Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Catch Up Post! Haha.

I am so incredibly sorry that I have been so AWOL from my own blog. I do remember swearing up and down before that I was never going to do that, and reading other people's exchange blogs and being all "how dare they just abandon it like that?! I'll NEVER do that." Oh, Maggie. Oh, poor Maggie. You sweet silly thing, you.

So a ton of stuff has been going on xD I'm at the month and a half mark right now and so far things are going pretty good. I've been to one teenager party and quite a few dinner type parties with my family. I went barefoot walking! That was crazy cool. I almost froze my legs off, but it was  still pretty fun. I went to Iever and walked through trenches from WWI, which was amazing and slightly depressing all at the same time. I'm learning a lot about WWI over here, much more than I ever did in the States, which is really surprising. I never noticed how much we glossed over WWI and jumped straight into WWII, but we totally did in my US History class. I guess it's because it was a semester Honors level class, and it totally should have been a year long class, but ah well.

Aaand aside from that, I've mostly just been going to school and stuff. It's a lot of fun, but school is also kind of a drag. I don't understand almost anything that's being said, and super star McAwesomeville Geoffrey(other American exchange student that's in my class) seems to just magically get Dutch and is doing fabulous. Hmph. I'll get there...I hope.

I totally live for Wednesdays and Fridays. Those are the days that I go up to Hasselt and have my Dutch lessons with the other exchange students(minus Geoffrey because he's so good at Dutch already), and it's so much fun. We all hang out and Nella(totally cool girl from Venezuela) and I almost always get fries together, fries here are so amazing. I don't know what I'm going to do in January(our classes end in December). I know Nella enjoys Wednesdays and Fridays as much as I do, so maybe we can convince everyone to continue meeting up even after our classes end. I would hate it if we all saw each other less after the lessons end, they're all my favorite friends.

Oh, one another thing. I have decided to try and learn Turkish at the same time as I learn Dutch. Possibly suicidal? I think so. But two of my best friends(Melis and Deniz) are from Turkey, and they sound soooooo beautiful when they speak Turkish, and I'm so jealous of them. Plus, there is definitely a high level of Turkish immigrants here, kind of like Mexicans back home, and I think it would be beneficial to learn. My family kind of disagrees with me on this(when I asked my mom why more Belgians don't learn Turkish, she emphatically said that she would never learn Turkish, that they have to learn Dutch. That was really surprising). I'm still going to do it though, mostly because Deniz says that I can't. And well, anyone who knows me will know that when you tell me I can't do something, I have to do it.

I think that's most of everything that's been going on and how I'm feeling? I promise I'll at least try to update more in the future! At least once a week...

Tot ziens!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Departing the USA...and landing in Belgium! :DD

So it's been a while since my last post, and I realize that that was kind of a fail on my part xD I think May was when I made my last post? And now it's August, and I'm leaving for Belgium...I really didn't mean to let all that time slip by! Not much happened though. I graduated, I quit my job at Best Buy, I met an amazing guy that seems okay with my year abroad...I hope it stays that way. I really like him. But I'm not going to get into that on my blog! So not the place for that :)

The past few days have been craaaaaazy. I waited until the absolutely last moment to pack my clothes--the day before, and even though I started in the afternoon, I didn't really finish until four in the morning yesterday. Then I slept four hours, woke up, showered, and finished running around like a headless chicken until it was time to go to the air port! My mom and dad and two sisters and nephew and my grandparents were there to say goodbye to me, which was really sweet, I'm so glad that they did. I really wish that...yeah, no, not going there, because it'll probably upset me and I have been too happy for the past twenty four hours, so I'm not letting it go!

Orientation yesterday was insane. I met everyone that was going to Belgium, and while there are twelve of us, only five of us are going to Flanders! There were a lot of other people too, including one girl who's going to Iceland(O: I wanted to go to Iceland!). She was pretty cool.


