard to understand! It was fun to
finally recognize few faces under the make up! Going to this school show,
some old feelings came back in my memory. I suddenly remembered how much I
used to enjoy them in Belgium. And moreover, it brought back the pleasure
that I used to know while watching a play. I so decided to attend as many
school shows as possible in the future… I got to attend Miss Bartram
Trail the 1st of April and the Battle of the Bands the
The 25th of
March, my host parents, Carole and I went to The Players Championship.
Honestly, I don’t really understand golf. For me, it is very boring to
watch, but I swear that I tried to enjoy it. And I actually enjoyed it!
After 1 or 2 hours walking the course (which is absolutely gorgeous by the
way!), Carole and I met Jose and Pond. We decided to hang out on a “hill” (I
guess we can call it a hill in this weirdly flat Florida ;-)). We had a nice
view on the 18th hole… just great !
The 5th of
April, I got to go to the Bausch and Lomb Tennis Championship (at
Amelia Island) with my host dad and Jose. It was the first time in my life
that I got to go to a tennis tournament and it was pretty fun. It is very
impressive to see the speed they hit the ball and the reflexes that they
have. I was truly impressed, knowing how hard that sport can be (even if it
doesn’t look like it!)
The 6th of
April, I volunteered at the Shooting Tournament organized as
fundraiser by my host club, Southpoint RC. It was really funny to see all
these guys (yeah, there was not one woman shooting!) that I knew were
businessman, doctors, lawyers… walking around with their hunting guns,
wearing camouflage clothing and drinking Bud light! They looked more like
Red necks than anything else. Actually, I loved it! I finally truly love
this Southern life. I keep smiling and making fun of it, but I can’t hide
that I enjoy it a lot!
Finally, from the 7th
to the 16th of April… SPRING BREAK!! This one hasn’t been
restful at all. But it has been really fun! Awfully fun actually…
The 7th, I
went to Carole to sleep over. We jumped in her pool and on her
trampoline, participated in one of her church’s projects and went to the
Clay County Fair to be shake on roller coasters. Those 2 days were so much
Gulten, Olga and I went to Dana to sleep over. We watched movies… and
talked a lot! So much fun! (4-Pack for ever!!).
From the 10th
to the 14th, my host parents and I went to Atlanta. We got
to see the new Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta History Center (one of the
greatest museum I have ever seen! It even made the American Civil War look
interesting! ;-)), the Underground, the World of Coca-Cola (do you imagine
that it began with a medicine… and a mistake ?!) and finally the Cyclorama
(really impressive!). That was another great place to see; another unique
trip to take !
The 15th and
16th, I went to Jose’s beach party at Amelia Island. We
went to the beach, boogie boarded, swam, played volleyball… That was an
amazing weekend. Even the fact that I sprained my ankle Saturday night (I
have always known that volleyball wasn’t a sport for me!;-)) didn’t bother
me a lot. (Of course, the 17th, I got to go to a Care center to
check that I hadn’t anything broken, but I was fine! No big trouble, just a
bad sprain… and a lot of papers to fill for the insurance!)
Finally back to school… not bad at
all ! This new routine isn’t boring anymore. I enjoy every minute for what
it is. Even my daily daydreaming in English class is a great time! ;-)
The 22nd of
April, it was Prom! I chose not to go actually. Most of y’all will
tell me that it is a mistake, that I should have lived this unique American
experience. And you are right. Still, I don’t especially regret it. Instead
of going to the official prom, I hung out with few friends… that was at
least as much fun, of a different kind! We dressed up, went to a good
restaurant, ended the night at the beach. Doesn’t it sound like prom to you?
It wasn’t and it was at the same time.
