I first arrived in Belgium when I was nine. It was an experience so new but exciting. I felt that my life was launched into a new direction. I had no idea how long I would be living in Belgium, but I knew it was going to be an experience far different from living in Fairfax County, Virginia.
I remember driving to my new house from the airport. As I looked out the window, I tried to read the signs and advertisements. Now that I think of it, it was almost funny. I remember being frightened, because I didn't understand what the signs and advertisements said. I asked my parents what they meant, and they didn't really know either. They told me not to worry, because in my new school I would learn French. That almost scared me even more. At the time, I was nine, so I really didn't understand the world, fully. I was going to have to learn French! What about English? I was so afraid at the time that I would forget how to speak English and only know French. Now, I am so grateful that I have been taught French. I feel so much more cultural. Plus, now that I know French I can understand what and where I am going when I travel.
While living in Belgium, I have been able to experience life differently than most Americans my age. I live in the town of Waterloo, where the famous battle which brought Napoleon to his final defeat, was fought. Waterloo is a town known for its historical background and its international community. Waterloo is probably one of the most international places in the world, being that a lot, if not most, of the people living there are not from Belgium. This is largely due to the fact that the European Union, NATO, SHAPE, and other such organizations are headquartered in Brussels. Brussels being only a few minutes drive from Waterloo makes it a prime location for the many diplomats and businesspeople.
Belgium is truly a neat place to live. It is located North of France and south of the Netherlands. Also bordering Belgium is Luxembourg. To the right of Belgium is Germany. People from all over the world live in Belgium, due to its strategic place on the map and its connections with the rest of the world. With all of these people from different cultures intermixing in Belgium, it truly makes the Belgian culture richer. I have learned so much about cultures from all over the world. For example, the custom of greeting people in Belgium is with three kisses to the cheek. The American custom is usually to shake hands, but to the Belgians this is considered almost impersonal.
With Belgium's close vicinity to the rest of the world, it is really an awesome experience. For example, on school-sponsored trips like basketball, volleyball, or ISTA (International School's Theater Association), I have been to The Hague, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, and Dussledorf and stayed with families from these cities.
Living in Belgium has really helped me, too. As I said earlier, while living in Belgium I have learned about the different cultures and met people from all around the world. This has really helped me in things like the MUN (Model United Nations)or MNATO (Model North Atlantic Treaty Organization) programs. I have been able to use my knowledge of the world and better portray the viewpoints of the countries I represent in these conferences. For example, last year for MUN at The Hague, my school was picked to represent the United Kingdom. I have been to London quite a bit, and in my school there are many students from the United Kingdom, and that really helped. I was able to talk to them about how they view certain topics. I was even able to find information through the British Embassy, which was really beneficial.
There's something about Belgium that is far different from living in the United States. Don't get me wrong, the United States is my home, but Belgium has characteristics that are unique and special. It's a place where I think the world really comes together, and all the different ideas and cultures can really be seen.