Nov 17, 2011

I am an exchange student

Being an exchage student:
It’s to be born again
It’s to start everything from the beginning
It’s to feel nostalgia
It’s to learn to value what you have
It’s to be scared
It’s to learn to take care of yourself
It’s to eat in excess
It’s to think what once was imagined
It’s to know the unknown
It’s to share the special moments with other exchange students
It’s to never have any money
It’s to spend too much on useless things
It’s to be hot
It’s to be cold
It’s to be the reason for the jokes
It’s to make jokes
It’s to leave the house looking ridiculous (I’m an exchange student, nobody knows me)
It’s to pretend to understand nothing at school
It’s to pretend to understand what you new friends say
It’s to have absurd stories
It’s to make friends which turn into siblings
It’s to think that the world is yours
It’s to want to see the world with only a backpack
It’s to miss stupid things
It’s to discover that people are people in whichever part of the world
It’s to want to go home
It’s to never want to go home..
It's a small piece of text that's been circulating around Facebook, and I quite liked the message.
Bisous, Julia =)

Nov 15, 2011

A week of holidays (and some more)

It's been less than a month since my last post, yes, I am proud of myself for that! So the week of schoo prior to the holidays was mostly spent well, waiting for the holidays of course, what else..

Wednedays we went to Brussels with school to see an exposition which was a complete reconstruction of the tomb of Tutankhamon. In the end that was really interesting and well done, better than I expected. We had some audio-guides to follow the exposition and I had mine in English like a bad exchange student... By Friday the people in my class were stressing out quite a bit, it was time for our first grades. For me the points I get here don't count for anything in Finalnd so failing isn't the worst thing that could happen (and it seems to be fairly normal in Belgium in general. Since everything I've done is in French, I wasn't expecting a lot of my grades, however in the end I had only failed 3 of my subjects, maths, science and history, quite happy with that, it's less than some of my classmates... So by the end of the last lesson on Friday, the holidays could finally begin! They have a week of holidays around the 1st of November for "Toussaint" (all saint's day).

We had lots and lots of plans for the holidays, but as often, things don't always quite work out as planned. Friday evening we spent at home for once, enjoying nothing but a cosy night at home. Saturday I went into Tournai with Carrie, she needed some shopping done but in the end I think it was me that bought a pair of shoes.. Around 5 we walked to the station to get Nele, my best friend, and ran into my counsellor too. We then did a quick tour back into town so she could see one of the cool shops in Tournai before it closed and headed home for yet another night of doing nothing more than watching a movie. We saw a movie called "Orphan" which was pretty damn creepy to be honest. It was generally just great seeing her again as well. Sunday we went to "Pairi Daiza", this huuge park with lots and lots of exotic animals, but built in such a way that it really doesn't resemble an animal park at all. There were chinese houses in the middle, some thai temples and such...   It was interesting seeing lots of species I'd never actually seen before. Fine, it wasn't really their natural environment but still. That was pretty much it for Sunday, we were exhausted afterwards. Monday was Nele's last day here so we went to see Tournai, did some shopping, had a drink, well, the usual. It also happened to be Halloween! Something we don't really do in Finland, but here some people do it. Me and Carrie were invited over to Morgane's place for a soirée and Caroline was normally supposed to come too but in the we were only three. We had to do a sort of costume so I did my version of "Pippi Longstocking from hell" which was more or less succesfull. Carrie's was PERFECT though, she did a geisha and her make-up was pretty impressive! We had a good and long evening/ night which lead to us not doing a lot on Tuesday (except for a drink in town) so I'll just move on to Wednesday.... Me and Carrie took the train to Brussels around 12 since I had agreed to meet up with Astrid, a girl I've known for years but we'd never actually met up before. Have to admit I was a bit nervous. We had lunch at a place called EKKI (I think?) where they had lots of fresh stuff, salads and the like. And speculoos cheese cake. Yum. We also visited some awesome places with books and CDs aaand tickets! It was a good day! Thursday, once again, plan was to do something but in the end all I ended up doing was spending a few hours at Morgane's place with another friend from school, but hey, we had a good time so I'm not complaining. Friday we were going to meet Valeriya, the russian who lived at home for the first two weeks in Brussels. Hoaever it wasn't that easy since Jade was already in Brussels, she didn't have her phone and the number I had for Valeriya was incorrect. Luckily Jade finally had her cellphone thursday evening so we were able to decide on when to meet up and such. Buuut of course I'd already agreed to meet an italian and a venezuelian girl before going to Brussels, but in th end we just had a coffee with them and headed for Brussels afterwards. With Valeriya we went to the Delirium and had some beer (what else?) and I saw something interesting, the female version of Manneken Pis! Jeanneke Pis, a statue of a girl pissing... Only in Belgium..

