Hello Everybody

Welcome! This blog will cover my study abroad in Belgium! I hope you find it interesting, enjoyable, and fun. Please feel free to contact me with any questions/comments via e-mail. If you have any problems with the blog please let me know.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back in the US

I have returned to the United States (10 months after leaving) and am still adjusting to life as an American. The first day was definitely weird since it seemed like everyone had an accent but as each day goes on things get better and better. A huge thanks to everyone who stopped by last Thursday....it was great to see everyone again. I am getting used to how big everything is after living in Europe and getting back into my old habits. Of course my room is a disaster as I'm working on unpacking after being gone for a year. I'm also preparing to start working this week and get all my college stuff ready for next year. The summer weather is also a nice break from all the rain that we had in Belgium. I hope everyone else is enjoying their summers too. I am guessing this is my last post since now I'm home and no longer living in Belgium. Thank you for all your support during the year and I hope the blog kept everyone somewhat informed. Have a great summer!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Welcome Lauren Home

Any one in Minnesota (or wherever) who would like to welcome Lauren home is invited to an "open house" on Thursday, July 10 from 6:30 pm until 9:00 at our home. She officially arrives back home on Sunday, July 6, but we thought we would like a little time with her and she might like to sleep off a little of that jet lag. We are hoping she will have some pictures to show and stories to tell. We hope to see you then! Charlotte, Todd and Elli - Lauren's family

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A True Belgian

As the year starts to wind down I am overwhelmed with things to do. Between end of year parties, a camping trip with my friends, finishing up exams, graduation ceremony, and just plain hanging out with my host family (building the patio still) I am definitely felling the end. As I start thinking about all the things you do for possible the last time in your life our people you'll never see again, it's scary! But at the same time it's okay, because life goes on, I can't live be an exchange student forever!! As I look back on my year I am extremely happy and I know I will keep many very good memories (and hopefully be able to see some people again). For the moment, the weather is very belgian (rain one day and 80 degrees and sunny the next) and I seem to be getting my share of belgian culture. An afternoon in Bruxelles and fries for dinner is pretty belgian. Plus watching the European soccer tournament with my host sister while studying for exams. So as you can see I'm keeping busy, with the little time that rests! Hope everything is going well for everyone else and I'll maybe see you soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Good Ideas for a Title

Nothing super exciting is happening in Belgium (well yes but nothing more than the regular life). I'm having fun going shopping with friends, going to birthday parties, enjoying the nice weather (and the bad weather), and we are also starting to prepare for end of the year exams (and fun stuff). So basically, I'm living like a normal belgain high schooler...stress for school but party on the weekends! I am about to leave for my weekly tennis lesson and then I'll come home and study since I've a large test in English tomorrow and in two and a half weeks we start written and orale exams! As spring is here there are flowers all over and chicks and baby feasants. We are also working on building a new terrace around the pool (just like doing the porch in MN)....every weekend we help my host dad put the boards in place. It's actually made partially out of old railraod beds so the boards are really heavy and it takes three or four of us to lift them! Anyways, sorry there isn't much to update but maybe in a few weeks....and I'll try to post a picture some day soon. Best of luck for everyone finishing up this school year!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Music Festival and Normandy, France

Rock and Roll one week and the world history the next...life is great in Belgium! Two weekends agos we had a music festival hosted by mouvement jeunesse. It was really neat to hang out with the scouts and I learned lots of new vocabulary as I had to work at the bar for a couple hours....all the slang words for beer! This last weekend I was on a class trip to Normandy and Bretagne in France. We saw the beach where all the soldiers landed and I got to talk to a veteran from England (and translate for everyone else). We also visited St.-Michel an old village situated on a mountain type thing and we saw the tapestry of Bayeux. My three best friends were there with me and we had the time of our lives! I am really glad I went and got to experience a different part of Belgian culture...class trips...something that's not like anything I've done in the US. The weather here is really nice and really rotten. Over the weekend it was something like 70 or 80 degrees and then this morning it was pouring and chilly-typical Belgian weather (because of the Atlantic Ocean). I am definitely taking advantage of school vacation as we had two days off last week for Normandy and today I left school at 10 because the teachers didn't give classes because of student presentations and we have thursday and friday off and next week monday and tuesday are also vacation! I will be having tons of fun hopefully throwing a surprise b-day party at the sea and of course working on group projects and then going to parties and just hanging out with friends. Life is great for me and I hope all is well for you!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back in the swing of things...