The 1st of
May, an historical event took place on the Bartram Trail’s property… the
battle of the “Cinco de Mayo” between Mexicans and French (yep, it
wasn’t the 5th but anyway!). For the occasion, the French and
Spanish clubs opposed each other for a huge egg fight ! Ok ok… the eggs were
filled with flour, papers and so on so it wasn’t absolutely great (just
kidding) but it was really fun! The precedent week, a friend of mine and I
had emptied our eggs… 4 and a half dozens!! What can you make with 4 and a
half dozen of eggs… we cooked scrambled eggs, brownies and crepes (that we
brought the next day in French class so that those poor students get a taste
of Belgian crepes (slightly different from French crepes) while being
tortured by their teacher! By the way, concerning crepes, let’s notice that
I didn’t cook the crepes! An American did it! Congratulations!) Both the
preparation of the eggs and the fight were awfully fun! During the battle, I
carried the French flag, feeling absolutely unpatriotic, and ended covered
with flour… And guess what… we changed History! The French won!!!
Fun facts of a new
American daily life :
I go 5 times a week to the
restaurant (if busy week), instead of 5 times a year over there, in Belgium.
Which allows me to give advice concerning food to native Floridians!
My favorite American food is
Sushi (Sushi Queen… here I am!) Gosh, I’m going to miss it!
Keyboard is a very funny
class. I’m learning the Entertainer => to play for my exam!
I have been at least 20 times
to the movie since I came here!
I begin to wonder how I will
be able to do all the things I want to do before leaving the US… maybe if I
stop sleeping ?!
I like Hip-hop and rap… big
Frank Sinatra is my new king!
He makes my world dance!
I enjoy shopping… even if I
used to hate it!
I keep complaining about this
crazily hot weather!!
My French is so bad that my
parents told me I have an accent… 8-( So, I’ve decided to avoid the phone.
I haven’t called my parents or a friend for a month and a half.
As I already told you,
February has been emotionally hard to live. On the other hand, I haven’t
seen March and April go by! Some days are normal, or at least they look like
it! When I was writing this journal, following week by week my agenda, I got
this revelation… this American life is absolutely normal! Of course, I have
traveled more than usually, but lately, I simply hung out with friends, went
to the movie, to the mall, chilled; and I don’t feel like I’m losing my time
at all. I don’t really care about what I’m doing during the day, as long
as I enjoy every day. I am not in a hurry. I don’t freak out anymore. I live
one day at a time.
Once school will be over, I’ll stay
few weeks in Jacksonville, simply enjoying the area and spending time with
friends and family. Afterwards, I gonna live a few other trips: 5 days in
West Florida, 15 days on the Western Adventure Tour and one week in North
Carolina. I’ll come back to Jacksonville, pack everything, say goodbye, and
Like everybody, I
cannot avoid to think about the departure. I will be leaving the 11th
of July at 2 pm. I’ll arrive in Belgium at 8:35 am, it will be 2:35 am in
here. It will be a long day. I’ve dreamt few times of this return in
Belgium. It never makes a lot of sense. I don’t know if I don’t want to
leave the US, all those that I got to know, and Sushi ;-) or if I’m just
scared to go back home. I know that I often idealized Belgium. I’m scared to
be disappointed; I’m scared not to find my place back in my “former” life
after 11 months, 2 weeks and 1 day away.
“You will see that only you has changed,
your home country hasn’t changed while you were gone.” “You will go back and
things will be the same, but slightly different”. “During few days, you will
have the opportunity to observe your home culture through the eyes of
All those ideas don’t
really help me. I’m still anxious. And I don’t even know what I’m anxious
Anyway! I still have a
little bit more than 2 months here. Some days, I think: only 2 months left.
Some others, It is just: yeah, normal, no stress. But I never think: 2 more
months… so long! Most of the exchange students are entering the last months
of their year. And honestly, I believe it is impossible to share their
feelings. During all this year, I’ve had those “revelations”. One day, I
wake up, and it seems like everything is clear. What had always been
confused is now evident. Now, we are a little bit more different than we
used to be; for the first time, we don’t share the same time experience.
I would like to end
this (long) journal by quoting Al and Carol Forsythe, the couple who hosted
Julie, Nard, Gulten, Dana and I at Columbus, OH when we went on the Rotary
Eastern Adventure : “Who
in the world is crazy enough to leave their countries, their families, their
friends, their schools, their food, their pets.......and go half way around
the world to live with strangers for a year. You have to be crazy to do
this to yourself. So you spend the first four to six months trying to
figure out why you did this and sometimes just trying to survive to the next
day. Then the last three months come and they flash by, and you realize how
quickly it has all gone.”