And I have bad ADD, because I was supposed to actually finish that post and post it. But I didn't, because there was too much going on for orientation. I'll just move on and try to catch up.

The plane ride went a lot faster than I had expected--nowhere near as bad as my flight to South Africa, so I guess that was a good preparation for this trip. We were picked up at the airport by volunteers and taken to a Monastery--this is where my blog is probably going to differ from a lot of other exchangers. Belgium Flanders has an orientation camp(which hey, I can't remember reading about on a lot of other BFL blogs, so what gives? Just skipped over that?) and this year it was for four days. Bargh. They said that even they thought it was too long and that next year it'll only be for two days. Which I thought was  a good idea. It was nice to hang out with the other exchange students and do a bit of learning about Belgium, but I already knew most of what they were teaching us, and I kind of got used to being around the other students, so when I finally met my family, that was a bit of a shock. More on that later though.

Camp was boring. A lot of the other students from other countries didn't really want to 'branch out' and just stayed in groups according to country, which was pretty lame, because I wanted to get to know them. I also had a bit of trouble with the whole, almost everyone speaks English, but also their own language, and so they can chatter without me thing. It's annoying, but more frustrating than anything. I WANT to speak their language, so much! Italian, Turkish, Polish, Portuguese? Yes please! Only, I don't know any of them, I just WANT to. I want to understand, and learn, and speak, and I feel like someone who yearns to dance, but was born without feet. Agh. That was so frustrating, but most of the time, if asked nicely, they would speak English. For a bit.

So yeah, camp started on Friday and ended on Tuesday(technically yesterday, since I'm writing this at 1 in the morning). There was a lot of information, and if you aren't regularly on the Culture Shocked forum, I guess it would have been very good and new and all of that for you. There were also a lot of games, though, and we learned a traditional Belgian dance, which was fun. We had to dance for our host families, which was slightly embarrassing, but got better as we danced. Then we had to do a little speech(Hello, my name is, blah blah blah...) and then they let us talk to our parents. After a few hugs and introductions and such, I was whisked away.

Yeah, that freaked me out a lot. You know for ages that you're going to be living with these people, and you talk to them through email and skype, and it's all pretty cool, but you should definitely be allowed to talk for an hour before you hop in a car and just go on to your new home. I was panicking in the car, thinking about how I was possibly going to live with absolute strangers for the next year, and how maybe I couldn't do this after all, and how terrible it was that they had gotten their hopes up and now I was going to crash them by not being able to stay and yadda yadda. Yeah, don't listen to anything that pops into your head like...the first month, I'm willing to bet. It's still the first night with my host family, but I can already go ahead and tell you that. My philosophy is this: tomorrow. Whatever I'm feeling, it's for tomorrow. I want to go home? Okay, okay, we all understand, you tried, you can go home tomorrow, tell them tomorrow. But tomorrow, you'll either realize that you were an imbecile(like me), or you'll find a reason to put it off until tomorrow again. Pretty soon, you'll have come up with so many other reasons to leave it until tomorrow, and tomorrow's tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, that you'll forget what you were putting off in the first place and just get to relaxing in your new country.

Settling in was pretty easy, once I got into it. The siblings help a lot. We did a little tour of the house, which was fun(oh my gosh, they had a 'welkom maggie' banner on my bed, it was so sweet!!) but then they gave me some 'space' so I could unpack. Hey, bad idea. Don't you know I freak out and overthink when I'm given space? Duhhh! xD No, no one could have known that, except for me. I unpacked, and of course, panicked, and over thought the whole situation.

