After my week in France the month seemed to have passed extremely fast. Especially because during this month I met my newies, Joaquín from Argentina and Lily from Australia. It made me realize how these past 6 months have flown by , they now ask me all of the questions and advices that I used to ask my oldie Shannon. It's very strange being on the other side of the spectrum but I am truly happy to have them here and be able to help them. It has been great because they have been getting along well here, Joaquín as the first boy to come to our club has naturally fit into the all men club.
Photo: J'ai eu un très bonne soirée grâce a vous ! Happy St Valentines day:)
On St. Valentines Day my counselor, Christian, invited me for coffee and supper there he talked to me about representing our club in the competition to become the embassador of Liège (Province where I live). I am really excited to have been asked and hopefully I will be able to do it considering this is the reason I became a Rotary Exchange Student, there might be some conflict with my return date and the date we are supposed to be awarded the title by the Minister of the Province but I hope I can still compete. It truly is a great opportunity and for the past two years girls from my host club have received the honor so I want to make my fellow club members proud! After talking for a while Christian decided to invite Joaquín over for dinner and we all had a lovely Valentine's Day meal.

Last weekend we had a club meeting with the Mayor in order to present the exchange students to everyone followed by a day of exploring Christian's hometown called Huy with his wife together. They have both become like my grandparents and with our new students a little family. I feel extremely blessed to have them, I know some clubs don't share with their students or don't really care but I am fortunate enough to have amazing counselors and another new family I love and will come back too soon after my exchange as well as sisters and a brother in different parts of the world.

Having all of these great experiences and being surrounded by amazing people doesn't really make you want to return to the monotonous school life but yet again I am fortunate to be in a great school too! Our whole grade is made up of just my class (20 people) which makes it easier for us to be closer. They also go out of school to do activities a lot whether it be to watch a movie, go to the library, a concert, expos, outside gym activities etc. This month not only did I get to go rock climbing 3 times but we had the opportunity to visit Fort Breendonk which used to be a concentration camp here in Belgium. After learning about this in school and doing some of my own research WWII has always interested me so I was pretty excited to go to this activity , I specially liked spending extra time with my school friends because I always learn something and it's funny to see how many cultural differences there are even though we're all from the "Western" world.

Another very important thing that happened this month were the events in Venezuela. Unfortunately my family just like the rest of the country has been going through the roughest patch they ever have thanks to the corrupt government and their violence. Being so far away from family can at times seem good for someone my age, being able to have a different kind of freedom than before but when family is in trouble or needs help it is the hardest thing. Because only one aunt, one cousin and my mom are the only family members that live out of Venezuela this has really affected me, it get's harder to really communicate with them due to the censorship that has been implemented and I am constantly worried for their safety being that it no longer depends on if they leave the house or not. The only thing I found I could do was spread the word so this month I have made it my mission to talk or share on social media websites information about the situation, also as an initiative to raise awareness there was a peaceful demonstration in Brussels that I attended with another 20 exchange students. Being worried and sad about what is going on in my native country has really weighed down on me but having so many people that support and help me here has been amazing. Exchange students laugh together and experience a new world together which makes it all seem like jokes and giggles but in the end we stick together no matter what. The people here have become my family; school, counselors, exchange friends everyone has been here through the good and bad I am just blessed to have them.

Yet again I thank you and all of the Rotary members around the world that make this possible, in the short amount of time here I have already learned so much and met so many amazing people. Though sometimes I imagine it might be difficult work all of the exchange students and those touched by them are testimonies that your hard work paid off. Thank you!

Marisabel Herrera