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 :)