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And then it was the end

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A TALE OF THREE CITIES (AND THREE MUSEUMS!) 06/12/20130 Comments Picture by Katie Fair Vesalius, Belgium Bonjour! I have so much that I want to share with y'all about my last week or so! I have had the chance to explore some of the museums and exhibits here in Brussels last week. Then I spent my 3-day weekend in three different cities: The Hague, Antwerp, and Bruges. First up, the museums! While Brussels does have a ton of museums, I only visited two of them and one traveling exhibit. The first museum I visited was the BELvue, which is basically a museum dedicated to the more recent history of Belgium (from around the time of their independence in 1830 to present). Although pretty much all of the exhibits were in French or Dutch/Flemmish, I was still able to learn and to see many really cool historical artifacts. The second museum was the Musee de la Ville, which shows historical artifacts from the city of Brussels. One of the coolest rooms (and one of the sole reasons I went there) was for the costume gallery of Mannekin Pis. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed, so I couldn't take pictures. Mannekin has hundreds of costumes, but they rotate which selection are shown in the room. I was fortunate enough to go at a time where they had the Elvis costume on display. That is a sight that I will never forget! Picture The traveling exhibition that I was able to go to was on Leonardo daVinci. While they did not have the original artwork available, they did have replicas available to view (including both the front *and* the back of the Mona Lisa). They also had journals of daVinci's. The exhibition included many re-created inventions of daVinci's from his notes in his journals! It was so amazing to see some of the things he came up with, and how similar some of them are to things we use nowadays! Friday I went on my first trip out of Belgium. I visited The Hague in the Netherlands on a solo day trip. I took a 3 hour (ish) train to the city. While there I was able to see some of the main city, but that was not my main focus. First I visited the World Forum area, where I saw the buildings for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Europol, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Next, I went to the Peace Palace and did the short tour through their visitor center. While I did not get to see the International Criminal Court (but I get to go back to visit it in July), I did walk down a couple miles to see the beach! I had no idea there was a beach there, so I wasn't really prepared to get in the water. It was a lot of fun to visit, though. Saturday I went with Alina, Rachel, and Mollie to see Antwerp. We had originally planned to go to Amsterdam, but we hadn't planned far enough ahead which meant tickets were super expensive! Being the flexible travelers we are, we instead bought tickets for the next train to Antwerp. The city of Antwerp is very unique in its mix of old and new, often side-by-side. Most of the other areas I have seen have old sections of town and then newer, more modern sections in a different part of town. So that in and of itself was really cool to see. We had a great time walking around, and we had these huge "personal" pizzas. I'm using the quotation marks because I'm pretty sure that our personal pizzas were only a little smaller than some of the mediums back home. Anyway, it was a beautiful city, and it was both warm and sunny (which we don't tend to see too many of here in Belgium). Last, but certainly not least, I went with Alina and Rachel to Bruges on Sunday. Bruge is by far my most favorite city I have been to. Ever. US and Europe combined. Aside from the tourist shops and modern conveniences, the town could have stepped right out of history. I joked with my friends saying they could just go on back to Brussels without me. There were horse-drawn carriages, boats on the canals, beautiful bridges and buildings, and huge churches and cathedrals. All of this with no real "modernized" city in sight (ie sky scrapers, huge apartment buildings, etc). If I ever decide to one day live in Europe, Bruges is at the top of my list! Add Comment "I CAN TELL BY YOUR TEARS THAT YOU WILL REMEMBER IT ALL." 07/23/20120 Comments Picture Caitlin Campbell University de Savoie Wow. I don't even know where to begin. It seems impossible to sum up my experience here in a few words. There's no way to explain how much I loved France, the people, and how I'll always cherish the memories. Why do goodbyes have to be so hard? This last week flew by! On Monday I went canoeing, on Tuesday and Wednesday we went to the lake for the last time (we really loved the lake). On Wednesday evening, we had dinner on a boat! We went on the biggest, natural lake