Vacation is over and after two weeks back at school you could see it in the eyes of everyone that summer won't be here soon enough! The first week back at school was awesome...I saw everyone again after not seeing my friends for two weeks and tennis lessons started up again. Everything went pretty smoothly and I noticed more and more progress for my french speaking abilities except a little less progress in my driving abilities. I have started riding a bike to tennis lessons because it is really nice outside so it great to be in the fresh air for 45 minutes in the afternoons, but as I was coming home from tennis I somehow hit the curb and had a little accident. Nothing really big just skinnned my knees and elbows...so I guess I'm not perfect in everything! The friday afterwards I went to a friend's house afterschool and we worked on our french project and then went to a party. The second week of school was a little more rough. We have nonstop tests and homework and plenty of group projects. By thursday everyone was ready for the weekend and when it finally got here we have so much stuff going on there is no time to rest. I just got back from movement jeunesse because we organised a huge rock concert so I was there helping out. It was the first time I ever worked at a "bar" before. I learned lots of new vocabulary as to what the slang words are for beer and the different mixed beer drinks...that's something you won't get in high school language classes! Some more general information: the weather is like MN spring: cold in the morning so you have to wear a jacket to school but you sweat when you walk home because it's 70 degrees. We've had surprisingly lots of sunshine and not too much rain or rain only during the night so that's been really nice. I found someone in Belgium who is able to get chocolate chips so we've made two and a half batches of chocolate chip cookies in the past two weeks...my family adores them! The guy who got me the chocolate chips misunderstood the quantity so he brought me four pounds...we still have a lot left to make! English lessons are still going great...my little student is showing lots of progress and I love having contact with a little kid a couple times a week. I have temporarily stopped my evening french courses because I have so many other opportunities and I seem to be learning more by reading (I read and wrote a review on a book that received the most prestigious french litterary prize), going to normal school, and having everyone correct me so I decided it was better to have fun with my friends and family than to be stressed with way to much work! Overall things are going really great and sorry I don't have too big of an update but I'm basically just going with the flow for the moment...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


It was the week for city trips! Spring break is here and I've had tons of fun!! I started the week doing homework and giving English lessons and saw a couple movies. Wednesday night a friend came over and my host sister and I made dinner and we all watched a movie. Thursday morning my friend and I went to Brussels for the day and toured around. We spent most of the day in a museum of musical instruments. They gave us headphones when we got there and then you walk around and everytime you pass the different displays infared technology sends signals to your headphones and you can here the noises the instruments makes..it was lots of fun. It was rainy in Brussels so we didn't do too much outside but I saw a few touristy places throughout the city. Friday morning I left the house at quarter to seven on my way to Paris. I got to Paris late morning and met Jeanine there. We stayed one night and had tons of fun. Friday it was rainy and windy and so we were completely soaked. We saw the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees and the Concorde Place and the Royal Palace and more and returned to the hotel around six o' clock completely soaked. Of course we didn't bring any clothes to change into since we were only there one night and so we put our pajamas on and went across the street to the laundremat and put all of our clothes and jackets in the dryer...just enough so that we could wear them to go get some dinner. The next morning our clothes were luckily dry but our shoes stayed wet...but Saturday there was plenty of sunshine so that was way better. We started the day by getting a quick breakfast and then walking to the Notre Dame and poking around the city and then we went back to the hotel for checkout and left again in the direction of Sacre Coeur. We got a quick lunch on the way and then climbed our way up the hills...we did stop partway to eat a slice of chocolate cake! In the afternoon it was a little cold and windy but we managed to see lots of Paris as we went almost everywhere on foot! We were completely exhausted by the time we got to the train stations later in the evening, but that's okay we both had tons of fun! Now I'm ready for another week of vacation...so far with tentative plans to go to a carnival, go shopping, go to the movies, go to the ocean and much more. My friends all got back from school trips so we're going to be spending plenty of time together!! Hope everyone is doing well and enjoyed their spring breaks (if they had one) and if not aren't too stressed with work or school!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Five days in the short life!