Saturday we had our third AFS activity with our comité Hainaut. It was a visit to a brewery in Ecaussines. We took the train from tournai around 12 with Andrea (Venezuela) and found one of the volunteers on the train. In La Louvière we had to wait for a bit over half an hour, which was less great since it's in the middle of nowhere... Once we got to Ecausinnes we met the other and satrted walking... We made a tour of several kilometres, finding out stuff about le piere bleue (spelling prolly sucks..). After a loong walk we got some muffins and cookies baked by the volunteers and then we headed for the brewery. That was actually really interesting, seeing just how the beer is made and finally getting to taste one. It was good, but what else can you expect, it's Belgian. We took the train home around 7 and arrived in Tournai around 8.30. Jade met us at the station with some food (thank you!!!) and then we headed to the Cornwall to continue the evening. Carrie was exhausted after the day so Marianne came to get her after a few hours, a shame for her because we saw something pretty awesome afterwards. There was a group of artists that did a fireshow just outside the pub, I'd never seen stuff like it before. All in all it was a great night, dancing and having fun, until the early hours.. Sunday we had lunch with Jean -Pierre, Carrie, Jade, Gilles and Jean at Pizza Hut since Marianne had some repeptitions for a spectacle at the poney club the weekend after.

The week at school was fairly normal, we had swimming class Monday and I had to do a discussion with some people from the 6eme about my culture versus Belgian culture.. Problem was.. After the week of holidays, my French was almost completely gone. The first thing my friend told me was "oh my god! your accent is back!" Hmh, too much English during the holidays that was.. Towards the end of the week I started feeling weaker... Luckily we had a day off Friday too due to the armistice of the first world war this time. Thursday was Jade's 20th birthday and she was doing a party at home, so I spent the afternoon sleeping to be able to participate. We were maybe 10 since she put up her invitations a little late, but it was a good night anyway. During the night I got a lovely fever so Friday morning was less amazing. During the day I felt better, and luckily so, since we were going to a chinese restaurant in the evening as a surprise for Carrie for her birthday (which was Sunday but..).. And she certainly was surprised! But apparently when we eat Chinese food, it's not really Chinese in the end. We kept on asking her with evrything, "is this Chinese?" "hmm...I don't know..." Okay.. Fine then. And of course towards the end of the evening I started feeling worse and worse again, my fever was back. I really hated that since we were celebrating her birthday and all, and the food would've been great but I had no appetite.. Saturday was finally better, but we did pretty much nothing the whole day. Well me and Jade watched Wall-E in the evening but that's about it.. :D Sunday there was a biiig thing at the poney club which is kept by Marianne's best friend Cecile. It was the fête de St. Hubert which they do every year. It's basically a spectacle where the kids do performances on horses and ponies and in between the performances Marianne and some others did some silly piece of theater, this time with the smurfs. Marianne did the girl smurf in a skirt and all.. Hilarious! The spectacle was really nice to see, some of the kids were really talented on the horses, and of course seeing 4-5 years old kids doing horseback riding is just too adorable.

Voilà once again, a little recap of what I've been up to lately. Yesterday was a waay too long day, mondays are always long... Swimming and what not. Today I had to do a presentation of Finland in English class, which wasn't too difficult of course. I even took some Salmiakki for them to try, it was definitely worth seeing some of the reactions to that :D
à la prochaine!
Bisous, Julia =)

Oct 22, 2011

Time flies by!

I was fighting with my blog to upload pictures for an hour and it didn't work so the pictures might be up later if ever. And ofc as usual I have to say, sorry for being a bad and lazy blogger, probably the worst one in the history of blogging ! However life in Belgium is rolling on, and I still love it!

A couple of week-ends ago I was more busy than normally.. That might've been because it was right before my brithday... :) But it was great. Friday (7.10) evening I was invited over to Morgane's place (a friend from school) with some other girls, I think we were 6, normally we should've been more but it was a shame that Caroline, who's an exchange student through WEP from Brazil, couldnt come in the end. We had a really good time with the girls, as always, this was the third time we spent a night like this if I remember correctly. We went into town for a drink which perhaps was the worst idea ever as it was raining and raining and really cold outside too. We were back at her place at a reasonable hour but not in bed at a reasonable hour, like usual.. The girls had a little surprise prepared for me, a special dessert, only for me.It consisted of chocolate and some Finnish candy called Salmiakki, which is simply disgusting. It seems I'd forgotten some of the candies at Morgane's place after our first evening there, and now they decided to use them against me :D But the sweetest thing was that they'd made a keychain with a couple of pictures of me and them as a birthdaypresent. :)

Saturday I got home pretty late, after 2pm I guess, and in the evening, me and Jade first went into town and had a drink at the Irish Pub and afterwards we were invited to a friend's place to see an art exposition. Marianne (hostmum) was there with her bestfriend and Carrie, however we didn't stay too long with Jade and Carrie, we had some other plans for the night still. It was (of course) raining as we walked towards the appartment of Jade's best friend. There we had a good night with some wine, talking and music. Naturally we had to walk home in the rain so it was fairly late before we were back.