Like giving my host family gifts? Ho crap, that was terrifying. I think you should either do that as soon as you meet them, soon as you get home. Don't leave it until after unpacking. I wasn't sure when, and I just let the moment pass before that, and then I got stuck in my room. Everything unpacked, phone charging, gifts laid out before me on the bed, but I was too paralyzed to go down the stairs and give them to my family. Eventually Kaat(I love that little girl) ran up to my room to check on me, clearly wanting me to spend time with her, and I jumped at the opportunity. I told her that I was alright, but that I had 'stuff.' I didn't really know what to say about it, but she doesn't really speak English, so it was okay. Because then she went hollering through the house, 'Mama, what is STUFF?' in Dutch. I could hear her just shouting something in Dutch, followed by, "But she said she has STUFF!!" And it was hilarious. Dries, my host brother, was just standing politely in the doorway, watching me, not at all surprised by his sister. I made the little 'shush' sign(finger over my lips) indicating that what I was holding was a secret, that crept down the stairs after Kaat. He followed, and I gave them my gifts. They loved them, which was a huge relief for me, because I had gone out on a limb and rather than getting generic state stuff, I had gotten things for them that directly related to me, my state, and them. And I had been absolutely terrified that they wouldn't like them. Agh. I'm so glad that that part is over and that they did like them. Huge weight off my shoulders.

The rest of the night we hung out in the living room(also running back and forth with Kaat to the office, because she wanted to show me stuff on facebook, and add me as her sister on facebook, and all of this silliness that was completely adorable.) It was a really relaxed night, I got some of the awkward 'first night' type questions out of the way, and had fun talking to my host mom. She's very relatable, very normal, I think, and also so very sweet.

But, I have to ask where they keep the soap in the bathroom, and which towels I'm supposed to use, and whether or not it's okay to leave my things in the bathroom...Things that I never thought of worrying about because it's everyday life for me at home, but turns out it was kind of important when I wanted to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and had to use my own shower soap as hand soap because I could not for the life of me find regular hand soap. (is that a Belgian thing? Because it happened at the orientation camp too!)

And now, I'm in bed, catching up on emails and this blog, which has been so sadly ignored. Not any longer though, as I will have stuff to update with and the internet connection with which to do said updating!

Tomorrow: watch as the great Maggie braves a phone store to have her sim card cut down to size, and tread on the lands of the Belgian high school and decide on classes. Oooooooh. (But also, I get to see Kaat's horse, which is crazy awesome!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh my god Host Family!

So, remember how I said I would update when I had my mind wrapped around it...

My mind has been re-blown! :D

Just four short hours after I received my acceptance e-mail from AFS-Belgium Flanders, while I was on my break at work(it was really quite amazing timing), I got the email for my 'permanent host family'! That has got to be the fastest turn around time for a host family ever! I can't even believe it, it's absolutely crazy.

I have a mom and a dad(35 and 43 respectively) and a little brother and a little sister(9 and 11 respectively) and a Jack Russell! I have to admit that I was kind of hoping for one sibling close to my age just for adapting reasons, but this is actually going to be a lot of fun. Little kids like me better than kids my own age most of the time, and I doubt that the eleven year old sister is going to develop that 'new girl envy.' Since I won't be invading her friends. :D I'm super pumped that they have an indoor dog, too, because I haven't been able to live with indoor pets for like, three or four years. I have two outside dogs at my dad's house, but three years ago when my mom lived in a much larger house, we had five huge dogs that were inside all the time! They were the most fun in the whole wide world. I really miss them. :( But yay for inside pets! Woo!

Also found out that I'll be in Beringen! Not that that really means a lot to me, but hey it even has a wikipedia page, so at least there's that! Apparently a lot of cities/towns that exchangers go to don't even have a wiki page. It's also just an hour and ten minutes away from Brussels, I think, and it's even closer to Antwerpen, although not by too terribly much.

I sent them an email as soon as I got home from work(Like 5:00 a.m. their time!) so maybe I'll hear back from them tomorrow, but no pressure if it takes them a while. I'm just really overexcited about the whole thing and can't wait to really talk to them. The only downside to the host family packet was that there were no pictures :( I was really wanting to see pictures of them. Maybe they'll email me some? I hope so!

Tot ziens!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


OH MY GOODNESS. I just got my acceptance email from AFS-Belgium! Holy crapnoodles! It's official now, I am going.

