Belgian Exchange 2014 ~ Funded by Getting to Know Europe grant



29 Belgian students and 7 teachers came to Chapel Hill April 9-18 to make new friends and explore American culture…it was a wonderful experience for everyone.

last pic at party

Belgian and American students gather after singing “ENSEMBLE” the traditional song for the Belgian Exchange since 2001 Picture by Mary Brady

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Thank you for visiting us for 10 days in Chapel Hill.  We loved getting to know you and sharing our American culture with yours.  Even though you just left a few hours ago, we miss you.

Caroline du Nord 

Thank you to the European Union for largely funding our Belgian Exchange program.

American students and families: In what ways was hosting a Belgian student enlightening for you and your family?  Why is this exchange program important and what role does the EU play in making sure it continues? Please scroll down for the comment box that is under the video .

Mr. Weaver choreographed our dance to Papaoutai…does anyone have a video of the dance the American group did at the going away party?

31 Responses so far.

  1. Lara Rabinowitz says:

    The exchange program is important because it makes me want to learn more about life in other countries. It also makes learning a second language seem more important. Sharing my everyday life with an exchange student makes me realize I could be doing more important things with my time, such as learning useful things about the world. I think the role of the EU is to encourage student exchanges. These exchanges create friendships, increase intellectual curiosity, and create a feeling of solidarity with young people all over the world. Ultimately, the exchanges promote peace and prosperity.

  2. Isabelle Apel says:

    Nothing like having a little sliver of Europe coming to Chapel Hill! Students, siblings, parents all grew from this experience. We shared, we loved, we learned what you can’t learn from a class room. Enrichment all around. Thank you for making this part of the amazing French curriculum at Smith!

  3. Christine O'Donnell says:

    Ever since I found out about the exchange program at Smith, I always wanted to be apart of it. I would dream of having a conversation with Belgian students in french and laugh about things that my friends and I would laugh about. This past week, I was able to do that, and it felt amazing. This program not only makes me want to go to Belgium even more, it also motivates me to continue studying french. Originally I saw my Belgian student as only pen pal, but now I see her as a friend. I think the EU’s role in this exchange is to create long lasting friendships between kids in different countries.

  4. Emmy S. says:

    Being a part of the Belgian Exchange Program didn’t just allow me to view the Belgian culture, but completely immersed me into it. When I signed up to be a host student, I was thrilled to have a chance to converse in French. However, I had no idea that I would get the chance to make a life-long friend and pick up so many phrases, words, expressions…the experience I would never have by reading a textbook. The EU’s funding helped bring these amazing experiences to life. Thanks so much for all you’ve done!

  5. Justin H. says:

    My brother Brendan hosted Valentin and he stayed in our home. Hosting allowed me to experience what it’s like for someone who speaks a different language and lives across the ocean acts like in his everyday life. With Valentin I could practice my French and he was able to help me and he could practice his English and I could help him. By having a Belgian stay with me made me want to work harder in French and continue my study’s so that next year, I can travel abroad so I can experience what it is like in a different country.

  6. Bridget Palmer says:

    When I learned about the exchange program, I thought, cool. That would be fun to do. When I went to the going away party and saw the friendships that people made in a short time, I realized that I really wanted to be a part of that. The exchange program helps students at Smith and at Saint-Benoit Saint-Servais learn about a different culture and make lifelong friendships. Most of the students from belgium said at the going away party that they would keep in contact or try and see each other again. There are other trips in high school that go to other countries, but in this trip you stay with a host family and have to speak that language. I really hope that I am able to go on this trip and that the program continues for a long time.

  7. Katlin A says:

    My sister Lauren hosted a Belgian girl named Stephanie. The experience was amazing for not only my sister but me as well. Having a french speaking person live with me for a week gave me an amazing opportunity to practice speaking my french and I think it really helped me grow as a student. Having a host student in my home made me see how fun and different it is and it made me work harder, because now that I have seen the experience up close I really hope I will be able to participate in a future exchange program.

  8. Emilie Apel says:

    I remember in 7th grade when Mrs.McMahon took some students to Belgium as a part of the exchange and I just remember thinking next year I want to be a part of that. Hosting a Belgian student was one of the best experiences in my life because now I have a friend that lives in Europe. I would love to go see her next year. We have already communicated since she left 1 week ago. I feel very lucky to have been/ to be a part of this experience because it has really changed my life and taught me about Belgium at the same time.

