Not only Belgium… but Holland and Rome too!

A lot has happened since my last post! Including a lot of progress of my french-speaking, understanding of the culture, and gaining of work experience. When I first arrived in Belgium, and for the first couple weeks, when people on the streets asked me if I spoke French, I would immediately say no. But now, I am actually comfortable enough to say yes (oui). In fact, a few days ago I actually gave directions to somebody in French. I was very surprised with how quickly I became comfortable with speaking in the language. I haven’t even asked “parlez-vous anglais” in over two weeks. But since my french class is now over, I have to make sure to keep studying by myself. But I’ve been enjoying it because I love when I teach myself a word, phrase, or grammar rule at home and then hear it at work or on the street later. And this happens everyday! So each day I can see my progress. But I’m not merely memorizing new vocabulary. I do memorize at least ten words a day, but I am also currently reading a Stephen King book in French, doing exercises in a workbook that I bought, and watching movies and TV only in French. I was very happy to discover that my Seinfeld DVD’s that I brought can be played with French voice-overs! This is a great way to relax but also practice my comprehension.

As far as my internship, I am definitely learning a lot. Each day I have a few documents to translate fom French to English. Not only does this help me practice my French, but it is also teaching me things about business. For example, last week I had to translate the 6 different contracts that the company uses for students and employees. And next week I am going to start creating a translation dictionary for the company to use to create consistency in the words that we use in brochures and various documents. I’m also very happy that it’s becoming easier to understand what my bosses are saying 🙂

I’ve also been traveling on the weekends and was blessed to be able to go to Rome at the same time that my dad and his wife were there on vacation! I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to go because a train ticket was very expensive and the train ride would take about 15 hours. But then, one day in French class, we were talking about “RyanAir” which I discovered is a European airline with very low airfares. I had never imagined a plane ticket being cheaper than a train ticket! But it was much cheaper. So I got to go to Italy for three days/two nights and it was amazing! My favorite part (besides seeing my dad) was visiting the Vatican. Saint Peter’s Basilica was breathtaking! I took 200 pictures there and was so inspired by the artwork. I was a little disappointed that the Sistine Chapel was closed, but seeing the Basilica left me more than satisfied. And while I was there I bought a rosary and dipped it in the holy water 🙂  On the second day in Rome, we went to the colosseum which was right next to our hotel so we had walked by it several times but hadn’t gone inside yet. Honestly, though, I was a little disappointed because a lot of the inside was inaccessible so I didn’t get to stand where gladiators stood 2,000 years ago. And all of the floor was new as well. The walls, however, were still 2,000 years old and it was still incredible to look at. But the Vatican was, by far, my favorite place.

I’ve been to Holland 3 times and have fallen in love with it (along with Italy and Belgium)! It’s only 3 hours by train which isn’t bad at all because I really enjoy riding the train. My first time there, I visited a clog and cheese factory. It was very cool to see how everything was made. And I was absolutely stunned by how HUGE the cows were there! I couldn’t believe it. They are definitely well-fed. Maybe that’s why the cheese is so good! I also took a canal ride and enjoyed looking at the hundreds of beautiful boat houses and just looking at the city. The highlight of my second trip there was visiting The Anne Frank House. This isn’t her house, but was her dad’s office building where she hid (in a secret annex) for two years. Being inside her secret bedroom, her family’s secret kitchen, and looking out the window through which she secretly looked (to try and get a taste of what was going on in the world) was overwhelming. On my third trip, I spent the whole day walking around and looking at castles and beautiful old buildings (and taking lots of pictures). This is one of my favorite things to do in Belgium, too. There aren’t many things like this in the USA. I love looking at something that is hundreds of years old and has been a part of wars and so much history.

Next weekend I plan to stay in Belgium, go to a puppet show (a famous Belgian past-time), and visit the Museum of Army and Military History. But I am really looking forward to the weekend after that. Because that weekend I will be going to the International Court of Justice (an organ of the United Nations) in The Hague, The Netherlands. And I will actually get to sit in on a hearing of Nicaragua vs. Colombia. I am very excited for this because my dream job would be to work for the International Court of Justice. I also plan to go to Paris in a couple weeks, and to Luxembourg to look at more castles 🙂

God Bless,


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About Elisabeth Ellingson

I am a junior at Belhaven University with a love for languages and foreign cultures. My lifetime goal is to help eliminate language barriers to bring the world closer together. I will be living in Brussels, Belgium from September 4th to November 28th, 2010. While I am there I hope to master the French language, become more thoroughly understanding of Belgian culture, gain valuable work experience, and help the community in at least one way.

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