I just.

I don't even know what to say here. My mind is just completely blown. I'm going. Like, legit going. Oh my god...

I guess I'll update later, when I've finally wrapped my head around it. xD

Oh, just a little thing for anyone who reads this and is waiting for their own application to be accepted: It took me three weeks to be accepted by AFS-Belgium. I might have heard sooner, but my interviewer took like two weeks to send in my in-home interview form for some reason. I think she just forgot, and I suppose that was okay, but it caused me a deal of stress!

Until next time~

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pre-Departure Orientation!

So I had my pre-departure orientation this morning, which was so much fun! I got to meet all the other exchangers in the Carolinas, and most of them were pretty dang amazing, not too sure about the others because they didn't say a word the whole time! You must speak up, or I won't know what to think. Gosh.

I already knew a whole heck of a lot before I went there, so my world wasn't exactly rocked by the experience. I really enjoyed meeting everyone though--it was also the pre-return orientation for the exchangers that are in the Carolinas from elsewhere, and I got to know this French girl Gwen really well. She was so sweet, and a whole lot like me. Apparently back in France, she was really shy and she only knew a few words in English before coming here, but aside from the obviously adorable accent, her English was amazing! And she was so outgoing! Like, I was reading the AFS poster, waiting for my dad and all, and she just grabbed me and was like "Are you going somewhere next year?! :D" and I was like "WOOT, YEAH!" and we pow wowed. I had been under the impression that the current exchangers here had all been paired up with outbounds to their home country so that they could share all their information and what not, and I knew no one from Belgium was there, so I was letting everyone have their them time. I wasn't going to interrupt and snag a cool foreigner to chat with when they had information to share! 'Cause I know I woulda been irked if that had happened to me if a Belgian chickadee or duderino had actually been there. But Gwen was just like "LET'S TALK, YOU ME, GO NOW" so I just was like "YEAH LET'S GO, YOU'RE AWESOME" and she really was<3 I love you, Gwen, you gave me hope for myself next year.

The only thing that really sucked about today was that I really haven't officially been accepted by Belgium yet. (Yeah, did anyone get confused by the appearance of a pre-departure orientation before an acceptance post? Don't worry, I won't skip that, it really hasn't happened yet.) But so many people already knew their families, and where they would be in the country, and some had even communicated already, and I was just so jealous that they knew they were going. Monday makes officially two weeks since I've been accepted by AFS-USA and my application was sent abroad, so really, I shouldn't be complaining about waiting at all. I have another two weeks before I'm really supposed to hear anything at all. Gah. That is the hardest thing to get over, because I'm an American, and we do things NOW. Instant gratification. I have got to learn how to get over that, ja?

One thing that I did think was weird, just now, 'cause I just went back and reread my acceptance email from AFS-USA, was that the PDO was supposed to be 6-8 weeks before I left. rough calculations because I don't' have an actual departure date yet, only an estimate on the website that everyone else can see, today was like thirteen weeks. And some kids there leave a month from Monday. (There were a ton of summer exchangers. They just didn't want to do anything that would cut into their school years. o.o Weird.) So, like, none of us were in the 6-8 week range, and I know that that doesn't matter at all, they were just trying to get us all around the same center point, I just thought it was really kinda funny.

I hope the few other year kids are going to be at my Gateway Orientation <3 There was a girl there that's going to Spain, she's a freshman apparently so she's nowhere near me age-wise, but I'm just glad there was another Europe-bound exchanger there that was going to be there during the year. I mean, dang. I just don't understand why no one wants to go for a year or semester! Or to Europe! Almost everyone was going to Costa Rica for a summer. One girl is going to Argentina. But then again, there were like, three or four going to Italy, which felt kind of excessive to me. I get that Italy is cool, but really? That many? More people should go to less popular places. On the real. And I know that Belgium is pretty popular, but not really so much the Flemish side. In fact, that's part of the reason I'm allowed to go at all, because so few people go, they still had places when I applied late. So yay for choosing less popular locations!