  9. Xintong Xiang says:

    When I heard about the exchange program, I wanted to go because I wanted to tour France. But throughout the week that the Belgians were here, I watched as the students that hosted made lasting friendships and used french as part of their daily life. When we got to talk to the Belgians, it was really interesting comparing and contrasting the different cultures. Next year, I really hope I can be part of the Exchange program. I think the exchange program is really awesome because it brings all kinds of people together. The exchange program also motivates students to work harder on their french. The students studying french now could very well be world leaders later. The European Union is what makes this exchange program possible, with their awesome grants

  10. Benjamin J. Austin says:

    Ever since my older brother travelled to Belgium when I was in the fifth grade, I have became more aware of a world previously unknown to me. I have realized, that beyond my small life in Chapel Hill, there is a world community. My experiences hosting Guillaume and Marc has opened a new window for me and my family. I now carry a new respect and excitement for new cultures, languages and places. The EU is so important to me, by funding our exchange they are expanding the world community and giving me the opportunity to create worldwide friendships that will last forever. Thank you so much for giving so many these great opportunities and I hope that you will continue to fund us so many more can see a new world, a new people, a new life.

  11. Olivia Vrba says:

    Having the Belgians here was a great experience. It was so interesting in getting to see the way they talk and act and go through life. I had many conversations with a few of the Belgian girls. I got to practice my French in a really life situation, which was a very new thing! To be able to communicate with them was really cool. It really motivates me to think that could be me next year. Learning about others cultures and meeting new people. I’m very excited and hope to participate in the exchange next year!

  12. Sophie Osada says:

    I did not host a Belgian student, but I have been able to talk to some Belgians and I have heard many stories about the Belgians too. This exchange has really helped me develop a deeper understanding and has given me a better connection to the french culture. It has also allowed me to speak and practice french with a student where french is their first language. It was also cool to see how the Belgians thought of some of the things in America as different when it normal in America. This program is really important, it gives eighth graders a chance to learn about another culture and to use the things that they have learned in a way that most eighth graders don’t get the chance to do. The EU has been able to bring the two cultures together because of their funding. This has been a fun experience and the EU has played a very big part in making this experience happen.

  13. Houari Bakour says:

    The Belgium Exchange:
    What it is, is a oppurtonity for students to see and feel and smell and breath in a whole new atmosphere by which helps them learn French and the language they are studying. We are lucky enough to have Getting to know Europe grant up for the years coming. its a great and special oppurtunity that us the students at Smith Middle School and Chapel Hill High get funded by Getting to know Europe! Not only does the Belgium exchange give us Americans a chance it gives the Belgium kids a great opportunity to travel to the US and learn English! Last of all I just want to thank ms.McMahn and The Getting To Know Europe program for granting us this chance!

  14. Julia Ziaee says:

    I have learned so much hosting a Belgian student! This has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life. I have made a new best friend, with someone who lives on the other side of the world. That, in my opinion, is remarkable. I have gotten to know someone of another culture’s life, and they got to learn mine. As Nil (the student I hosted) and I began to form a stronger bond, I got to learn more and more about what it is like for someone my age to live in Belgium. After being taught about this “other way of life” I became very intrigued. I now, more than ever, would love the opportunity to travel abroad, and explore this unknown territory. I gained a thirst for knowledge about Europe in general after hearing Nil’s many exciting stories, insights about life in Belgium, and all the things she plans to do with me when I return to her home! I would love more than anything to see her again, but this time, to be learning about the way that she lives, as opposed to her learning about my way of life. This experience has made an immense impact on my life, and I hope to continue the exchange. I would like to say a huge thank you to the EU for funding this amazing opportunity.

