In two days I’m back in Belgium.
When I look back to these four months, I feel happy. I arrived here at the end of August and I knew nothing and nobody. Slowly, I have built here a sort of new life. I have learned how to live with my new parents, Hester and Harald. I have met lots of people at school, and the scouting, in my new family. I have learned to speak Dutch. And of course I have learned and visited a lot about The Netherlands.
It was four intense months. I didn’t think I would learn so much! I believe I can say that the challenge of being an exchange student is ending with success. And it’s not at all only due to me, it’s due to all the people I have met here in The Netherlands and with who I walked a moment on the way. I thank them all for what they taught me.
In two days I’m back in Belgium and I take with me a part of The Netherlands, in my head and in my heart.
I hope you enjoyed sharing a part of our experience via this blog. I have found it a wonderful way to show that it’s possible to go across the differences of culture and to live together.
Since the begin of the scouting year, we were speaking about this two days camp by an earlier member, Margrethe. And it finally happened last weekend! It was two wonderful sunny days that we spent mostly in our bikes. I tell you what we did…
On Saturday morning we met all five at the designed meeting point on the Wageningen campus. To achieve Margrethe’s house, we had first to be able to understand a really complicated route, invented by Lisa. We had actually to “translate” images in words, to move the letters in the phrases… We tried to follow what we understood, but it wasn’t successful. After seven kilometres we realised that we were very far of our previous route! Happily we were lucky with the weather. The sun was shining and we decided to enjoy the journey instead of come back and to try to find the right way. But first we had to eat! Yes, we were very hungry due to the bicycle tour. We drank also a warm coffee (the Dutch people NEED coffee to spend a good day) and then we rode to Margrethe’s house in Driel.
After our installation in her cosy shed, we ate delicious “poffertjes” together. It was for me the occasion to meet Margrethe. She is very nice and also very hospitable. We talked a lot with her and it was simply convivial.
Then it was time to buy our evening meal. We took again our bikes and went to Arnhem, the biggest and closest city of the province. It was quite early in the evening. So we decided to go to the cinema and we chose as film “De Nieuwe Wildernis”, a wonderful documentary about the nature in the Netherlands. We enjoyed the film and then we bought our meal. We intended to “gourmetten”.
But we first had to come back to Driel… under the rain this time. We arrived all wet! We got warm with preparing the meal. The rule with “gourmetten” is that you have to cook your own thing on a big device. Everybody does it at the same time and it’s really great. Later we played cards and we spoke a lot before we fell asleep due to this busy day!
On Sunday we woke up quite early because we had lots of plans again. After a big breakfast we tidied up the place and we left Margrethe. We went to the castle of Doorwerth, a beautiful place along the river Rijn in a wood. We spent there the whole day. This castle is a museum that we visited of course. We learned a lot about its story, but also about the agriculture and the hunting through the centuries for example. After the visit it was time for a coffee that we drank at the café of the castle. We went then for a walk in the surroundings and in the kitchen garden of the castle. It was still sunny weather…
We finally left this place to come back to Wageningen. We finished our trip there, under a cloudy sky. I found it really successful. We have done so many great things in only two days!
Last Saturday morning, I took the train to Utrecht. Travel Active was organising a day for all the exchange students who are now in The Netherlands. The programme was to go to the skating rink and then to finish the day eating a pizza together.
I arrived in Utrecht one hour too early, so I walked in this huge station, looking for the meeting point. An half hour was necessary before I found somebody of Travel Active. The big departure board where we had to meet had disappeared… Luckily I went to the right place!
After an hour waiting everybody arrived, we left the station, took the bus and came to the ice-skating place. It was really great to see again all the people that I had met during the orientation week. We had lots of things to tell to the others. Everybody wanted to speak about his school, his family, his city… I think that in general everyone was happy with his first month in The Netherlands! And further, it was also a pleasure to speak French again! But it was so strange too! I couldn’t avoid saying “Ja” or “Wat…” in a conversation. Speaking English with the students from Thailand or Brasil was simply impossible for me. My brain can only speak Dutch anymore… Only for a while, I hope!
So we began to ice-skate, some very good, others very bad. In any case, it was very funny! A bit ice-skating, a bit speaking, but maybe more speaking than ice-skating. When everybody’s feet began to hurt, we stopped and went to the pizzeria. It was in the city centre, along the canal. A pretty place, near a bridge.
And then it was officially time to go. But we (all the students) didn’t want to already separate, so we decided to stay one or two hours more in the centre of Utrecht. We walked along the canal (which was really very pretty) and we glanced at the shop windows. But eventually it was time to go… I spent a really good time in Utrecht with all the exchange students. We have now to wait the next meeting, in November, to see us again!
Last Monday I went for the first time to my new school, the Marnix College. On Sunday evening I was ready, my bag was packed, I knew the way to school, my bicycle was ready to go, and my alarm was set. I was a bit nervous.
On Monday morning, after breakfast and a last hug, I left home. By arriving in the school surroundings I was surprised by the number of bikes! There were wheels and bells everywhere!
I entered the building and found quite easily my way to my classroom. I received my schedule and after only half an hour I went back home. A really short day! But I had to cover my books. A really long and annoying task! Fortunately Hester helped me and within “only” two hours it was done…
On Tuesday I was really less anxious. I survived the first day, I was able to not die the next. I discovered the buildings. The school is modern, spacious and well-organised. There is a projector and a laptop in each classroom, lots of things (like the schedule and homework) are posted on a special school website.
The atmosphere and the rules are also really different than in Belgium. Almost every student has a smartphone or an mp3-player and uses it in the halls or sometimes even in the classroom too! During the week the weather was very hot and everybody was wearing shorts and tops… I’ve never seen that at school in Belgium.
But despite all those “no rules” the students are very concentrated and show much respect to the teacher. They all arrive in time for class, nobody speaks during class when the teacher explains things. Yes, it’s really different from the Belgian schools.
By the way, the teachers and the students are open and kind. I already have spoken with several students: all are curious and interested in what I’m doing here. They also help me to understand some courses.
Certain courses are really hard, others are really great. For example, I understand almost nothing in economics class, but music and geography are fun and interesting. I’m not excessively motivated to do my homework, but I enjoy being at school and meeting people. I hope I will have four great months at the Marnix College!