I know it's been a while but frankly I have activities coming out my years. A couple weeks ago I spent a week at the preschool helping out the teachers and basically just having fun with the little kids. It was really neat seeing the differences between preschool in Belgium and preschool in the US and just in general changing my school habits for a week. I made lots of little friends and definitely had lots of fun but getting back into normal school is tough. It is definitely different when your morning greeting consists of "I went poopy in my underwear" opposed to the normal "Did you understand the science homework?" The little kids also liked to make fun of my accent and have me say words that I know I have a strong accent with. They are so funny when they tell my I don't say words like normal people! Also, by coincidence in one my classes there was a little girl from England so it was neat talking with her, but she is definitely picking up on french faster than me... ahhh what it's like to be young! I have a feeling I'm still a little bit behind with the homework but I'll catch up eventually! Recently we had our report cards and I only failed two classes when my teachers counted points like everyone else!! I guess this means school is going well. I understand almost everything and participate in class. Today and yesterday I even taught permutations to my math class...and they understood. Just like school in the US we're getting ready for spring break in a week and a half. Plenty of tests are coming our way but we are also taking a special trip for math and science and visiting a nearby university. With my evening french course we recently visited an exposition in Brussels on Da Vinci. It was super interesting and I never realized everything he did in life. (if you're a lefty you should start writing backwards and maybe you'll become a genius too!) Well, I am going to stop now because I've got to get back to my homework but I hope everything is going well for every else!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here's some news!!

I just got back from another skiing adventure in the French Alps! It is so much fun! I started the week skiing with my host parents and sister and her friends. The very first day (of my second week ever skiing) they took me to a black slope! Luckily there weren't many people the first day because I was still a little slow and fell down quite a few times! But as the week progressed I was able to go basically anywhere I wanted and I think I can officially say that I don't ski all that badly. Throughout the week I skiied with some family friends that were at the same ski station because they ski a little slower than my family and stay on marked slopes (which I prefer!). By the end of the week when I skiied more with my host parents they were definitely impressed by my improvement! I fell down maybe an average of twice a day. I did fall one time because I was launched by the ski lift! Long story short, I am not very good at using the skilift and it was an old one that goes really fast and the little helper didn't help so I got launched my the skilift and ended up dropping a ski, loosing my hat and stopping the whole thing. Everyone had a pretty good laugh, but besides that no exciting stories for this time around, but skiing was definitely easier the second time around! I recently had a big exam for my french course in the evenings. Yesterday we got the results and I had 27 over 30 for the oral and overall for writing, listening, and oral 91.9%. I am very happy with my score and it means I have definitely made lots of progress! As far as normal school things are looking good. I managed to read "Brave New World" (only in french) and this morning I took the test for it, surprisely I don't think I failed! I have also started giving english lessons to the daughter of someone who is in my french course in the evenings. I've only seen her a couple times but I think it's going to be lots of fun. Next week I will be participating in a "social week" obligatory through AFS. I have chosen to go the preschool of my school and so I will spend the week helping 3-5 year olds. I am super excited but I have to miss my normal classes so I will have a lot of catching up to do!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Time Flies

As many of you know I recently turned 18! Wow...I guess I'm old! To celebrate I spent the morning reading Brave New World (only in French for French) and the afternoon finishing up the rest of my homework and helping to get ready for another week of skiing. In the evening we had dinner together (most of the family) and a really yummy cake/pie that my host mom made. After that my host parents, a host sister and I went to the movies. Normally we go to the movie theater with movies in french but this time we went to a different one where the movies are always the original version with subtitles. I saw Atonement..it was really good. The movie was in English but as it took place during the war there were a couple scenes in French. I didn't even realize they changed languages until I looked at the subtitles! It was so weird! Currently we are getting ready to leave for another week of skiing the French Alps. I am super excited! School is going pretty well and soon I will be going to the preschool for a week to help out (as a requirement through AFS) and also I have to teach a math lesson just after break! So there's all my exciting news for the moment...nothing much but I am still keeping busy with tennis lessons and Movement Jeunesse.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holidays in Europe