Sunday we had made some plans of exploring Brussels with some other AFS exchangers. Carrie unfortunately didn't feel like coming so I was alone on the train, up until the last 30 minutes when Marion (Switzerland) boarded the train in Enghien and Estefany (Italy) sort of just happened to find us. We met up at about 12 at the Gare Central in Brussels and bought some stuff to eat before heading towards the metro. We must've been quite the sight, a group of about 10 boys and girls speaking a mixture of english, french, spanish, german and what not... Oh yes, italian.  Our first destination was the Atomium and mini Europe. It goes without saying that it was raining, and of course the mini europe is an outside activity... We didn't care, we had our umbrellas! We started by eating waffles from a stand in front of the atomium and taking some pictures of our lovely little group. Afterwards we split up into two since everyone didn't want to do both of the activities. I did both of them, and so we started off by going into the atomium. But now I have to be honest, it was nothing special in the end.. They had some expositions of various things inside but you get a good enough impression of it just by standing in front of it.. Oh and if someone doesn't know, the atomium is a huge construction made of well, balls. After finishing the atomium we headed towards the mini Europe which is basically a miniature of various sights in the countries of the European Union. It was funny to see things like the Eiffel tower being just a little bit talle than yourself. And they even had something from Finland, Olavinlinna, a place where I saw a Nightwish concert a couple of years ago. Good memories.. And a small Sauna! :D We had more plans for the day but the atomium and mini Europe took longer than we'd thought, so afterwards we only had time to grab some fries and have one beer at the Delirium, our new favourite in Brussels. I was home after 7 and went to bed at a reasonable hour, to stay awake at school on monday.

Monday, was the 10th of october, as in, my birthday! 17, which is only one year from 18 :D The day was spent at school, from 8 unti 4.20 (lovely eh?) with people wishing me happy birthday when they heard someone else doing it. Even a teacher wished me happy birthday, haha. And I had to run 4km for the first time in gym class.. Lovely birthday present. But I DID it, and I was the 4th or 5th to finish of our group, I'm proud of that. After school I was pretty exhausted as usually on mondays, school until 4.20 with two hours of gym class is just a tad bit tiring. And on top of that it's all  in French of course :D At home I read my emails and Facebook with all the nice congrats from people here and at home in Finland, and my mum called me! Which means I had to speak Finnish again... Wow.. That was surprisingly difficult.. My ponunciation is already crap after two months here.. I can't even imagine how it will be when I go home. My Swedish was still pretty okay when I talked to my brother but Finnish.. I'll have to practice a bit before going home in July :D It was great hearing their voices again but weird at the same time, that's my family and I haven't seen them for two months already. Time passes by SO fast here. But in the evening as I was just beginning to do my homework a girl came into my room and said Marianne wanted us to come to where her reception is. And so we went and when I stepped inside I saw about 20 friends of the family, all starting to sing Happy Birthday in French. I was so surprised, it was the last thing I had expected. I got gifts from every direction, it was just such a sweet thing  of them to do.. We ate well, had some sparkling wine, and some cake. There were four small cakes and I had to try and blow out the candels of all of them at once. Didn't quite succeed. The two funniest moments of the evening were for one when all of a sudden Marianne placed a piece of serrano ham in my hair, to prove to the others that it had the same colour as my hair :D The second when I accidentally got some cream from the cake on my fingers, someone placed my hand in my face so it was all over me and when Marianne saw it, she placed her face in her cake, 3I have sympathy for you, see?" :D It's a crazy life, that's for sure.

The week of school I had nothing special, as usual.. For once I didn't even do anything at all Wednesday afternoon, normally I figure out something to do since I finish school at 12 and Carrie has class until 4.20, which really really sucks. Thursday we did go see a piece of theater with school at the Maison de la Culture in Tournai. It was called Chatroom, a story about six teenagers talking on the internet about various problems etc. I quite liked it, since I was able to understand most of what was going on. Later however, we had to write a review of the piece, minimum one page, for French class, outch. Not as easy.