  15. Mick Herrin says:

    I did not host a Belgian student, but I feel as if I learned just as much as the host families. The whole weekend I hung out with Ben Austin and his penpal Guillaume, Bradley Kenyon and his penpal Gary, and Will Payne and his penpal Elio. We jumped on the trampoline, played video games, made smores over a bonfire, and we saw Captain America with some other people and their pen pals, we walked around Franklin Street after going to a UNC football game, we ate a dozen krispy kreme doughnuts, we went to a NASCAR race, we went bowling, and more and more!!!! We truly gave them an American week(end). When I became friends with them, I had a feeling inside me. I was just thinking “This is why I am taking French, and it is why I will keep taking it all the way through college, and maybe longer, and this is why I want to travel to Belgium or France!” This exchange program is important to me because of what I just said. I was so proud of myself because they actually understood me, and I said things like “Est-ce que tu l’as aime?”, instead of “Est-ce que tu as aime l’activite?” The EU grants us loans every other year, and this just makes the exchange happen. The EU is where it all starts, and hopefully the exchange will never end. I know me, and many others would like to travel abroad to France and Belgium, and maybe see our Belgian friends again, and the EU is making that happen for so many french students.

  16. Sophie C. says:

    Since I’m in 7th grade, I didn’t host a Belgian student. But after going to the going away party, I realized how fun it would be if I could host. It was amazing how these Belgian students and our American students became best friends over such a short time. I think that the Belgian exchange program we have at our school is awesome. You get to learn about different cultures while having fun, making new friends, and practicing French. Having the Belgian students here motivates us to improve on our French so that we can communicate with them. I hope that the students who come after us will be able to go on such amazing trips and host their own pen pals. I really hope that I can take the trip to Belgium next year, and I hope that this exchange program continues on for many more years to come.

  17. Everest Chew says:

    The Belgian Exchange is an association where Americans and Belgians alternate traveling to the other’s country each year. The European Union allows our Smith Middle School a grant that helps us go to Europe and learn about the Belgian lifestyle and lets the Belgians learn about ours. It’s a great experience for learners.

  18. rachel says:

    Even though I didn’t host an exchange student, having them here was great. When the Belgians were in the classroom it was very cool because it hits you that a person from another country and speaks a different language is right in front of you. All of the Belgians I talked to were very nice and seemed very happy to be in America. My older sister went to Belgium with the school and hosted the following year. When my sister came back from Belgium, she had changed. She seemed so much more culturally aware and her french improved a lot. I think having the chance to travel abroad and be around a Belgian is just amazing and I think its a great program.

  19. Seth Samuelson says:

    Even though I didn’t host I can tell for those who did was a life changing experience.They probably would have a hard time communicating but when they get to know them there better than they think.When I did french projects I thought i’d mess up speaking but when I get comfortable I’m quite good, my french speaking abilities come out.I had a lot of fun with them over at the White Water Rafting Center and getting to meet all of them and their teachers.I thank the EU for doing you guys are absolutely amazing keep doing what your doing.

  20. Alex Rossman says:

    Hosting was the best thing I have ever done. I was enlightened to a new, completely different culture. The friendships I made will last a life time, and I will always remember the experiences I shared with my host student Tom. I did many things with tom including; playing cards, going bowling, going to a UNC baseball game, and barbeque. I signed up for hosting because it looked fun and I new people who had done it before, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I had ever made. Not only did I make friendships and learn about a new culture, but my french has gotten so much better. When Tom first arrived I would think about what I was going to say before I said it, but now I can just talk fluently. Three years of studying french have really paid off and made one of the best experiences of my life.

  21. Christine Pyo says:

    Having a exchange program is a best idea in this school I think. Now beyond Americans, I get to meet Europeans, thanks to EU for this program.
    This was a awesome experience even though I didn’t hosted anyone. Talking to Belgians is a great opportunity to learn French little more. This makes me more globalized, and I wish I get to meet them once more.

  22. LeAnne D says:

    I heard about the Belgian Exchange at Smith Middle School in fifth grade, and when I first learned about it, I thought, “It would be really cool to go on that exchange! I had been taking Spanish at the time, but found that I wasn’t really interested in it. I signed up for middle school french for sixth grade, and that may have been one of the best choices I have ever made. I found that I really enjoyed learning and speaking French, while giving me the chance to travel to Europe and immerse myself in the culture of another country. As I learned more about the exchange, I found that although the Belgian Exchange is a program for French students at Smith Middle School, it is not JUST a program. It is a learning experience that delves deep into French and Belgian history, culture, and language. We students would get a chance to learn more French, tour the historically significant parts of France and Belgium, and have fun along the way! I would really like to be able to experience the lifestyle of a Belgian, and be able to see some famous French monuments with my friends. This exchange is a really good opportunity for me and my fellow students, and I hope that I will be able to participate next year!

