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Posted on Dec 21, 2018

Quincy youth soaks up exchange experience in Belgium

Briana Melburn, daughter of Matt and Lannette Melburn of Quincy, is in Belgium on an international student exchange program through Quincy Rotary Club. She sent this note to her hometown newspaper, letting everyone know she is learning a lot, adjusting and enjoying her new experiences.

Salut, Quincy. It has been three months since I saw you last. Three months since the day I bade my fondest farewells to the place and people that had composed my entire life, fighting back tears all the while. It has been three months since my story began.
The name is Briana. Briana Melburn. And being an exchange student is my game. Well, at this point, it’s a lifestyle, but I find that “game” rolls off the tongue a bit easier. I am 16 years young, and would have been a junior at Quincy High School this year. Instead, I’m in Grade 5.
I know what you’re probably thinking, and no – I did not fall back 6 grade levels, nor am I in the same class as a horde of pre-pubescent teens. Unlike in the States, fifth grade here in Belgium is filled with extensive courses in Economy, Trigonometry, Linguistics, Programming, and many other complex subjects.

Briana Melburn, at right, said this photo was taken with her third host family after a trip to EuropaPark in Germany and Colmar in France.
Submitted photo

I find it to be quite difficult, though most of that is due to the language barrier. I can speak a bit, and I understand a good deal of French now. It is definitely not enough, and I am still quite lost in social aspects, but it is better than where I started. The only words I really knew coming off the plane were bonjour, merci, oui and au revoir. (Of course I knew a slight bit more than that, but those words composed the large majority of my vocabulary for the first little while.)
I quickly picked up more words, and my vocabulary is expanding rapidly now. It’s not unusual for me to learn 4-5 new words every day. My catchphrase here is “Je suis apprends” – I say it at least once a day. What does it mean? Quite simply: I will learn. And I have been! Not only am I learning the French language, but I’m also continuing my musical studies, learning a new dance style at a local studio, kickboxing, gymnastics, and theater.
But those aren’t even the most valuable things I’ve learned. I’ve learned how to be okay with making a mistake, and how to brush myself off and keep on living life. I’ve learned that it isn’t the error that defines your life, rather the manner in which you recover from them. I’ve made so many mistakes, most of which are quite amusing, although a bit unsuited for a newspaper.
Everyone here is so helpful and encouraging, despite my flaws. I’ve been completely immersed in the European culture, from watching the Operas in Luxembourg, eating pasta in Italy and visiting medieval castles in France, to walking along Lake Léman in Switzerland, celebrating at EuropaPark in Germany, and, of course, making a life in Belgium. Being an exchange student is undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but if I had the choice, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. All the tears, sleepless nights, and bouts of homesickness are absolutely worth it. I’d rather be able to look at my life and say “I did that” rather than “I wish I did that.”
A bientot, Quincy. Merci pour tout, je ne ne pouvait pas etre le personne je suis aujourd’hui sans tout de vous. Donc merci beaucoup.
– Briana Melburn