Friday finally came, and even though we weren't planning on going out as Jade was really tired, and me too actually, but one of her friends insisted on driving us, so we went. And we had a good night, as usual! Saturday we had been planning on visiting Lille in France since it's only 30km from Tournai, 15 minutes by train, to do some shopping because all three of us have a slight need of new clothes. However our plan didn't work out as Marianne wasn't home Saturday, we had to stay at home to watch the dogs. We spent a lazy day doing literllay nothing but watching a movie and going to the supermarket for some cheese that we'd need on sunday.

Sunday we had our second AFS activity organised by our chapter, Hainaut . It was a welcome party in a city called La Louviere, in other words, a chance for us to talk about our experiences so far and such. For the event we had to prepare a paper with a picture and a phrase in our native language about our life in Belgium so far. I wasn't able to choose so I wrote my paper in both Finnish and Swedish. It was interesting though, seeing all the papers with everything from chinese to italian.. And it was great seeing all the other students again! At first we had some group activities, basically they divided us into two and we did some talking and played some games, the typical AFS stuff. Our volunteers are awesome though :D At midi we started organising the tables so that we'd be able to have lunch everyone together, students, families and volunteers. Everyone had been told to bring something, cheese or ham or salad or whatever and it was al placed on a long table from where we could fill our plates with whatever we wanted. We'd also been asked to bring our own plates, forks and knives but for some reason us three, we'd only brought our plates... Well luckily they'd reserved some extra ones for people that'd forget theirs. After lunch we were able to buy the AFS sweater of our chapter, I love it, it's waarm and big and green. The last thing of the day was a game of three points in town where we had to (divided into three teams) reply to some questions about famous Belgian people, sightseeing in the province of Hainaut and miming some traditional Belgian things. We were the yellow team so our team chant was "Hip hip hip, vive les frites!!" :D :D Haha, and in the end we got to shared first place, whee.

Monday morning was quite unsuccesful for both me and Carrie... We had both sort of forgotten it was monday, I'd forgotten to check whether I have homework to do or no, and she'd entirely forgotten it was monday so she slept about an hour more than normally, the poor girl. We had to run 4km, AGAIN, and I did better than last week! But the worst part is, we still have to do it once more next monday.... Other than that the actual week at school was pretty normal, full of tests that I'm not quite able to do and lessons that are tiring.. But lots and lots of laughter during the breaks with my friends.. Silly stuff. Wednesday I actually went to Brussels after school, I visited Jade at her student room and such. We actually did nothing special, but it was a nice afternoon anyway. I took the train home at around 7 since that way I can still make it to the last bus, and all of a sudden I saw Marion at the train station! :D So the first half an hour I didn't have to be alone on the train, we were three, Marion, me and Chris, a girl from Ecuador who lives in the same town as Marion and is here for a year through Rotary. After they left the train I tried to read my book for French class but I think I fell asleep...

Yesterday, friday, I had Marion here for a sleepover. She was at the train station at about 4 and we walked into town with her and Carrie, showed her the awesome city of Tournai, had a drink at the Grand Place; bought some chips for the evening and took the bus home. We didn't really have any plans for the evening, but we had a lot of fun, jumping around to some music being silly as little children... The funniest moments here are always the most random ones... We can have a battle of water in the kitchen with Jade and Carrie, or I can have ham inmy hair or whatever. Laughter is a biig part of this house, without humor you wouldn't survive in here, that's for sure.

For once I have no plans for today and tomorrow, but that's  good, to chrage some batteries before one more week of school. After that, it's a week of vacation, Toussaint. I have to admit, I can't wait for that! We have a lot of plans alreay, we'll see if we're able to do everything we'd want to :)

So, a slighly longer update to give some information of what I'm up to over here. I'll try to make it less than a month before my next update!
Hugs, Julia =)

Sep 20, 2011

1 Month?!

Yeah. That's it. It still feels like only last week that I arrived but now the fact is that I have already spent a month here in Belgium! Unbeliavable how fast time passes.. Since I've been so bad at posting frequently, I thought I'd just collect some of the "highlights" of my trip so far (some of them I might've mentioned before  already..).

Afs week-end
Well first of all there is of course the first week- end with the AFS- arrival camp. The 19th of August about a hundred students settled down at a hotel in Brussels to learn some more about the country we'd just arrived in. Everything and everyone was new and exciting and simply the feeling of meeting all the people that would be going through the same experience and face similar challenges, it was great. We did the usual AFS things concerning culture (what is it? how is my culture? and how is the culture of my host-country?), some games of getting to know each other and a gathering with our chapter. Hainaut! Also meeting my hostsister Jade during breakfast, unexpected to say the least, it's a good thing first impressions don't always last. 