  23. Ryan R. says:

    The Belgian Exchange program is important because it gives students from both countries a chance to experience the other country’s culture in person. I really enjoyed talking to some of the Belgian kids about their most popular sports. The Belgian Exchange helps students get out of their comfort zone when speaking the foreign language and this can really help me improve my French. I really hope I get to participate in the Exchange next year.

  24. Kevin Dai says:

    The exchange program is important, because it lets us discover and be engaged in a culture. Their habits are culturally different from ours and it is interesting to hear their fluent French. Without this program, I would have never been able to see the Belgian lifestyle as a teenager. It is life-changing experience and will continue to be one for years to come. The European Union was generous enough to give us a grant for this program. I express my gratitude to them for making this program possible.

  25. Alyssa Wang says:

    The Belgian exchange program is very important because it creates an opportunity for students to travel and connect with people across the world who are very different but at the same time similar to us. This exchange has also been life changing because you begin to realize there is a whole world beyond where you live. The thought that I could communicate with the Belgian students was really cool because we learn French everyday at school but using French to actually communicate with someone makes it a lot more interesting. It also motivated me to learn more French so that I could communicate with them better. Overall it was a great experience to meet the Belgian students and learn about them, even though I didn’t host a Belgian student, it was awesome that I got to learn about them and their culture.

  26. Anja says:

    I learned and immersed myself in an entire new culture when the belgians came to Chapel Hill. I could never learn all of the new cool phrases and words from a textbook. And I most definitely couldn’t have learned how to make a friend in french from the book. I also learned that our cultures are different, but we are yet so much the same. I was really stressed about meeting my pen pal and speaking only french, but the words just flowed. For us eighth and ninth graders to learn that we are not alone in this world is a truly amazing and enriching experience. THANK YOU EU!!!

  27. Christy Macapagal says:

    Ever since Madame McMahon came into my 6th grade class talking about Smith’s Belgian Exchange, there was something that was telling me that I should be a part of it. This experience of being able to host is truly life changing and it’s something I’ll never forget. It was so much fun to spend time with them and show them around Chapel Hill. Also being able to learn about the similarities and differences between our culture and theirs was fun. They were all so friendly and fun to talk to. I’m so glad I’m a student here at Smith because not many schools in the US have these kinds of programs like Smith. So I’m so very grateful to be a part of something like this. I hope one day I’ll be able to go abroad and explore the Belgian culture! J’espere voir les Belges! Miss you!

  28. Will Payne says:

    My experience was above enlightening. I still remember every moment of making new life long friends with the Belgians. I look into the future, and I could call this trip life changing. In college, if you decide to do a semester or so to learn abroad, you already have good friends in another country! that is not easily accomplished without an exceptional program like this, which is why I hope this program is continued for many years to come. My personal experience for this exchange was amazing. I made friends with so many new people. The most interesting things I learned are the cultural differences. I talked with many people about my different interests and found what similarities and differences there were. Video games, electric guitar, tennis all turn into hour long captivating discussions. I would recommend hosting to anyone of my friends.

  29. Christopher Jackson says:

    When they came i was scard but it went away. I now can greet them normal still working to talk more. We all played basketball and they are good and we had fun

  30. James P. says:

    I’m have only been out of the country once before and look forward to going next year. I think it is a great experience for people who don’t have the money to travel abroad. Just because you don’t have enough funds, doesn’t mean you’re not as smart. Some people are great at french, and even deserve the opportunity more than those with the financial advantage.

  31. Simon C says:

    When I first came to Smith Middle School there were a few things I were very surprised that Smith does that no other school does. One of them is the Leap Program. The other is the Belgian exchange program, and a big shout out to the European Union, funding Smith to help give students a better experience in Belgium. After joining French as one of my electives, I learned more about the trip, including that we will (try) to see an American memorial for World War 2 and battle sites from D-Day. From the comments of older students, I know that the experience is emotional and inspirational. I hope I will be able to travel to Belgium in the future and learn about Belgian culture.

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