By: 9520 Committee | Monday, 23 March 2015
My name's Emma and I did rotary youth exchange in BELGIUM!
This was honestly such a life changing experience and i owe it all to the opportunity I made happen through rotary.
I decided to go on exchange after my last year of school, I did all my interviews and then got accepted to a country that I picked 4th, Belgium. However even though it wasn't my first pick, I wouldn't have changed it for anything!
It was so overwhelming knowing I would spend the following year abroad. I didn't know what to expect. I said goodbye on the 19th of January and then I was off! With too many emotions to comprehend I was a few days away from starting my new life in a small town called Ath found in Belgium's French South (The cool thing about Belgium is its split in the middle west to east with the North speaking Flemish and the south speaking French). The whole thing began so fast, getting thrown in a new family, house, environment, people, and school! It was so confronting and I, to this day am amazed and so proud at how I coped with it all. It's amazing how at the beginning you might be struggling with homesickness or the language or companionship or just the unfamiliar and just manage to push through, because it gets so much easier and so indescribably amazing. The amazing part just kind of falls together where everything thing just settles down at school and with friends family etc. and you make amazing lifelong friends (in school) and make amazing family connections (exchangers and locals), and then you start to actually speak the language and feel like you actually belong in that country. You just start to fit in and feel comfortable and it is the best feeling, so worth it!
The best thing about Belgium is, really... Everything!! The food is amazing (chocolate, waffles, durums, frites, and local specialities) and the country is small enough to travel everywhere and explore everything. Europe is so historic and Belgium is full of old buildings and beautiful towns. Also Belgium is small enough to see exchange friends who live all over the country! The culture is just beautiful, there is so much history, carnivals and traditions that happen all the time and the locals just can't wait to show you how they celebrate Belgian style, it is never boring! I just can't explain how amazing this journey, well life, was that I had over a year ago and all I want to do is go back.
This experience has just broadened my eyes, and my travelling dreams have only gotten bigger. Once you've been on exchange, you just learn to adapt everywhere and this is the best thing to have when travelling or just in day to day life!
I loved every moment and coming back I felt like I was a Belgian coming to visit Australia. I wish that every teenager had the same opportunity I had!
Make it happen!!