After 8 and a half hours of flying, I arrived in Philadelphia. A lay-over of 5 hours and a flight of 20 minutes later, I finally arrived in Baltimore. I just came off the plane and was still looking for my suitcases – and there she was, Anne Rosenthal. Now you’ll ask me: “Wait, you had someone to pick you up at the airport?” Yup, let me explain you how that came about.
When I was back home in Tongeren, I started looking for housing in Baltimore. Now we all know that Baltimore hasn’t such a great reputation when it comes to safety (cfr. The wire). I was quit skeptical to sign a lease-contract before I had a chance to see the place and inspect the neighborhood. But where was I going to stay the first days I would arrive? And where did I have to go with all my stuff?
I put my neck out and posted on the official Linkedin Fulbright group that I was a girl from Belgium, looking for a place in Baltimore, and if someone could help me with some information. Anne responded to my post. Anne was an American Fulbrighter from Baltimore, who studied in Brussels, 2 years ago. She offered to pick me up at the airport and to let me stay at her and her parents’ house, until I found permanent housing.
Staying with Anne and her family was the best thing that could happen to me. I didn’t feel homesick for 1 second. When I arrived at her place, there was a Belgian flag hanging above the room where I would sleep; there where flowers next to my bed and Belgian beer-cards. Her parents Suzy and Dave were so incredibly warm and nice, that it was difficult to believe how they could be so hospitable towards a complete stranger like me. The first night Suzy made us chicken, potatoes, corn and ratatouille and Anne specially bought soy-ice-cream for me, because I had told her that I was lactose intolerant. Well, I think you all get the picture: I felt very welcome!
I know that I will take a lot of great experiences back to Belgium with me, once this US adventure is over, but one of them is definitely the welcoming warmth of the Rosenthals. (And this honestly counts for most of the Americans I meet!) I know that I will do the same one day: host international students. Because now I know how a warm welcoming family makes you feel when you are about to embark for an unknown life, one ocean apart from al the people you know and cherish. The Rosenthal family made me feel home, made me feel part of their family. They prevented me from falling in a cold and black whole, because like I mentioned in my previous blog, I didn’t feel ready to leave it all behind.
In the days to come Anne took me everywhere in her car. We went to look for a place for me to live; we went to buy me a phone and a phone-plan; she showed me the city, the harbor and the cozy spots where students hang out… Of course she also took me to my campus: the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, where in 2 weeks the serious business would take place!
[feel free to leave a comment below, in English or Dutch, it doesn’t matter!]