Hunter C.’s Belgium Adventure – Report #1

It has been about 4 weeks since my arrival in Belgium, and those weeks have been some of the best of my life. When my plane touched down on the endless flat terrain of Belgium, I was immersed into a completely foreign culture. Coming from Los Angeles, it was shocking to see brick buildings, cobblestone roads, and cloudy skies. I was especially surprised when a AFS Belgian representative I had never met, only a few moments after I landed, leaned in with his lips pressed together to say hello. I drastically dodged thinking he was trying to kiss me. He laughed, and then explained he was attempting to “bisou,” the common Belgian greeting, and not trying to kiss me. 

Throughout the first weekend, AFS taught us what to expect culturally throughout our year with a three day orientation camp. There were a series of activities and lessons explaining the rules of AFS and how to adjust to this foreign culture. They taught us nearly everything, including how to do the “bisou.” I got to meet over one hundred exchange students from around the world that were living in Belgium for the year, just like me. Everyone at the camp was extremely friendly and the classes were very informative. Overall, it was a great way to start my experience.
Then the day came to meet my family. As expected, it was slightly awkward at first. I was surprised at the minuscule amount of words/questions that came to my head when I knew very little about these people and they knew nothing about me. I was nervous. However, with time, the family and I grew close. I have two loving host parents: Marina and Gauthier, and four  host siblings: Aurelien, Emelie, Marie, and Ludovic. I slowly found common interests which each member of the family. I play guitar with Emilie, photography with Gauthier and Marie, talk bikes with Ludovic, play an occasional video game with Aurelien, and practice my french with Marina. I feel I have found my place in the family and couldn’t be more happy.
Similar to meeting my family, starting school was somewhat difficult in the beginning. I am usually very good at making friends, however, my inability to speak the same language as the other kids has added some challenges. I was able to have one-on-one conversations with people in their broken English, but I was unable to partake in group conversations which were in french. With time, that has started to change. I knew absolutely no french when I arrived, and I can now follow about 20% of what is happening in a conversation. I imagine in a few monthsI will be able to understand french and speak with some confidence.
Overall, my experience so far has been surreal. My first three weeks have been adjusting to the culture, my new family, and my new life for the year. My AFS experience has been everything I hoped and dreamed for and I am excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me.
Hunter C.
  1. Me enjoying the Brussels Central.
  2. Me eating the classic Belgian Frites and mayonnaise. Many Americans call them « French Fries » but they are in fact Belgian fries.
  3.  The famous Bruxelles Central, a popular area in down town Brussels where you can find lots of museums and tourist attractions.
  4.  Me taking a « promenade » with one of the families two dogs in the fields next to our town, Ottignes.
  5.  The stunning view from atop a monument in Waterloo, the place where Napoleon was defeated for the final time

Note:  Hunter is on a year program from our Greater Los Angeles (GLA)  Area Team (AT) to Belgium, 2018-2019. He is the recipient of an AFS-USA scholarship, the Helen Peggie Miller $5,000 merit- and needs-based scholarship. And,he is also the recipient of a GLA local merit-based scholarship.

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