I spent Christmas Eve with my immediate family and we did a gift exchange and big dinner with lots of little dishes. My host mom and sister and I spent the day preparing everything, but in the end we had leftovers for three days. The 26th I celebrated Christmas with my host mom's family. We had three different kinds of soups for dinner accompanied by bread and all different kinds of cheeses. It was really yummy. Later we played card games and ended up returning home around three in the morning! Overall it was lots of fun to celebrate the holidays in Belgium, but strange because there isn't a speck of snow!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Avoriaz...an alpine adventure

I'm really sorry it's been so long since I've written, but like everybody else, holidays are a busy time of year for me. Holidays in Belgium are much different than in the US but still fun. We had two weeks off of school and the second week I got to skiing in the Alps! We drove about 8 hours to a ski resort in France. I went with my host parents and two friends from school. The first day my parents gave us a crash course on the basics of skiing. Surprisingly I learned quickly and ended the day without a bruise! For the next six days we enrolled in morning lessons. Although my friends and I were all at different levels it worked out fine because we had a picnic lunch together and skied together in the afternoons. As many people from different countries come to Avoriaz for their holidays, my class was very interesting. We started the week with only English and French speakers but by the end of the week we had people from France, Ireland, England, Germany, Holland, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, and of course the US. It was funny because everyday we added a new language. This meant my teacher gave the lessons in primarily English, but little bits of French, Spanish and Italian! Throughout the week I progressed well and by midweek I skied with my friends on red slopes (3rd level difficulty) and we even crossed the border and spent an afternoon in Switzerland! Returning home Saturday and having to go back to school this week was not very exciting and I am already missing the snow. But on a lighter note, upon re-entry to school I understand my teachers and participate fully in class...although not perfectly. At least once everyday I make some weird mistake that makes every laugh, but I heard laughing helps you stay healthy so really I'm just helping their health!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

First and foremost, happy holidays to everyone! I hope everyone has an exceptional xmas and a terrific start to a new year! I am enjoying my vacation here in Belgium (we have about three weeks of vacation for christmas/new year). I finished a week and a half of exams the week before last and now vacation is great. I received my "report card" last friday so i will share some of my outstanding grades! haha, if i'm not failing it's great! I passed my history exam with exactly 50%. Luckily in english I have a good mark...82% for my exam and in science I'm also passing! My math exam was close to passing at 47%. Psychology is really good too with 80% for my exam. I did fail my religion exam (40%), but mostly because relgion has tons of vocab that I don't know. I would have to say my french is definitely improving and my teachers are not quite as frustrated as in the beginning when I understook nearly nothing. My other french class in the evenings is going really great because we started learning more grammer and not just vocabulary. I can now correctly talk and write (mostly) in the near past and near future! But, enough of school stuff. For Christmas in Belgium we have no snow, but where I'm going skiing in the Alps the snow is higher than me so overall it's okay. Over the past week of vacation I visited Mons and Nivelles with my friends and we did some shopping and sightseeing. I also went shopping with my sister and cooked some meals for when we go skiing. Tomorrow we are going to celebrate Christmas here with my immediate family and then the 26 we're going to Maman's family to celebrate. Everyone will be back from college and on vacation tomorrow so I'm really looking forward to it! We are going to spend all morning preparing for a big supper and then open presents! I can't wait. Enjoy the holidays and best wishes for the new year!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Facts and Figures

