A Portage exchange student to Belgium just returned home, and shared her experiences at the Portage Rotary Club this week. Kristi Perrin explains why she chose Belgium.
"I originally wanted to go to France. That was definitely my first choice. I had been wanting to go to France since the 9th grade. That was a really strong desire for me. For me, I really wanted to learn French, which was my first objective of going on exchange. And I went to apply in grade 12, and I was too old to go to France to get a student visa. They don't want anybody over the age of 18 as of August of the year you're going, and I was turning 18 in May. So I was about five months too old. And Belgium takes older students. Belgium was my second choice."
Perrin shares her perspective of the biggest differences she found between Belgium's culture and our own.
"The biggest difference was probably the way that people act. I think the people are a lot more closed at the beginning. But they open up a lot easier once you win their trust -- once you really prove to them that you're a friend -- they'll be willing to do anything for you. I think that's the biggest difference -- the way they act."
She adds her highlights included traveling around the region.
"Definitely visiting all the surrounding countries -- that was a big highlight for me. I really wanted to travel. I really wanted to see different cultures. I went to nine other countries other than Belgium. Another highlight was meeting all the exchange students that I got to meet -- three hundred other exchange students from all over the world. If I ever decide to travel again, I'll have houses to stay in and friends to visit all over the world. I got to see Belgium, I got to see what the culture was like in Belgium -- all the different monuments, all the different cities. I got to have a relationship with my host families. My host families became my real family. For me it was a great bond I had with them, my host siblings as well -- going to school, living a normal life as a Belgian."