Thursday, June 21, 2012

School's out for ever

Yesterday afternoon I got to briefly see all my (former... how odd is that) Belgian classmates as they all flocked to the school to see their results from the exams.  Nothing specific, but in the front lobby, there were six sections (one for each grade) of papers hung up on the walls: lists of all the students and whether they were "admis(e)" into the next grade or to university, whether they had a "repêche" or several (summer classes and a second final to hopefully allow them to move up a grade in August), or "refusé."  There were tears of joy and some disappointed faces, depending on the result, although I was surprised to see how few people were "refusé."  It seems you can have quite a few "repêchages" before they decide that you actually failed.

I was refusé... I made a few jokes about it to my friends (most of whom passed without problems, and were thrilled to have a nice, long vacation ahead of them), but when I said goodbye, I surprised myself by tearing up a little bit.  Not that I was upset about not passing... I wasn't expecting to.  Some things, especially remembering details for history or analyzing texts in French are just a little too difficult for me to do up to standard.  And I'm sure my pay-attention-in-class-but-don't-waste-your-time-with-studying philosophy didn't help much.  I've already been accepted into university back home, so I find it more worthwhile to travel and hang out with other AFSers than to pore over all my photocopies (did I ever mention that there are no textbooks here, only photocopies of courses?).  But seeing my name and my result printed out in such official black ink made everything seem so final.  I will go back to Liège 1 once more next week for the "remise de bulletins" but after that I say goodbye to it and everyone associated with it, possibly forever.

The past week has been full of moments like this, which goes along nicely with the intermittent rain that I've started to get used to here (I hardly go anywhere anymore without my semi-waterproof jacket, sunglasses, and sometimes even an extra pair of socks).  Since everyone's out of exams, exchange students and Belgians alike have been meeting up to hang out and, often, party, all the time.  Last weekend was quiet, save for a short shopping trip with two of the Bolivian girls I know, who, despite worrying about how they were going to fit all their clothes into their suitcases on the way home, managed to take home quite sizable shopping bags.  But Monday I had a sleepover/pajama party with a friend in Leuven, complete with movies and candy and ghost stories.  Wednesday there was a pretty good party in Liège to celebrate the end of exams as well as to say goodbye to more Rotary students (their departure dates are spread out far more than the dates for AFS).  It ended with five of us heading to Brussels to give one departing student a chance to try absinthe before they left-- we all enjoyed the lighting the sugar on fire bit, but actually getting the stuff down was a bit trickier-- and then slept over in nearby Gembloux.  It's strange to go from extremely content to sad and back again so often in a night; to go from laughing and joking with one another to not knowing if you'll ever see each other again.  I borrowed 5€ from one of the Rotary boys and promised to pay him back next week in the carré, only to realize that there probably wouldn't be another carré for him since he leaves next week.  It really is the weirdest feeling.

On the one hand, I keep telling myself that I have just over two weeks left (plenty of time!), but on the other... 15 days and this entire year becomes a memory.  They are 15 full days, with parties, trips, orientations, and even one final move planned (my host family's annual vacation overlaps with my departure, so I will be staying with some AFS-oriented family friends for my last week), but that can only go so far.  All I can do is try as hard as I can to make them count; to take pictures and make memories that won't fade into the dreamlike, did-that-really-happen quality that so many memories have.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Graduation (just a little late...)

Hey guys, so it's been a pretty long time since I've written, and I don't really have an excuse. Finals? Of really. I only have one a day, which takes a couple of hours grand maximum since they're (almost) all oral. I'be already taken English, a written and oral Geography exam, and Bio. Even if it's a pretty good deal for me to go in to the city, spend a couple hours at school, hang out all afternoon, then go home at the normal time, I'm still a little jealous of all my classmates in Maine that graduated last weekend, before I even started finals! It was pretty weird to see all the photos of graduation online and hear from everybody how great it felt to finally graduate. This is one of the few things that have made me homesick all year; at my school in Belgium, we have a "remise des bulletins" which is as close to a ceremony as they seem to get in schools, but there are no caps and gowns or speeches, and the jazz band won't play. (It does make me laugh to think that, in all the years I've been in the band, the one graduation I don't make it to is my own.) I do know enough about graduations to be able to tell people hear that we really do ear the funny outfit like in the movies and that we really do throw the hats in the air at the end. Which is almost as good. And I do feel slightly better talking to some of the other exchange students, who seem to feel kind of the same way about missing graduation; that it was totally worth it to leave, so it shouldn't really be sad, but it still kind of is. Although I'm wondering if part of it is knowing that the year is almost over. I'm ready to go home, I think, to move on to the next thing, but it's still hard to think about going home. I've finally gotten used to life here and made friends; it doesn't feel like I should have to leave that behind. I would guess this is how most people feel at graduation, though, so maybe I'm not actually missing much. And at least I have 3 weeks of goodbye partying after school ends insteadbid just one 'project graduation.' À la prochaine!