I have some quick updates and little facts about my life. It's unfortunate this blog doesn't allow you to have paragraphs; so I'm sorry but this might seem a little random. First; it is currently the season of Saint Nicolas here. Normally a holiday for little kids; but luckily my host family is really cool and I get to celebrate it. We started in November and St. Nicolas passes every now and then leaving candy by the fireplace to be discovered in the morning. It is really fun to wake up in the morning and get ready for school and then my sister and I go look to see if he left any candy. I also got to say hello to him the other day when we were doing some shopping. I couldn't really sit on his lap because he was really old and I think I would have been way to heavy; but I at least got to shake his hand. Next; I mentioned in an earlier post that I missed worms; but not to worry the same day I saw St. Nicolas; I also saw my first Belgian worm. It was really long and fat and it had a gradiant color change from pink to brown...perfect! Lastly I ran a "race" at school last friday. It is called "Le Cross de Saint Nicolas" and it is basically our exam for gym. I had to run 3 miles and since I'm the equivalent of a senior at school we wore costumes and afterwards we get to eat waffles. I ran it in 21 minutes and finished 67 of 295 people. We're divided into different sections by grade and gender, but my sister finished first for her section. Recently I also visited a tourist attraction called mini-europe in Brussels. It is a collection of scale models of different places in Europe...it was really neat. (photo of me as an english guard). I learned lots of interesting information; but here are some quick facts about belgium. Belgians consume the most french fries than anyone else and the average Belgian consumes over 16 pounds of chocolate per year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Let's Party!!

My first "soirée" in Belgium....WOW....I've never experienced anything like it! The party was organized through movement jeunesse for a fundraiser. No; we don't sell cookies like US scouts; we throw parties in Belgium. I arrrived around ten fifteen with my sister and her friends. After I got there I met up with my friends from school. The location was basically a big room and there was a DJ and a bar. The theme was 80's so the music was really good; but strange because it was mostly in English; so I knew nearly all the songs and the few songs in French I had already heard on the radio. You could buy drinks at the "bar". Most people drank beer. It was mostly young people; kids from school and surrounding area; but almost everyone drank beer and lots of people smoke, blah. Everyone dances and there were lights and a discoball. It was basically like a minidisco. If you read the post about the wedding that party was just an after wedding dance compared to this. It is hard to explain; but it was definitely different. Anyways; I danced with my friends and returned to the house around 2 in the morning. We left the party at about one thirty; which was early! I was so tired!!! We got home; had a big drink of water because your throat it totally dry from the smokers and then put all our clothes in the laundry because they absolutely reeked and then crawled into bed. I slep until 9 the next morning! (really late for me; i'm usually up around six twenty) I woke up and first thing took a shower and then changed my sheets; because everything smelled smoky. But overall; it was lots of fun and I am planning on going to another party in a couple weeks for a friend's birthday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Way too much fun!

Whewy, Lauren! Sounds like you are having one adventure after another. How can we apply to be AFS students too? What is happening with your tennis and horse-riding lessons? Are you making any appreciable progress? Hopefully you are sticking with both until you get some comfort level. You had a very tentative look on your face while on that horse, but at least you were on up there and smiling! Thanks for the update and the photos - it is fun for us to have a little window into your AFS year. Love, GBob and GPaula

Friday, November 2, 2007

Movement Jeunesse and some other recent stuff

This past weekend I went on a "hike" with movement jeunesse (similar to scouts). The theme was seventies; so you had to wear a costume during the hike; for the various activities. We met at school Friday evening and broke up into teams of 5 people. We left with a map and a destination; but the at each destination you had to find a balloon and pop it to get the next location. So we didn't go directly to the location; we rode through the country for about an hour and a half. When we arrived we played karaoke and then went to bed (about midnight). Saturday morning we had Nutella sandwiches for breakfast and then spent the morning and part of the afternoon making movies. My team did Mary Poppins. We had a little dance with brooms and there was a chimney there so I climbed in the chimney and came out of the fireplace. It was really cool. Lunch was really yummy pasta with sauce. Then in we had a mini Tour de France. We had to go to different "pit stops" throughout the city and do different activities with the leaders such as decorating a bike; seventies trivia; etc. After that we had sprinting races. For the evening activity we played casino games and you had to win enough money to buy your dinner. It was really fun. Sunday morning we had breakfast and cleaned then went back to the school. Sunday afternoon I spent at home doing homework and then Sunday night I went to my sister's university and spent the night. Monday I met my friends there and we explored the campus and did some shopping at the mall. (for those of you in MN; the mall was just like the one with the Cheesecake factory except the stores were slightly different) Another side note; all the malls here have a supermarket in them; it is really weird. Anyways; Monday night I spent the night at a friend's house and got home Tuesday. So; I guess I've been keeping busy; but I like it. Hope you like the new pictures!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

ah, lauren, i miss you!

