Thank you! (English)

314 days since I left my home town in The Netherlands now only a few hours away from leaving my second home in America.

"Time flies when you're having fun." That is what they say, right? Well I can tell you it’s true. For the past 10 months it feels like I have lived in a movie. A movie containing a lot of fun, happiness, but also many tears. A dream movie that I never thought I was going to star in, however, luckily enough I did. I had no idea what was going to happen and what I was actually going to do. Days before I left I asked one of my best friends to"please remind me why I want to do this." The response I got was simple, "because it is your dream Larou." That was true, so that's what I did... I followed my dream.

After a little dramatic goodbye at the airport, you know.. the one where you look one more time over your shoulder before you leave. I started my adventure. First stop... New York city. For four days, I looked at the most famous sights in the big apple, talked about all of the exchange student rules and sang “Party in the USA” in a bus full of Dutch and German exchange students. All of this with our amazing mentor from Travelactive and Thomas from the YouTube channel Korthom.

After those four amazing days, it was finally time to fly to our host families. So there I went from New York to Chicago, Il., to Springfield, Il., to Decatur, Il. My new home, which is right in the middle of, let’s say... a 'couple' of cornfields. You’ll probably never believe me when I say this, but I actually wanted to go to a small town and a small town is definitely what I got.

Not only did I move to a whole new country, I also met a whole new family. A family that I now call my second family. I lived with the most loving people. My host parents Roxanne and Bill, my host sister Hailey, my host grandpa's, two dogs Hope and Frannk and two cats Lola and Cheeto. Who was my favorite you may ask? Well, all of them are. They gave me a place to call home, a school to go to, love and support to help me through the hard times and the fun times, and helped make my dream come true. I almost forgot... most of the time they also gave me food. haha. Okay but now seriously without these people my dream wouldn't have been possible.

An exchange year isn't complete if you don't go to school. I mean that is what most exchange students dream of. We want to know if it is really like High School Musical, Glee, Mean Girls and all of the other popular tv shows or movies. I was also looking forward to the yellow school buses, popular cheerleaders, hot football guys, Friday night football games, big lockers, school lunches, basketball games, homecoming, prom, pep rallies, senior night, a school mascot, fun classes and graduation. Is all of this true.. no not really, but is a lot of true.. yes!

 I went to Meridian High School. A school that was about 3 times smaller than my high school back home and basically a big family. Our school mascot was a hawk and the school color was green, silver and black. Almost everybody seemed to know each other and then there was me. The foreign exchange student. My name is Larou, but after a couple of weeks nobody would call me that anymore. For the rest of the year it was Hellen or Lulu.

In the beginning, it wasn't easy. I was quiet and I didn't say much. Why? To be honest, I have no idea. If I think back about that time, I could've done things way differently, but I can't change it anymore so that is part of my exchange too. I got a culture shock. That sounds terrible, but almost every exchange student goes though this. I cried a lot. I literally had no idea what I was doing here, why did I decide to do this? I basically just wanted to go home. Back home to my 'normal' life, the one that I had already lived for the past 16 years. So I called my mom, called my sister, talked to my host family, cried, called my mom again, cried even more and then there was my host family again. After talking and crying a lot I picked myself up again and continued what I was doing. Following my dream. I just needed some help.

High school wasn't high school if I didn't join a club or play sports. So I did and I did a lot. I started with drama club, I played the part of Dotty in WCKY, rehearsed every week and on November 15 and 16, we had our show.

In the meantime, I also started something that I really wanted to do play basketball. In school, this probably was my favorite thing. I had so much fun! I wasn't good at it at all and to be honest.. half of the time I had no idea what I was doing. The first two games I was sitting on the bench just to watch how it all worked. After that it was my time to play. Coach told me that, so I got really nervous and of course.. I cried. I got a pep talk by the varsity girls and then in the second half of the game I played. After that one game I played in every single game at least once. I definitely improved, but I also had a game that everything went wrong. I got my first foul, threw the ball into the wrong basket and missed it.. luckily and then not only was my team cheering me on, but the other team was also. Very awkward. I did not like it at all at that point, but I can laugh about it now. Luckily it didn't always go like that. The game after that I made my first basket. I did have a little help and I also had to try three whole times before I got it, but I made it.

Basketball season was the busiest time because I didn't only play basketball... I also did something I told everyone I wasn't going to do. Cheerleading. My friend convinced me to do it. I thought you know I can only be a cheerleader once in my life so why not. I went to my first practice, got my uniform and became a real cheerleader... you know the one that I saw in the movies. I was the worst cheerleader on the team because I just can't do five things at the same time, but I am so glad I could be part of it and I can tell you...I wore that uniform with so much pride.

