From Claire who spent the year in Belgium
My exchange year has been challenging, fun, enlightening, frustrating, shocking and interesting. For instance, I’ve learned that the bus will turn around and take you back to your bus stop if you didn’t recognize your bus stop to ring the bell in time. Also that singing in Portuguese with 200 other exchange students in the middle of the grand place in Brussels will attract Japanese tourist to try to take pictures with you. That dressing for winter means more than wearing a long sleeved shirt – but two sweaters and long underwear even though you’re going to school and it’s not below zero. That chocolate is made to spread on bread to make a quick lunch. And that fries and mayonnaise is a nutritional and balanced meal.
During my exchange year I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I’m strong and capable of living through new and difficult situations. I’ve learned that I don’t need anyone else to feel comfortable nor better about myself. I’ve learned how to be self confident and proud of who I am, my family, my country and my culture. I’ve learned that the key to happiness and getting along with others is to be flexible and to understand that their world is a lot smaller than mine. I’ve also learned how to be more open with others and that sharing my deeper emotions is essential at times.
Before my year in Belgium I would never have described myself like this – I am unique, special, self-confident and cool. Last year, I was more than easily placed in the crazy misunderstood tree hugger group. And now I want to study geographical and cultural impact on the environment…understanding now, that saving the environment takes more than science and strong will, but also understanding peoples’ life styles, their thought processes, educational systems and political rights.
I know this last year was hard but I also know that now I’m a different person. I’m looking forward to seeing how my friends and family will react to me. P.S. I’ve also learned in Belgium, that waffles are heavenly.