Very Invisible but Not Alone

Wow, where could I possibly start?  Today marks lucky day fourteen and I truly believe that since I haven’t officially screwed anything up here in the past two weeks, I might be able to survive this thing.

Wow, I’m having the absolute time of my life over here everyone.  This place is amazing, amazing school, amazing International Students, just so many amazing opportunities here in Gent.

My classes seem very interesting so far, I don’t think I’ll hate any of them.  A lot of my classes focus on how business practices vary around the world, global economics, etc.  A few of them are basically huge group projects throughout the entire semester while others will result in an exam worth 80% of my grade.  So no pressure at all.

It is very interesting being the only American in the room.  There have been times when students and professors alike change their tone and the way they speak about the states when they hear my American English accent.  Conversations with me are usually started by asking about the election or if I’ve ever been to Europe before in my life.  I really do enjoy being the minority here.  I’ve learned when to shut up and listen to others’ opinion.  I’ve learned to let people vent angrily to me about my home country without arguing back.  I’ve learned to open my mind even wider than I thought I possibly could.  There are so many thoughts, so many opinions, so many of us in this world.  I absolutely love meeting people who have the same thoughts as I do, however.  It’s very refreshing.

“You know America isn’t even that big, right?  The maps are wrong.”

Direct quote from my Current Global Issues professor.  Of course I’m aware that America definitely can’t compare to the monstrous size of Canada, dear lord.  Obviously what she meant was something along the lines of “You know you guys aren’t the coolest cats around, right?”.  As my teacher said those words to me, I could feel every eyeball in that room look straight at me.  It’s a very different and bizarre feeling to just be generalized and boiled down to my nationality simply because of the popular opinions from my home country.  Oh wait, don’t we do that to each other all the time?  That was just something I have never experienced before and wow, you guys should study abroad.

So you feel invisible?  Okay, let me explain.  Bowling Green State University is a medium-sized school, 20,000ish people walking around.  However, I have a very close friend group and I’m involved in an variety of organizations.  That makes it very easy for me to walk across campus and see at least one person I know and love.  I feel on top of the world at BG, I know that I have a great corner there with lovely friends and classmates.

Not too much the case here.  I live in a city of three universities with 70,000 students.  A very large majority of them are Belgian therefore speaking Dutch.  I just never expected to feel so much like an exchange student.  All of my classes are either filled with exchange students (which is actually pretty cool because we are all usually from a different country/continent each) or one or two exchange students and then a million dutch people.  Disclaimer:  Not ragging on the Dutch or other Belgian citizens, I’m sure this is how everyone else feels in America.  Luckily, my schedule had an entire makeover after I added a few classes and now I’m sitting pretty with some of my best friends in a majority of the courses I have.

Definitely not alone.  Oh my lord, where do I even begin?  I feel like I’m saying that a lot these days.  No, I’m definitely not alone because within the past two weeks I have met some of the coolest students in the world, literally.  All of my friends here are exchange students so we are all fighting the same battles; it only brings us closer.  Very few of us speak Dutch, so that in itself is a whole new adventure everyday.  One of the most frustrating experiences of my life happened this past week.  Scheduling classes for international students is never easy, we always have to send confirmation back to our home university exactly which classes we are signed up for and then pray pray PRAY that we will get the correct amount of credit for all of our hard work at the end of the semester.  Also, during this whole Armageddon of every single international student adding/deleting classes, apparently the scheduling system crashed in our honor.  Lovely.  Basically I’ve been going to my classes on a different schedule every day of the week for the past seven days.  I’m fine, not stressed.

I’m not alone, all of us international students are having these issues and it’s a great conversation starter.  If we are not together in class, us internationals are out on the town, cooking together in our kitchens, even studying together on a Saturday night (WHAT?!?).  I’ve been feeling endless amounts of love and friendship during my time here.  I don’t even want to think about leaving, yet.

Here is some fun stuff my friends and I have been up to: Day Trip to Bruges, Belgium.

A few of us traveled to a city about 25 minutes by train outside of Ghent for a quick (and rainy) day trip.  Bruges is a lot like Ghent except more expensive and there are a few more profound historical sites around the city.  It was a great city for a simple day trip but after walking around in the rain for five hours, we were ready to go home.

So what is next?  Now the real fun is over, assignments are beginning to pile up from all of my classes, so here comes the stress (this is honestly nothing compared to school back in the states, however).  I don’t think I will have any trouble juggling a social life, student life, and traveling when I please.  I’m also taking pilates and yoga classes from the university every Tuesday and Thursday.

Now is the time to begin preparing for my French visa, hopefully this time is a bit easier.  I have an appointment with the French Consulate in Brussels in a few weeks but my friends and I plan on visiting the city this weekend to look around and get a feel for Europe’s capital.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m having the time of my life.

Gros Bisous,

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