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Posted on Dec 29, 2017

In Quincy, there’s no place like home for Belgian student

Thousands of miles away from her Belgian hometown of Braine-L’Alleud, (Bren-lah-LEW) Lara DeKnop sees nothing that reminds her of her old haunts.
And that’s just fine with her.
An exchange student from a town 35 minutes south of the Belgian capital, Brussels, the 18-year-old DeKnop has spent the last four months in Quincy as a senior at QHS. And despite going from a place with many tall buildings and no farms to a place that’s the complete opposite, she declares feeling not the least bit homesick.
“Before I travel, I see Quincy, and I know we have nothing,” she said, later adding that she gives her time in Quincy an A grade.

Lara DeKnop, a Rotary-sponsored exchange student from Belgium, has a jacket that carries all the lapel pins and souvenirs she has exchanged with other Rotary exchange students living in Washington and southwestern Canada.
Photo by Sebastian Moraga/Post-Register

She chose the United States as her destination, and the Rotary program came up with Quincy, she said. When her 10-month stay is up, she will have stayed with four Quincy families: the Winds, the Sahlis, the Toevs and her current host family, the Rylaarsdams.
DeKnop, who says she wants to be an occupational therapist for senior citizens or perhaps a midwife, says school is hard for her because her English skills are still developing. Still, the schooling in general is harder in Belgium. Students there start at 8 a.m. and finish around 5 p.m.
“In Belgium you need to memorize a lot and study a lot,” she said. “You can’t have food in school. You can have lunch, but you can’t eat in class, can’t phone in class can’t have headphones in class. And you have no time for teams after school.”
One similarity between life in Belgium and life in Quincy is the large amount of immigrants. African people, fleeing terrorism, have tried to find a home in Western Europe.
“People are scared, they have no home, their family (is) dead,” DeKnop said, “so they come (to) Belgium.”
Here, most immigrants come from Mexico and other nations in Latin America, which has allowed DeKnop to learn a little Spanish. So far, she has met only one other student at QHS who speaks French, which is her first language.
She likes seeing the farms of Quincy. She also likes shopping, so she goes to Wenatchee to shop. She likes sports, too, and that’s where Quincy has the upper hand over Braine-L’Alleud.
Schools over there don’t have sports, so if you want to play sports, DeKnop said, you have to join a club. She’s a swimmer in Belgium, but she wanted to do something different while in Quincy.
Here in Quincy, so far DeKnop has played volleyball and wrestled for the Jacks. Next spring, she will play softball for the green-and-gold. Wrestling is going well, even if the results aren’t.
“Lose, but I think I’m OK,” she said with a laugh, while host father John Rylaarsdam added that DeKnop is “still looking for that first W.”
“I want to win, but I also just want to (be in a) team and try,” DeKnop said.

By Sebastian Moraga,