About a couple of weeks after our arrival, during one of the last days of holiday we met up with some of the other AFSers in Brussels to have a drink and talk about our experiences so far. This I actually talked quite a lot about in my last post so I'll just leave it at that, it was great, we should do that again, end of story. Unfortunately I still haven't properly explored Brussels more than that, however tomorrow I have the chance to do that, me and Marion (an AFSer from Switzerland) are going to Brussels after school, yay!

One week-end I decided to visit my best friend over in Flanders, Tongeren to be more exact. Since it's quite far away from Tournai I had to take the train at 6.40.. Or, at least I was supposed to take the train at that hour.. I had to walk to the station since there were no busses that early and of course I managed to get lost and miss my train... Typical.. The next one was in an hour.. After 3-4 hours on the train, finally there, but soo tired since getting up at 5.30 isn't as nice as you might think. Especially not if you went out the night before.. We had a really nice day playing some games, drinking mead, visiting the big fair that was going on and just generally catching up on things. However spending a week speaking only English didn't seem to be the best idea in the end, once I got home my French had somehow dissappeared and Monday at school wasn't much better either to be honest.. :D

Intercultural sisters
That sounds confusing I suppose. But during my first month I had the chance to live with Valeriya from Russia for the first two weeks and Carrie from Hong Kong after that. Now they are two very different persons but I aprreciate them both a lot. It was very interesting during the first two weeks living with Valeriya who really knew no French at all, sometimes having to translate for her even if I might've had some trouble understanding myself too. She was a fairly strong person and quite different to me but I'm happy to have met her and to have learnt some more about Russia and Russian culture. Still Valeriya only lived with us because she had no definitive family yet and Carrie had some problems with her visa. Exactly two weeks after leaving for home for the first time I was back at the location of the AFS arrival camp. This time not only as a student but also as part of a family taking a student home, now that was indeed a bit weird for me. Carrie is tiny and a very sweet girl. We get along great, better each day that passes by. She doesn't speak any French either so I have to translate quite a lot for her still, but I'm sure she'll learn, she has a big motivation for learning. This will be such an interesting year, learning more about Hong Kong while experiencing Belgium.

My Family
Marianne, my hostmum and Jade and Gilles, the host siblings have been so kind to really make us part of this crazy family. They immediately welcomed us with open arms, making adapting to the house easy and after a few days you already feel at home. Home, is a huge house but with all the animals, it's no wonder. The dogs are really a part of the family and since they so many you sometimes have to adapt after the dogs instead of the other way around. Aand you'd better be careful when walking around the house or you might end up stepping into an "accident".  I really love this family to bits and the friends that sometimes seem to be quite part of the family too. It's not unusual to have 12 people over for dinner. The people are basically very warm and welcoming and French speaking. :D

French.. What a language. Prior to Belgium I'd studied three years of French at school. I was admitteably more than nervous since my French wasn't that good when I left. But somehow I've managed to start communicating in french with Marianne and at school since the people here really mostly only speak French. It's not that easy, but hopefully it's getting easier and my French is getting better. I don't feel any difference but I can always hope for some progress. At school understanding is fairly difficult, with some teachers it's close to impossible but with others it works to some extent at least. I really lack vocabulary to express myself though and that is incredibly frustrating when wanting to express something but in the end failing due to not knowing the words.

Normally I guess school wouldn't be considered a "highlight" in any way what so ever, but here it's a way of learning the language and meeting local teenagers. The first day was indeed scary but luckily my class is awesome and they've welcomed me well. Also discovering the Belgian school system is a very interesting experience for me, seeing as it differs quite a lot from the one I'm used to in Finland. And indeed, the school is in French, so what better way to learn French then having to study in French without actually properly mastering the language? :D I won't write much more about the school now since I'm planning on doing a big more detailed post about it later on anyway.  

This is just a small summary of some of the things I've been up to so far, I'll try to update at least once or twice every two weeks from now on! No promises though.. :D But that's it for this time, if you have any questions don't hesitate to post them, I'll be happy to reply to anything you might be wondering about!
Bisous, Julia =)

Sep 2, 2011

Bruxelles & la rentree!