I got the best friendships I could've asked for. This was also with a little help though. If she wasn't there I would've been fine, but she helped me so much. Hailey my host sister. She took me to my first bonfire with her friends. I liked those people a lot. They reminded me of my own friends. I was comfortable around them and decided to keep these strangers and become friends with them. Although that took a little while too. Everything was still different from what I was used to. They knew I was struggling so they picked me up and said, "she is one of us now.” Do they remember saying this?. I don't know, but I do know that at that moment it made me feel so happy. I am going to miss those people so much. I whom can I say "I'm not American" to when I am not around them.

Throughout my year I fell in love with the most amazing places I've been to. My host family took me on as many little trips as possible so I saw Ohio, Missouri and Florida. My last trip to Florida was definitely the best. I did not want to leave Panama City Beach at all. It became a part of my story and one that will be told to everyone. This place is so so pretty and I'll have to go back one day.

After five amazing months, I was half way through my exchange year. All of the fun Holidays were over and I enjoyed the last few months of 2019. I finally could say I felt at home. I also realised that the time went by so fast. I was counting how many months and days I was in America, but now I started counting down to the point I was going to leave. I didn't want to think about it. There were still so many fun days going to happen. I was looking forward to the spring. I would start track and soccer, prom was coming up, my sister was supposed to come to America, we had a vacation planned to Disney and I would have a real graduation. However that wasn't going to happen.

 When you go on an exchange year, they tell you to be open minded. Well I had to be really open minded. Just in a few hours my whole exchange changed. The movie and dream that was supposed to be happy and fun changed to a really bad horror movie that didn't seem to have an end coming soon. I think by now everyone knows what I am talking about. Exactly... the Coronavirus. After March 17, school was closed for the rest of the year. So what was I supposed to do? Around me more and more exchange students got sent home or made the decision to go home. Did I want to go home? No, I didn't wanna go home early, but what did I have to do for the next couple of months? My mind literally changed every hour. One day I was done with all of this and wanted to go home. The other day I was doing fine. After changing my mind a lot I had to make a decision so I stayed. I looked back at all of the memories I made during this year, all of the pictures I took and all of the music I listened to while I was here. I couldn't go home yet. I had to finish what I started in August and I had to make more memories. When I am going home, I will have a story no one else can tell.

Within a couple of hours I'll say goodbye to all of my friends and family here. I will say goodbye to the people that were once just strangers to me. Within a couple of hours I will return to the people that I hugged and fought back tears to say goodbye to before I left. I will leave my best friends to return to my other best friends. I will probably cry.. again.. and a lot. Not because I am sad,but because I made so many memories and friends.

I can tell you being an exchange student isn't easy at all, but it is so worth it. I had an amazing time and I will have memories I'll never forget. Thank you to all of the people that were a part of my dream, my movie and my story.

Larou or Hellen

Thank you Hannah Reichert for checking my grammar 




Hellen? Lulu? You will feel so sorry for sharing this, Larou 😂😂😂

It's a fine summary of what you have been doing out there over the past few months. A fragile, honest summary too. Just the way you are, in fact.
It's so great to read about your friendships, your worries and doubts, your decision to go on, with the help of your fabulous new friends and the 'second family' you've got. And it's great to read about all the fun and the great experiences you have had. Great!

Now don't you worry about two or three tears. Especially for you, all the airports in the world are extra-quiet at the moment, and equipped with loads of handgel and boxes of Kleenex tissues, you you'll be fine 😀
Be sure to say 'goodbye' to all your friends over there. Be honest, be Larou, if you are going to miss them, just tell them.
I hope that you'll have a nice flight back to Tulip Town. Be safe!

Gerrit-Jan. <------- if you cannot pronounce 'Larou' properly, try this one, you Uncle Sam addicts 😂😂


He lieve Larou.....
Wat is het snel gegaan....maar wat heb je veel beleefd en gedaan...echt dat nemen ze je nooit meer af.....

Wel heel fijn dat je weer thuis komt deze week.....
Goede reis en tot gauw!!! Xxxx


Well Lulu Hellen Larou, I think you had a great time over there in the States. Keep your memories and enjoy them a lot. Have a good flight back to Holland. We'll hope to see you soon.

Big huggsssssss!!!



Beautifully written and so nice you enjoyed your stay and adventure out there intensely, eventhough there were some tears needed. It just goes on in another place and I hope and will be glad to be little part of it. See you!!!

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