Enjoy my friends.
Thank you Rotary. Thank you to all of you. You are making the world better
and better every day.
No day but today
Flight and Forsythes
Flight and Forsythes
Flight and Forsythes
Forsythe & Flight
Atlanta with Cynde and Barry
Jose's Beach Party
Jose's Beach Party
Jose's Beach Party
July 6 Journal
It has been a long time… it seems like it, but while
seconds are hours, days are instants. Since March, I am lost in a very
confusing time experience. It feels like time is running between my fingers
and that I can’t catch it. As I don’t have my previous journal in front of
me, I don’t know where I stopped… I guess it was some time at the beginning
of May. All right… let’s see.
In May, we entered the season of Birthday and Goodbye
I spent the first weekend of May at Carole’s. On Friday
night, both her and I became 2 real Red Neck girls… at a rodeo show! We got
a nice hat that we wore as many times as possible during the next few weeks!
It began at her birthday party of course! Ten exchange students around a
pool, pizzas and a karaoke… it resulted in a bunch of big laughs and even
more false notes! We sang all Britney Spears’ and Christina Aguilera’s songs
because those were the only ones that we all knew!! It was hilarious!!
The following weekend, it was Olga and Pond’s party. We
played volleyball, watched movies and talked and talked even more. There are
always so many things to say when we are together. On Saturday, we got the
chance to go bowling with few members of the Rotaract.
And finally, what we were all waiting for arrived: the
District Conference and our last Inbounds’ weekend. Since January, at
Seacamp, we hadn’t gotten to get all together… it was so great to see
everybody again! On Friday, we went to the Conference, representing the
Youth Exchange Program and our home countries in the parade of flags and in
the few speeches that followed. I got the honor to be named Exchange
Student of the Year and to receive a Paul Harris Fellowship. It was a
great surprise! When Al announced it, I was lost in my mind (euphemism for:
I wasn’t paying attention ;-)) and it took me a while to realize what was
happening… what had just happened! I am very proud of it, my parents and
host district and club feel the same way but the more I think about it, the
more I am not making a big deal out of it. In my mind, we are all winners.
We all did this year; we went as far as we could. We all deserve it. And if
somebody decided that I deserved it more than others, it is that I have been
lucky enough to meet wonderful people who made all this possible.
Anyway… after the Conference, we went to the YMCA in
Mandarin to have another pool/pizza party! Afterwards, we had to separate
for the night and be hosted by our host families for the weekend.
On Saturday morning, we helped at a Habitat for Humanity
site. Every single one of us helped in our own way, and it was great to be
able to help the community we have lived in a whole year. In the afternoon,
we shopped in Saint Augustine. Afterwards, we went on the river on 3 fairly
big boats. This was so amazing! It was the first time I was seeing Jax
downtown from the river and it is absolutely gorgeous! The St. Johns River
is the best part of Jax in my opinion!! At night, we had a last pool/BBQ
party at the Lindell’s, Carole’s host family (thank you for having hosted
us, and me even more often!!). By the end of the night, Al told us about the
departure time. Many began to cry. It was so sad… people shouldn’t cry.
We shouldn’t be sad, because now, we are full of hope. We can hope that we
will stay in touch and be friends until the end. And what is wonderful about
this idea is that we can do it if we really want to. It isn’t an impossible
dream. That dream can become reality. It will if we really want to. At least
I do, and I believe in it.
During the 2 weeks following the Conference, I lived the
life of a student on vacation: hanging out with friends, going to a few
Rotary meetings (Gulten’s speech was great!!!), spending time with my host
parents, going to Dana’s birthday and departure party… just a normal daily
life… or kind of! Kind of… ;-) (I am having a real problem with this
expression: “kind of”, I use it all the time!!!)