in all of France. It was a great opportunity to get pictures of everyone one last time. Friday, my friends Antoine and Marco hosted a cookout for me and my friends and after we went out. This last week was absolutely perfect. If I think about the initial goals and fears that I had before I came to France, I feel so accomplished. I was really nervous about making friends. Not only did I make friends, but I made best friends. It's remarkable how in six weeks you can meet people who you feel you've known forever. The best friends I made were Ivana (from Canada), Ariane (from New York), Katie (from Montana), Antoine (from France), and Marco (from France). I am literally so happy that I made real French friends. It was amazing to learn the real slang of France and not just what the teachers tell you. They helped us out so much by telling us where to go, what places are dangerous, what's happening in the city, and they helped Katie send her baggages to Rome. Maybe it's just because I'm in a good mood, but...I have faith in people. There are marvelous people out there in the world. I'm never going to forget the ones I met here. We've made promises to see each other again, and I believe it will happen. How can I not see people who were with me when my dreams came true? Goodbyes are so hard. They have always been hard for me, and always will be. It's hard leaving a place and people who have been such a big part of my life. Will I remember everything? I don't want to forget anything! Pictures can only do so much. I'm afraid this will all become a dream to me; it's too good to be true. On a brighter note, I can tell that I've changed. I feel that I'm a little more confident in myself now. Navigating airports and depending on public transportation is so stressful, but I think I can do it. It's nice to know that I can depend on myself and that if I need help, I can ask someone in French. I also think I've become more personable. Meeting people and conversations are so important. For me, I need to keep my eyes open to meeting as many people as possible. For example, when I get back to Maryville College, I want to become friends with as many International students as possible. It's easier now to see where they are in their lives and how to talk to them. We're all the same, and it's wonderful when we realize that. Add Comment "WE ARE JUST THE SAME" 07/17/20120 Comments Picture Caitlin Campbell University de Savoie One day when I was at the lake with my friends Katie and Morgan, this guy approached us. He said he heard us speaking English and he wanted to introduce himself. After a few words of greeting, he sat down right next to us and continued talking. Seeing as how I was in my bathing suit and not knowing who this guy was, I was a little unnerved and even a little annoyed to be honest. He surprised us by inviting us over to hang out with him and his friends later that day. Are people just nice over here or does he have some other intention? By trusting our instincts, we decided that he was a good guy. And indeed, he is. When we went over to his friends house, he introduced us to everyone, translated for us, and walked us home. From all the times that we've hung out with Antoine, I've come to know him as a funny, fun-loving young man. He loves to say, "Swag," "D-O-Double G", sing American pop songs, wear American brands, and listen to rap. He's has also actually taken care of me and my friends. Every time we hang out with him, he walks us home. He is persistant that we shouldn't walk home alone because the park that's very close to our apartments is very dangerous at night. And the other day we were going to go see fireworks, but he told us that the area that we planning to go to was the most dangerous in Chambery. And today, I'm going to a huge music festival where LMFAO, Blink-182, and Garbage are playing. I wouldn't have know about he festival if it wasn't for Antoine. He lets us know what's going on and where the best places are to visit. I'm glad we've made a good friend here. Two days ago Antoine took us to his friends' concert. While there, he introduced us to all his friends and bought me a drink. On the way home, I asked him, "Hey, do you think Americans are cool? Because we think French people are really cool." And he said, "Of course! Americans are great! The more I spend time with you, the more I think we are just the same." I was very happy that he said that because internally I have been thinking the same thing about people all over the world. I'm glad my persona doesn't scream, "I'M AN AMERICAN!" Antoine has also said he would make me a French culture list full of music, movies, songs, and sayings so that I can continue to learn French when I've returned. Add Comment LITTLE 'OL ME FINALLY WENT TO PARIS!

"I can do anything..."

Little 'Ol Me Finally Went to Pari(s)!

"healing is a matter of time..."