Lauren!!! only you would miss the worms when it rains! (personally i dont like the smell and having to try and avoid them) reading that you miss them made me laugh; and made me realize that its the little things, like that, that i miss the most about you! i also miss not being able to see you at school, it kind of feels like something is missing! :[ but its really neat to hear all your stories and i know your having an awesome time! i wish i could dream in french, that sounds so cool! lol...im not going to write much here because its late and i said everything i needed to in my earlier email! im so glad i can stay in touch with you and getting your reply email always makes my day! ...reading your parents comment on here almost made me cry (dont worry im not turning into a crier but its late and i miss you and i dunno, it just made me want to cry) but i hope your having an awesome break and ill talk to you later! --jill

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oui ;Oui; je parle français

Salut (hello) everbody!! Yes; the honeymoon phase would be correct. I am really comfortable with my family and have started to make good friends at school. I can pick up on pieces of conversations and I don't have think really; really hard to carry on a conversation with one or two other people. It is gettingreally difficult to talk and do things with English. When I write I think in French and translate toEnglish; it is really weird. I even dream in French now. Sometimes it's a French/English mix; but it is really strange to wake up and immediately think in French. When someone starts talking to me in English it sounds really strange and it takes me a minute to register that they are talking in a language I know... the other day someone asked me what a word was in English and I had no idea. (it was mother-in-law; another person knew) This past week I was on a religous retreat with school. I went to a monestary in southeast Belgium. The weather and outdoors in general was just like MN. I learned a lot about life there and I met lots of people from school that I didn't know before so that was really neat. School is going well in general. Wednesday afternoons still feel like vacations; but that's okay; I'm not going to complain. There is lots of homework right now because we have one week of school and then vacation; so the teachers are giving lots of tests. I changed my schedule this past week because my french class with the younger kids got changed to math; so now I have another hour of french on Tuesdays. I think it is better now; because my new french class is talking about the theatre and so is my regular french class; so there are a few similarities and the vocab is generally the same. The weather here is really nice right now. There isn't too much rain; but it is slightly cool. This past week the trees have just started to change colors and the days are getting shorter. Usually it rains at least once during the day if not for most of the day; but that's Belgian weather. I am kind of dissapointed because there aren't very many worms here. It rains a lot; yet I haven't seen one worm! I am sorry I haven't posted any pictures for a long time; and it will probably be a while before there are any new ones. I am really busy with school and I haven't had time to work with pictures; because it takes a lot of time to put them on the computer and then put them in the blog. Be patient; I hope next week during vacation I'll have plenty of time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Honeymoon Phase?

According to AFS you should be in the honeymoon phase, finally getting comfortable with the culture and family, yet still excited by all the new stuff you are experiencing. Is this the case? I think we might be on opposite up-down cycles than you. Initially we were excited for you and loved hearing all about your new experiences (easy for us, we weren't trying to learn anything new like a culture and language and were still comfortably surrounded by our family and friends). We weren't missing you too much as you hadn't been away too long. Now there is less contact with you (you are all set up there), and your adventure (and funny) stories are fewer. Now there are big things/ times that you aren't here to share with us, not just a few days. We are feeling your absence more acutely now. There are no more teams on family game night. Now we are either ALL together or someone is alone. We no longer have pancakes for dinner as Dad doesn't have anyone to vote with him. On the positive side, your sister reports less hair and grime in the bathroom, there is now enough hot water for all our showers, I have the car whenever I want, we don't run out of bagels and Caribou bars in between trips to the grocery store, and we can borrow your stuff without asking (just kidding, mostly). We think about you all the time. We talk about you a bunch, too, as people are always asking about you. We try to direct them to this website so maybe you can give another little update here. Love you, M, D and E