Greetings from Ghent, Belgium. I have indeed made it safe and sound to my destination after twelve hours of straight travel from Toronto to Paris and then Paris to Gent, essentially. T’was a wild rush and I only flipped out a few times.
My plane ride wasn’t the worst except for my bloody nose that lasted a lifetime and the fact that I sat next to Canadian Political Scientist who felt the need to chat me up about everything that was bound to happen this coming November. I had to sit there for the entire 7 hours and pretend that I knew what I was talking about politically. It was very interesting, however, to get a small taste of how those who aren’t American citizens receive the election. Hint: They see right through 98% of political propaganda.
My lack of knowledge on the European train system was very evident as I sprinted to my platform at Charles De Gaulle airport for my train from Paris to Brussels. Was I an hour early to my train and knew exactly where I was going? Yes. Did I just fail to ask the right questions when I wasn’t exactly sure what to do and didn’t want to seem stupid? Also, yes. I still made it on the train with seconds to spare. What happened was the platform that my train was on didn’t “look crowded enough” so I didn’t think it was boarding yet. It still didn’t look crowded enough with three minutes until departure so I swallowed my pride and walked down a flight of stairs only to gaze up my train that was beginning to move. Oh no, I began to sprint down an elevator with my rollie carry-on, duffel, and back pack in order to step on the back of the train and drag all of my stuff through all three cars until I found my seat.
Other than the train incident in Paris, the rest of my trip to Ghent was fairly simple. I didn’t really have any trouble making it to Ghent from Brussels and an extremely lovely student from Artevelde, Maxime, met me at the train station so I wasn’t super lost upon my arrival. Maxime and I took a tram from the bus station to a street a few blocks from my building but you have never known awkward and uncomfortable feelings until you’ve dragged a wheelie suitcase through a very crowded city, jet-lagged. It was quite exhilarating. I don’t think I could have found my building in a timely manner without Maxime; she was also my very first friend in Ghent. What a doll.
Funny enough, I’ve made more friends here as well. I believe that everyone here is sort of at the same awkward place in life. No one truly knows anyone so they are friendly to everyone. It’s a lot like opening weekend freshman year of college when everyone on your floor goes out in one mass of clueless toddlers or they take up half of the dining hall. It’s awkward but you’re part of the group, so it’s cool.
I do have three very close friends, however.
Pinja, Oihana, and Michelle. We are all from different countries and we are all very loud and obnoxious. I love them.
Pinja was actually my friend before I arrived here. We were told that we would be roommates this semester so we starting chatting back in August and instantly hit it off. Pinja is from Finland and is probably seven feet tall with bright red hair. She’s extremely gorgeous and when we walk down the street, multiple guys tell her so every time we’re out. Usually when girls meet a new friend, the first few exchanges are quite awkward. Not with Pinja. I was basically dying of sleep/food deprivation as I arrived in Ghent and instead of introducing myself formally when I found Pinja next door, I simply walked into her room and demanded we go get food because I was dying. And she was totally game with that, that’s when I knew we’d be close.
Michelle and I met my second day in Ghent. I wandered down to the common room of my building and she was watching Cat Fish with Dutch subtitles. Two hours later, we were still chatting and laughing about everything and anything, she was so easy to talk to! Michelle is from the island of Aruba but she is Dutch. Honestly, until recently I didn’t know that folks from the Netherlands settled on Aruba. Michelle is probably the one in our friend group who can speak the most languages fluently and she amazes me.
Oihana is Parisian and she acts like it even after claiming she “hates the french”. Everything she does in life reflects subtle things that show this girl has the city in her veins. We’ll be walking downtown and she will instantly begin to speed up (she walks faster than I run), she will walk on the street in order to pass a slow person in front of us, and she is one of the classiest smokers I’ve ever seen. I can tell she doesn’t give a crap about anything, she’s just here to have a good time and that is the type of person I like to surround myself with. I call her Ana simply because pronouncing her real name is somewhat impossible with my midwest Ohio accent but we speak french together… sometimes. Our friend group calls Ana “Mama Ana” due to the fact that Ana knows everything. She lived in Gent two days longer than I and she already knows where to shop for groceries, which local bars are the best, how to finagle your way into getting a Belgian SIM card, handy stuff like that. I don’t think her brain shuts off. I don’t think mine would either if I lived in Paris.
Us four are basically inseparable at this point. Pinja and I are both business majors and we have very similar schedules. That will definitely come in handy.
Internationals Do it Better
I mean, yes. We are basically the minority here due to the fact that Gent is a college town home to three universities (I believe). Because we are the minority, us internationals only hang out with each other and I am meeting the absolutely coolest people I could ever dream about meeting. I can’t even name how many countries I’ve heard within the past three days of welcome week. Next Tuesday, my school is holding a Potluck/Movie Night where each student is supposed to bring a food item from their home country. As a huge foodie/pig, you could guess how extremely pumped I am for this event. I’ll probably bring fried chicken to represent the Colonel.
Living in Gent
Living in this city is such a rush. Gent is a mix of historic architecture (a word that Michelle cannot pronounce and I LOVE it) and modern young adult culture. Two things I can appreciate. My building is halfway between my college campus and all the downtown festivities but still a good twenty minutes walk from both locations. My Fitbit loves this city. I love this city. I love walking through it, no matter what the time of day it is. PSA for my parents and others who are worried about me: Today I bought my first Belgian waffle and the woman who served me spoke very highly of this city simply because of how SAFE it is. The waffle was lovely if you were wondering.
I’m honestly not too sure. School starts next Monday, I received my schedule yesterday. It is very different than what I’m used to. I’m not taking too many classes based on the fact that I simply don’t have to, European credits are different than American credits so I don’t need to take nearly as many classes in order to receive the proper amount of credits back home. I mean, fingers crossed right?
My friends and I have already begun planning a few trips to different cities like Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. I have friends who are in France, Italy, and Germany so I will definitely be making my way around this amazing continent somehow!