Bruxelles! ( aka Brussels, just in case someone didn't know the name in French) 
This Wednesday I visited Brussels properly for the first time. The idea came from other AFS-exchangers who'd come up with the idea of meeting up and talking about our experiences so far, have a drink and just have a good time. Me and a girl from Switzerland were supposed to meet up on the train since she leaves half an hour away from me on train, but due to some malfunction of my cell-phone, we were only able to meet in Brussels at the station. At first we visited the Grand Palais with her host-mum, it was quite an impressive place! Imagine living there... Afterwards we had some lunch and waited for our friend from Denmark whose train was supposed to arrvie at half past 2, but in the end it was almost 40 minutes late, so annoying! And so began the search for the Delirium, a pub in Brussels known for its 2000 different kinds of beer, where we'd meet the other AFSers. Problem was that none of us quite knew where it was.. We ran into the girls from the Czech Republic in front of the station and after asking around and probably walking in a circle for half an hour we FINALLY found the Delirium! It was great to see that many familiar faces and hear about the experiences of the others, we really need to keep that up! It was a good night. :)

La Rentree
After Brussels I had one more day of vacation before la rentree, the schoolstart. Now I don't even remember when I last was as nervous as for the first day of school here. I had no idea where I should go and what to do, luckily there are some very great and helpful people at school and in my class. Basically what I'm doing at school is called "Sciences sociales at educatives", which means that I'll have some general subjects (Maths, French, Geography, History, Religion, English and P.E) but on top of that I'll also have some special classes such as Techniques d'Expression and some extra French. Sounds very interesting to me! I was placed in the quatrieme, the fourth grade that is, which means that most pupils in my class are slightly younger than me, but that's okay. The first day of school was nothing special, we spent about 2 hours at school, getting to know the place and each other. On Monday, it's the real deal that begins, school from 8 until 15.30... That's for all days, except for Wednesday afternoons that are free, yay!

Pictures will be posted ( at some point....).
Bisous, Julia :)

Aug 30, 2011

The first week.

So, I have now spent one week (and a few days days to be exact) in Belgium. I love it. My family is very warm and welcoming, they really make you feel at home from the beginning. In a way it's weird to think that I've ONLY spent a week here, certain faces and habits are already normal to me.

 For one, the bisous, you greet people by kissing them once on the cheek, within the family too. This could cause problems for someone coming from a place like Finland where you aren't that close to people, where the greeting consists of a handshake, if that even. But for me, I find the bisous really great, you're much more familiar with people here. Another one would be wearing shoes inside. In Finland wearing shoes inside would be considered a tad bit rude, but it's easy to get used to this too.

My first week has been full of new faces, a new language and some new places. I live close to Tournai, which is the oldest town of Belgium, and I've visited Tournai quite a few times, it's a very pretty town in my opinion. I've started my days quite late, had some lunch and mostly waited until my hostsister Jade comes home from work. We've been out to have some drinks with her friends a few times, there's a really nice celtic pub called Cornwall in Tournai, full of metalheads and such, me likes! I've tried many belgian beers, and surprisingly enough, liked them. I really didn't like beer when I left Finland, but here you have such a big variety of flavours that I can't not like them.

Here, at home it's common to have several friends over for dinner or lunch, some evenings we've been 12, and understanding all the French being spoken at the table is quite a challenge. But my French is improving, I hope so at least! I can have some basic conversation and understand what people are saying every now and then. On Friday I start school which means lore French, which is always good! My hostsister from Hong Kong arrives on saturday, so for a while we'll be three exchange students in the house, until they find a family for Valeriya.

I guess that's pretty much all for now! Â bientot (j'espere)!
Bisous, Julia :)

Aug 22, 2011

Je suis en Belgique!

Soo I am in Belgium, finally! I'm sorry for all possible errors I make while writing, the keyboard of this pc is different, and my english is veerrry bad at the moment :D

But Fridya the 19th I left home at 12.30 without realising that I was actually leaving.. It didn't even hit me at the airport.. Saying goodbye to my parents and all was weird but I couldn't understand the fact that I wouldn't see them soon again. We were three girls on the flight to Brussels, which was really nice since we were all slightlyyy excited and of course nervous too! Iida and Josefiina, thanks for the company! :) Our flight landed at maybe 18.20 in Brussels and that was finally it, we were in Belgium! Afs volunteers met us at the airport and afyer getting our luggage we were escorted out to take the shuttle to the hotel where our orientation camp would be held. Once we arrived at the hotel it was already after 7, almost 8 o'clock so we immediately had dinner and then there was some progral in the evening; the big guy of AFS Belgique held a speech and then it was bed time for us, which was good since we were quite exhausted :D

