Plain as a Piece of White Paper
Kevin Harits Alhafizh (INA AFS to Belgium YP 17–18)
Hallo allemaal! Hello everyone! My name is Kevin Harits Alhafizh, I’m 16 years old. I’m an exchange student from Indonesia to Belgium. I’ve been here for 3 months and I’ll stay until next year in the land of waffle and fries.
Living in other countries makes you feel like you’re being born again. All the things are different, from people, culture, food, and also language. Some people said being an exchange student means that you’re going to start new adventure.
Having a life in Belgium gives me some sort of culture shock. It is so exciting when it was my first time standing in the European continent, and also meeting new people, new friends, and even a new family. I met with other people from other countries, people which I am going to spend more times together. They are in the same chapter as me, in Midden Limburg (MIL). They’re really nice and fun people in my chapter, we do a lot of stuff together and we get closer time by time, that’s why we call us “faMILly”. In our arrival camp, we learn a lot of things also. We learned a Belgium dance that was actually really fun, and we also showed a dance to all of the host families when we were going to meet them for the first time. When I met my family, I just felt so happy because I’ll be having new life with them and making new stories together.
I’m currently living in a rural area, that all things around my house are mostly nature things. But, living here doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, there are a lot of natural sightseeing attractions that feels so chill when you’re walking through there. I love to walk and bike around my environment, because the government here makes all those things really organized, so people can really enjoy it.
Ied Adha is coming, I found a mosque near my house to pray on the special day. It’s a Turkish mosque, because lot of Turkish people live in my area. Because of this, I also found 2 different cultures in the same place. That day was also my first day of school, the day that really scared me, because half of my life in this year program will be staying in school. So, I need to find real friends that can always stay beside me going through this exchange journey. Looking at all those people, makes me think to myself, can I become friends with them? Because a lot of people say, that European people are mostly individualists. And, IT’S TRUE. So, at first I went to my class and started introducing myself to all of my classmates, and I feel like no one had interest to what I’m trying to say.
When the break time came, all of my friends just went out of the class, and I don’t know who I should go along with. At that time, I didn’t know anyone except my host sister, AFS volunteers, and my friends who were also AFS students there. I met my sister and all of her friends, so at least I could stay with someone even though I don’t know who they are. But, when the break ended, all the people just went to their next class. My problem was, I didn’t know where I should go. But thank God, I found an AFS volunteer that is also a student there, he shows me the schedule and how to see it from your phone, finally I found my class.
From that, I was always thinking about that I should try to make friends in here. So, I joined Chiro — one of the youth movements in Belgium, and for me it’s so cool. I got a lot of new friends, and we had so much fun. We do some activities every Sunday afternoon, we play together, also we go for swimming. But for me, the best thing is when I do camp with the youth movement. There is a Day of the Youth Movement, so I go to camp in my school with all the youth movement students in from my school. We’ve done a lot of things, and all the people are great, they’re very kind to me and also I got a lot of friends. Also, I did my first real camping trip in a real forest. We went for a hike and did some crazy stuff, for me it was really awesome and so exhausting. I really love doing all these new things here and also doing a lot of fun stuff with my friends here.
I am also a trainer in a toddler gym near my house. It is so fun to get interacted with the toddlers, sometimes when they’re saying something to me, I only can say Ja (yes) to them because I don’t understand what they’re trying to say. Being the trainer of a toddler gym also helps me in learning Dutch quicker, because toddlers also say something simple in Dutch and I can learn what they say and how to answer it. But the best thing is I got paid for helping and being a trainer there.
With my MIL chapter, we often to travel somewhere and do something in Belgium. We already visit a lot of places here, and those places were very beautiful. I love my chapter so much, also I love my Indonesian AFS friends, we often do something together and go to visit some places. We also visit some Indonesian festivals and bazaars here. Even if we’re living separately, we still like to chat and plan what to do together. It makes me enjoy living in Belgium until the end of this exchange year.