Muhammad Izzas Ferdiansyah (INA AFS to Belgium Flanders YP 16–17)

6 months have passed. I really enjoy this ride. There are a lot of things happened. I did not know many things about Belgium except those “touristy” things when I came here for the first time. But now, I know more than enough, let say that Belgium is already my second home. In the beginning I would like to say that is was not easy. Leaving my best friends, family, and your surroundings that suit me for over than 17 years to a place I’ve never been there before, strange, new, fresh, new language, etc. I should face it for a year, I should adapt, being mature, independent, and become a better me.

It’s hard to realize that I have 5 months left in Belgium. How time flies so fast. How strangers become my new friends, host family become new family, new surroundings become a place called home. Everything would change but memories don’t.

I went to Paris with my chapter AFS BRO in November. It was very fun. We went there by bus. It took 3 hours, because there was a traffic congestion near France border. We went to Sacré-Cœur, Eiffel Tower, Musée du Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe. I just can’t let this moments go away from my mind.

On 4th December. We celebrated my host brother’s party a day earlier. We went to a Greece Restaurant. I ate Mousaka, it’s typically pasta from Greece. It was tasty! My first time to try Mediterranean dish. The waiter was nice! He talked much to us about himself. Before we celebrate Elout’s birthday. It was AFS SInterklaasfeest we learned a lot from AFS BRO’s old committee, how to make waffels, Choco mousse, speculaas and some handmade Sinterklaas/Zwarte piet. The next day it was a surprise day. Me and my host brothers must be at downstairs at 7.30am and when we open the door it was a lot of chocolates, gift, etc. Yes, every 5th December is a Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) day in Belgium. I got 2 thermal shirts, train ticket for holidays and a strip comic from Suske and Wiske from my host parents. I was very happy with that.

Winter is coming! In December, I don’t have to join exams. So, I have to do a social engagement for 2 weeks. I went to kleuterschool (kindergarten). Thanks to my host parents who choose it for me. It was very meaningful. I learned to handle little kids, had a conversation with natives (of course, they’re not learning English yet), play with them and help the teachers. I still remember the kids yelling at me and asking me to play together with them. The teachers also help me to learn new language, they knew that I come for cultural learning and learn new language. So, they help me to explain things about how to teach, and to handle kids. I really can’t forget how kind they are. A week before Christmas my chapter organized AFS Kerstfeestje (Christmas party) in the afternoon we went to Ijsbaan Leuven. We played ice skating for 2 hours. Because it’s my first time to play ice skating, so I fell down 6 times. After that we went to our Head counselor’s place and do some gift exchange.

December also marks my first Christmas Eve. Everyone in here are busy to preparing Christmas, as well as my host family. My host mom prepared food for 30 family members, my host father was preparing some accessories, me and my host brothers prepared the table, plate, glass, fork, knife, spoon and other utensils. Also, there was big Christmas tree in our house, full of accessories. That night was awesome! Lot of family members came to our house to celebrate the night before Christmas. We talked to each other, and shared some stories. In western tradition, there are 3 courses. Entrée, main course and desert. (But, I think we doubled it into 6 course) We serve (and eat) Toasts with shrimps, caviar, smoked salmon, egg salad, brie, humus, also tomato soup. In between entrée and main course, we played a family quiz. We divided into 3 groups filled with the younger family members. I was in 2nd group. My host parents are the “mc” of this quiz. It was very fun! In the end my group won. I’m very happy for that. We ate Roast turkey, meatballs, croquettes, peaches, and chicory as our main course, it was very tasty! I really love my host mother’s cooking. As a desert, we ate a lot of cakes, cookies, and candies. And I honestly every time when my host mother cook dinner for the family, I usually asked for more, because it’s very tasty!

The next day, we went to forest with my host parents, host brother, aunt Guni, uncle Koen, Pauke, Siard, Ravi and Osman. We went there and walked around with our dogs (Nala and Sephard). It was very fun, we walked through the windy and wet weather. After thath we went to uncle Koen and aunt Guni’s house to celebrate Osman’s birthday.

It was Kerstvakantie (Christmas holidays) for 2 weeks. I went to Ghent, Aachen, Maastricht, Antwerp, Liege, Namur, Brussels, Enghien, and Haacht. It was amazing moment to spent holiday with my friends. We often get lost on the other side of the city, take the wrong bus, and wait a bus for a long time. But it was really amazing moment. I’ve made a lot of new friends. The important thing that I can explore more about my second country.

Also I’m very thankful to my Belgian family to give me a chance to develop, mature, help me to go through from the beginning and taught me to have a future planning. I will remember when they asked me to make nieuwjaarsbrief two times and read it in front of my host family and their big family which is very remindful and meaningful.

I have a lot of friends. My classmates are accepting me. They start to talk a lot with me than last semester, make a joke together, and share some stories. They also protect me when we went to a place. They are very interested to Indonesia when I present it in front of the class

To end my last newsletter, I would like to say thank you to almighty God, my parents, my family, my new family, my friends, and Bina Antarbudaya. For this experience. It’s hard to write down all of my feelings, gratefulness, and all of my story on this newsletter. I will remember my struggle from the beginning of AFS selection test until now. I’m sure, in the end of this exchange year. It would be difficult to leave a life that you build it for a year. We pulled back first, before then we can jump away