We had a fairly early wake-up in the morning, so everyone was tired at breakfast. And all of a sudden I saw a very familiar face there; my host sister, Jade! I was surprised to see her and I must've seemed like such an idiot when we first talked as the surprise of the situation just got to me and I barely spoke :D Well, during the day we did some similar stuff as on the camp in Finland in May, of course now the information was more Belgium-specific, but still it wasn't that much new info to be honest. But it was really nice to meet all the other exchange students that came to Belgique! And the feeling, when you saw someone you already knew by their face through facebook or some, very bizarre :D As the afternoon passed by, everyone became more and more nervous, since the last thing at the camp was of course the most exciting one, we were to mleet our host families for the first time! Well, my hostmum wasn't there so I didn't meet anyone new at that point anymore but the others had roses that they gave to the families that were waiting for them with big signs with the student's name on. I thought that was quite nice really :)

I've now spent a couple of days in my new family and all I can say is that they are indeed a bit crazy and different to the ordinary family, but I like them! The house is HUGE, and there are tons of animals but it's nice so far, really. We have a Russian girl here too, temporarily seeing as there are some problems with the Hong Kong girl's visa, and the Russian girl, Valeriya, didn't have a family yet. She's funny.  So far, we've visited Tournai, the big city nearby, I've tried a couple of Belgian beers (and liked them!! :D), and tried speaking French, which isn't that easy to be honest. I'll put up some pictures on the blog at some point, but right now I only have them on my camera :D

I think that's pretty much all for now, I'll try to update soon again, but no promises, I'm sorry :D
Hugs, Julia! :)

Aug 18, 2011


Tomorrow. That's it. Tomorrow. I never thought I'd be writing this since the departure date has always seemed so far away, but it is indeed the 18th of August today which means, yes, I leave for Belgium tomorrow. My flight leaves at 16.40 which means I'll have to be at the airport at 14.30 so we leave home around 12.30. Basically I have less than 24 hours at home. Wow.

I went to school to meet people for the last time and it felt so weird. Everything was so familiar, yet I didn't feel like I belonged there. Saying goodbye to important people isn't easy either.. It's weird. "Hey, bye now, see you in a year!" I'll miss my friends and family so much. And I've had a full day of that :D But at the same time I'm so excited to go, I've been waiting since I don't know when for this, so now that it's finally becoming reality, well, I'm happy! My bags are packed and I managed to stuff everything into one suitcase and my trolley, so proud of myself for that!

That's all for now,I guess my next post will be from la Belgique then!
Hugs, Julia =)

Aug 10, 2011


Packing has to be one of the most difficult things ever. How do you pack for one year? I'm planning on taking one suitcase of max 23kg and a trolley of max 8kg as my hand luggage plus a bag that will pose as my hand bag, while really being stuffed. Still, it seems impossible. :D Everyone keeps on telling me I'll never fit everything I need into one suitcase, which really just adds to the stress of it.. :P Because I fear they might be right. But oh well, if I do forget something very important, it can either be sent from Finland or bought as new in Belgium, after all I'll be able to find pretty much all the same stuff as in Finland... So it should be alright in the end :) I still have 9 days to figure it out!

I also got some paper work done today. I had to have some forms signed by my parents at the register office in the presence of some clerk and I have to make them aware of the fact that I'm moving abroad for a year.. Complicated stuff.. Afs also sent me a mail that said I'd be needing 6 official passport pictures so I had those taken too, and ugh that is the worst thing ever. What is it with those cameras that they always manage to make you look awful on the pictures?  Oh well, I guess those pictures are better than the one on my actual passport, taken in 2003? :D

My days are quite full it seems.. I have four more days work, three in a row now and then one more later on. Two farewell parties, one with friends and one with my teammates. Two games. One day I promised to go to school still. And well, the rest of the time goes to meeting up with friends, spending time at home and of course, as the title says, packing. Truth is, I've got to get it done, in the end it is ONLY 9 days left. And to be quite honest, I can't wait to get to Belgium! Excited!

Aug 7, 2011


I haven't posted anything on the blog for quite some time, mostly since I haven't had time due to work and other things going on, but also since I simply had nothing new to tell : D Well, now I finally do!!
First of all, I FINALLY have a host family!!  I'll be going to the small village of Kain, which is located in the far west of Belgium, very close to the French border! It's a place of about 10 000 inhabitants, so quite a change of scenery :D My upcoming family consists of a mother and two children, a son and a daughter, but neither of them actually live at home anymore, they only visit during week-ends. On top of this I'll have another host sister too, another exchange student, from Hong Kong! Now this will be interesting! :) The family lives in a big house so I understand I'll have my own room even. The family also has a FEW animals... I must admit I was prettyyyy surprised when I read their file and saw that they have about 40 dogs, 20 cats, ponies and goats and such.... WOW!  It seems like such a warm house full of life! I can't wait to meet them all.

