Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pre-Departure Orientation

"It's not good, it's not bad, it's just different." 
If you're an AFS participant and have read your handbook, I'm sure you are very familiar with this phrase. Having attended my PDO yesterday in Camas, WA, the phrase is pretty much instilled into my brain. A little bit repetitive and a tad bit idealistic for my taste, but regardless, it does accurately depict my PDO experience, and I'm sure will be very fitting in the coming months of my arrival in Belgium. Prior to any AFS organized gathering, I had already accumulated an idea of what they would be like based off of various blogs; ice-breakers, interactive endeavors, the works. I was spot on. I have never been one for these sorts of activities, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Granted, it wouldn't have been nearly as fun without the awesome people I met. Everyone I met was great, and the majority of them were also studying abroad in Europe. Unfortunately, I didn't meet anyone else who was going to Belgium, which makes me much more anticipatory to meet all of my fellow Belgium participants in August! One of the AFS volunteers told me that there is a very limited number of available spots for Belgium in the US, around thirteen or so. That's an astonishingly low number, so I'm both very fortunate and humbled that I happened upon one of those spots. At lunch, all of the outgoing participants joined the existing exchange students in a separate facility. One of the volunteers working with them, who happens to be a really great family friend, told me that she had a Belgian exchange student in her group. I really wasn't that amped on the idea of approaching him, because I tend to get pretty awkward, and I knew I wouldn't have any questions of value, seeing as I've already researched just about everything I wanted to know about Belgium. Of course, he ended up finding me, and a short lived, stiff conversation ensued. One thing I need to work on before I leave, brushing up on some much needed social skills. If all else fails, I've gotta fake it until I make it. With that said, I'm still very excited for my trip, and although the PDO was a painfully long experience, I'm looking forward to the orientation in New York. It's all happening, isn't it? Well, it will. Still no word on my host family.

A bientôt,
An awkward, near exchange student


  1. Hi! I don't know if you remember me, but I'm Olivia and I'm doing the same AFS program as you. I was wondering if you might want to start a Facebook inbox (or whatever website) with me in French so we could talk and practice our French? You don't have to, of course, but I need to practice like crazy and I thought it might be useful to start a conversation with someone who's doing the same program as me!

  2. I think that's a great idea! But I'll have to warn you, my French is ROUGH (actually, non-existent). Facebook would be great. If you search Emily Therrell, you should be able to find me :) Two people will pop up if you search my name, and I'm not the one from Mt. Pleasant High.