The 31st of May, I did my last speech at Southpoint RC,
the one concerning the year. I knew I had to do it that day for a long time,
but as usually, I prepared it at the last minute! The problem wasn’t
laziness (ok, maybe a little bit ;-)), but that I couldn’t figure out what
to say! How to resume a year in 10 or 15 minutes?!? I had no clue. After
having put a lot of thoughts into it, I took few notes in the morning, and
finished it on the way to the meeting. Because, as a French proverb says :
The night brings good advice. I just needed to be honest, and to say what
really matters. It isn’t about language or culture, it isn’t about a way
of life or a mentality, it isn’t about me or you either. It is about
everything. It is about a life experience. I had tears in my eyes, and I
felt really awkward when I saw a few people crying in the room. After my
speech, my host parents gave me a Paul Harris Fellowship. I was so
surprised, and knowing a little bit more about it, I could really understand
how important it is.
The 6th of June, Olga and Gulten left. Carole, Dana, Zsolt,
Pond and I went at the airport, to tell them goodbye. Until the moment they
left, I was ok. My heart was broken into 1000 pieces to have to say goodbye
to such great friends, but I was still ok. When I saw Olga walking away, the
truth finally hit me: she was going away. Gulten and Olga, 2 of my greatest
friends, were leaving. And so, as unexpected as it can be coming from me,
I cried. I cried all the tears I had kept inside all these months. I cried
what I couldn’t say aloud. And it was good to cry. It was good to let the
pressure go away.
The next day, Carole and I went to visit Marcelle and
Roland Debande in Tampa. Both of them are Belgian, they moved to the US
years ago and hosted us for few days. We had fun talking in French with the
biggest Belgian accent possible, and it was great to be able to talk about
our feelings, fears, and everything else with some other Belgians.
Because they have already lived what we are about to live, because in some
way they could understand us better than anybody else. Even if Carole and I
have lived here for a year and finally became quite American, there is a
part of Belgium in us that will never leave us. A part of us than is
exclusive for Belgians in some way.
From the 14th to the 28th of June, I went on the Western
Adventure Tour; Julie and Paula were on this trip also. We flew to Salt Lake
City and, in only 2 weeks, got to see a lot: we saw the Salt Lake, Reno, San
Francisco (gorgeous city!), Yosemite, Death Valley (way too hot!), Las Vegas
(one of a kind!), Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Dinosaur
NP and Yellowstone… this trip was awesome! We got to see so many places in
such a great ambiance with 85 exchange students… what more could you ask?!
In 15 days, I developed some friendships that I know will last. Anais
(France), Cheska (Philippines), Marion (France) and I got so close in 15
days. It is incredible! It is great!
I flew back to Charlotte, NC to meet my host parents. We
are spending a few days here, to live the 4th of July in the Mountains and
then we will be heading back to Jax. Since I arrived, I am in a quite
depressed state of mind. Barry says that it is because I’m suffering of
sensory overload! I have seen and done so much lately that now I am tired of
it, or at least my senses are! I am trying to keep going, because I don’t
want to end the year on a bad note, but I only feel like resting, chilling…
breathing and quietly enjoying these last days.
I have been thinking a lot about my future life in
Belgium (and I have even been trying to organize it!). It is getting less
confused. I am getting a job during the holidays (which isn’t as easy as it
is in the US actually), I am still trying to decide what to study next year
at the University, and the good part of it is that a few exchange students
might visit me this summer already! I am so excited about it!!! It will be
so cool if they come! Youhou!?! I am not sleeping well at night; my mind is
full of hopes, regrets, memories and projects that keep me awake. Last
night, I got this revelation: even if I am not especially looking forward to
going back home, I feel that it is time to go home. It is time to go home.
In the movie “The Spanish Apartment” (L’auberge
Espagnole in French), the main character is a college exchange student from
France going to Spain. At the beginning of the movie, he explains that the
story he is about to tell (his exchange year) began with a take off, but
then thinks that it began before that, when he talked to the guy who told
him about this idea of spending a year abroad. At the end of the movie, he
finishes saying that actually it is about this, it is about a take off. A
take off to life.
“Because I knew you, I have been changed for the
better”. Thank you.
Adapt yourself. ENJOY! No day but today.
Exchange Student 2005-2006