My school in Belgium will be Sain Union de Kain which is located at a walking distance from home, about 1km, sounds great to me. It's less of a theoretical and more of a practical school with different branches to choose from. Not complaining, probably means less stress for school work!

It's less than two weeks until my departure date now. How weird is that! My last post was about how it was less than 3 months to go... And it doesn't seem like long ago that I wrote that..  Two weeks seems like nothing but at the same time it feels like a long time in Finland still. I really need to start packing though.. One of the less pleasant things according to me :D  I still have 6 days of work out of the 12 I have left. During those 12 days I'm also going to have a farewell party with some friends, play a couple of games with my team, get my things packed and spend some time with my family and friends. Wow, I'll probably run out of time here :D

That's all for now, I'll try to be better at updating from now on :)
Hugs, Julia :)

May 27, 2011

Less than 3 months..

Summer's approaching and I only have one week of school to go! That is, two exams and some random days. Of course once summer starts I'll be working and working and working at this cafe next to a museum, but it seems like a really nice job so I don't mind. Plus, I'll be needing quite a lot of money for Belgium I'm sure.

It's less than three months until my departure date now.. It still does seem surreal though. I have yet to find out my host family, city, school and all that which is plain torture, I want to know more already! A couple of weeks ago I had my orientation camp which was amazing! We were about 40 Finnish boys and (mostly) girls, all going to Europe! The group- feeling towards the end of the camp was just really great since we all had that one big thing in common. I already dread packing for a full year, I mean how can you get the things you need for a year into ONE suitcase? Impossible :D Besides AFS should give me my restrictions on how much I get to take so that I can first buy myself a proper suitcase... Oh and it's weird to have these last-one-before my departure things coming up all the time, like last normal school day, last exam, last one of this and last one of that... I guess this is the point where I realise I'm actually going away for a year?

Haha, random thoughts this time.
Hugs, Julia =)

Apr 11, 2011

Waiting, waiting, wanting to know....

Still waiting to find out something about my hostfamily and my placement... I'm just so eager to know more, it's only 4 months until I leave and I know some other people already have their hostfamilies and gaaaah..  Today I got an invitation for my preparation camp in Finland, it's less than a month until that too! I can't wait, and this saturday I have a shorter preparation thing held in Turku for the local leaving exchange students. Ugh my English is already messed up, sorry about that. All these happenings just make it seem so much more real, "it's actually going to happen" is a thought that often crosses my mind, lately all the more as the departure approaches..

Sometimes I do wonder why I'm doing this in the first place... Staying away for a whole year does seem like quite a lot when you think about it.. I know for sure I'll miss my friends and family a lot.. And the language is an issue for me too, I mean yeah, I really really want to learn French properly but sometimes it feels entirely impossible and I'm struck by panic "I'll never be able to do this". On the other hand, I can't wait to leave. I can't wait to be able to see more of the world, to get to know new people, learn a new language and have lots of valuable experiences. I say valuable rather than amazing or superb, I know not all of the things I'll experience are going to be easy to deal with or even remotely enjoyable but after all, when you decide to do an exchange year, you kind of need to know that not everything will be perfect, it won't necessarily be "THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE" like some organisations advertise (which I think is extremely wrong of them, but I won't go more into that right now), nope it might well be the worst year of your life at the time, but later one will surely value all the experiences and lifelessons you get to learn when dealing with a different culture for a year.

Just some thoughts =)
Hugs, Julia

Mar 27, 2011

Small introduction

Hi there! As you might've figured out, this blog will tangle everything concerning my exchange year to Wallonia in Belgium. The organisation I'm using is AFS. I thought I'd start by doing a slight introduction of myself, if I'd happen to have readers who don't know me (as if :P). 


I'm a 16 year old girl from southwestern Finland. I love music, love languages, love travelling. I play football, go to concerts whenever I have the opportunity, read books, watch movies etc. 

Why do the exchange? And WHY Belgium?

Well, as I said, I love travelling, and I love languages, I really want to learn French properly. I picked Belgium for my exchange because... yeah why? One thing was the language ofc, I want to learn French but I wasn't too keen on going to France, I don't know why. The fact that it's a bilingual country also kind of fascinates me, I am bilingual myself so it'll be interesting going to a country where the bilingualism (probably not even a word huh? ) is handled in a completely different way than here. I also know some awesome Belgian people and have visited the country before. 

That's all for now :) I really can't believe it's only 4 months and a few weeks until I leave for my exchange.... ^^ Scary shit. I'll just have to get through two "exam weeks" and a full term before summer. 

Hugs, Julia =)