Side note that has nothing to do with the PDO: My Canadian boss who somehow has been everywhere told me about the Manneken Pis. It's a statue of a little boy peeing in Brussels, and it's got this really cool story about it with the boy peeing in the enemy cannons so that they win the war and yadda yadda; it's a boy peeing! I have to take like fifty pictures with it when I get there, I swear.

Tot ziens!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

In-Home Interview!

So I just had my in-home interview like not even an hour ago, and that was quite possibly the easiest, most simple thing I have ever done. I'd already had a phone interview, though, so it was really laid back, we just sat in the living room and talked about exchange, and answered some of my dad's questions. In the phone interview, there were a lot of things that you had to talk about--like if you were service oriented, if you liked group activities, yadda yadda. That was really easy to do over the phone, I didn't really worry at all when I did that.

I  did freak out for the in-home interview though! I like, scrubbed my house from top to bottom, made sure my room looked picture perfect, and I was way overdressed. I had on pants, a red sleeveless turtle neck, and a long pearl/gold necklace. I looked very nice and very professional, but...they didn't look half as dressed up as I did, so I felt out of place. They should really provide you with a dress code! It would have saved me some time. One of the girls(usually it's only one person, but I had three, because my volunteer was new, so she brought along an experienced volunteer, and that volunteer brought her daughter, who has been to French Belgium) was actually wearing sweatpants, if that tells you anything. I probably could have gotten away with jeans and sneakers after all, but oh well. I know I made a good impression at the very least.

I got to have a lot of my Belgium specific questions answered, because Camille(the daughter) had exchanged there, and had visited the Flemish part a lot. A lot of the stuff they told me, I already knew, because of CS. It was really more for my dad's benefit than mine. He had been behind me and supportive a hundred percent, but he's a little more relaxed now that he got to meet Silvia(the experienced volunteer). She was from Brazil originally, exchanged to America way back when, and obviously moved here. She was really intimidating, super tall, had a super strong personality, and talked a lot. I didn't really get the chance to say a whole lot, between her, my dad, and Camille. Camille kept trying to interject and tell me stuff about Belgium, and then her mom would cut her off and give me the 'volunteer's perspective. Camille would be like "oh, some schools don't care if you pass or fail, just show up, and some don't even care if you show up~" and obviously I intend to attend the school, because that's part of the immersion, and a great way to make local friends, but her mom took that as somehow me agreeing that school wouldn't be important(all while I had said nothing, simply laughed when Camille said it.) So she talked a lot about how I was representing AFS and if I didn't attend school, then I would leave them with a bad impression and they wouldn't want to take another student in the future. I kept wanting to tell her that I know that, I've done my research, and I don't like to fail at anything. So while yes, school in Belgium will be incredibly hard, I intend to work my tail off. But I couldn't say that, because she wouldn't stop talking! Heh.

They did seem really happy about everything when they left, though, and very pleased with me, so I was glad about that. Looks like everything is more or less going well right now, just formalities being taken care of. I'll get to seem them again next Saturday for my Pre-Departure Orientation! Woot. I'm probably going to be the only kid there that doesn't know where they're going. Yay. I don't feel lame at all...

Maybe the powers that be will smile upon me and Belgium will accept me in the next seven days! Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

I can't wait to meet the other exchangers at the PDO! That's going to be fun, I'll try and take a lot of pictures!

Tot ziens!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Culture Trek!

So I know I said I wouldn't have much to update, but I just got my Culture Trek and my application is officially transferred and I just want to SCREAM ABOUT IT! I feel like a superhero, I never thought any of it was possible and oh my god I am doing a Culture Trek!

:D I just got off work and I had school today too, so I should be like, dead, but oh my freaking god, I am jumping off the walls! I can't even sit down long enough to do the Culture Trek! I don't even know how to explain how wonderful I am feeling at this very moment, it just...oh my god. I have watched other people get to this on the CS website for two years now, and I've been so jealous, and I thought I was never going to get to know what they were experiencing, and I am just so freaking happy right now!

:) :) :)

I don't even know, guys. <3 Everything is just working for me right now and I am loving it and trying to give as much back as I can because I don't want this Karma high to end~!

Kay, I think I'm going to try and do my Culture Trek again, if I can stop squee'ing long enough. Teehee~

Tot ziens!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

That God Awful Intro Post

Alright, we've all seen this post a thousand and one times. Most of you are going to skip it because they're all pretty generic, fairly easy to guess at yourself and move on with. I'm going to do it anyways just to cover all my bases, though.

So who am I? Maggie, an eighteen year old girl that's about to graduate(in June!) and then in August I'll be off to Belgium for my gap year! Okay, okay, kind of jumping the gun there. I haven't officially been accepted by AFS-Belgium yet, but that should be happening relatively soon. Within the next few weeks, I do believe.

Why do I want to go on exchange? Well, I guess the usual reasons. I've always had an intense interest in other languages and cultures, I've always had a high interest in the history of other countries(this was mostly spiked by the fact that America is a relatively young country and while she has great culture, it's more or less limited in comparison to other countries). Ever since I saw Mulan when I was a little girl, I wanted to travel. Yeah, I know, that's kind of lame, and it seems pretty random since I am not going to China, right? Well, it still started it all. When I was little, I wanted to go to China--my mom still tells stories about how I would run around at six years old, shouting about how I wanted to go to Chinese. I didn't understand there was a difference between a countries' name and its language. :P That led me to read all of the books in my elementary school's library that had anything to do with other countries--particularly the Royal Diaries series! I blame that series for my obsession with Henry VIII! Ah, I miss those books...

All of that aside, though, I really started seriously considering a year abroad about two or three years ago, and I almost got to go to Japan for a year back then, but financial reasons got in the way. Instead, I volunteered for a summer in South Africa, and thought that I had hung up my dreams to dry--travelled, the better for it, yet with no clue what a host family was like, no real introduction to a foreign language aside from a few words, having only dipped my toes into a foreign community, never having gotten to swim. I was disappointed, there's no way around that, but I was willing to accept the real facts of life and move on. I mean, after all, I could study abroad in college, right...? It would be the same...totally...that's what my parents kept telling me, anyways. They didn't seem to understand what it was that I wanted--full immersion, a chance to live like a native and not a tourist, to not be surrounded by American ideals, and other Americans. They just didn't get it. 

If you had asked me...five months ago, if I thought I'd be going on a traditional exchange, I would have said no. Never in a million years, it just wasn't in the cards for me. I was going to go abroad though--Temple University, Japan Campus. I'll still be attending, just not this fall. :) That made some things faster--I was already getting my stuff ready for international travel. A few things happened over the past year that made it possible again...all I had to do was fight for it. I'm not going to talk about the funding--it's a rough subject all around, and I would trade my trip in a heartbeat to have had that particular even not happen, but life doesn't work that way.

Happier note! I got my full application into AFS with record timing--everything except the medical form in two days, the medical form took four. So I don't know what the other AFS kids are whining about--that application was so simple! Nothing at all compared to college applications...Ai ya. That was miserable. So glad I don't have to worry about that on exchange! Boo-yah, deferral! 

Also, I officially know twenty-three words in Dutch! And I've been managing to remember them for more than just two days! XD Byki is awesome, because it judges when a word/phrase has become 'stale' in your memory! God I love this<3 Also, my French teacher said she knows a woman who lives nearby that came from Belgium(Flemish part as well!) who can help me with my Dutch. Success shall be mine!

Well, I guess that's all for now. I probably won't have too much to update for a little while(except for my in-home interview this Saturday!) So I'll catch y'all in a bit!

Tot ziens en goedenavond!