It is day 31, I have officially been here one whole month. Wow. A lot of feelings are going to be exerted in this blog post but I will mainly speak about my different culture shocks (because that’s what everyone keeps asking me about).
Even at day 31 Gent shoots me up with a new surprise every morning. I’ve found true love here (Belgian Fries), I’ve gained courage in areas I never thought I knew how (mumbling Dutch to locals), and I’ve formed the best friendships I could have ever imagined (that’s self explanatory).
What I Have Been Doing With My Time
School. My classes actually take up more time than I was hoping for. I don’t have much work outside of the classroom but there are days when I sit in class for six hours with only a fifteen minute break. A lot of my classes revolve around group work and class projects so I spend a lot of time outside of class meeting with my classmates as well.
Travel. I spoke briefly about my day trip to Bruges, Belgium a few Sundays ago, which was lovely. Since then, my friends and I have had a few excursions. Last Sunday a student group traveled to the French-Speaking part of Belgium called Wallonia to visit Wallubi the amusement park. SO MUCH FUN! We did that thing where we woke up extra early and stayed at the park basically all day so by the time we ventured back to Gent, we were pooped. I love it!
My girlfriends and I also had a cute little girls weekend in Brussels, Belgiums just for S&G’s and it was a blast. We stayed at this adorable little loft apartment Airbnb arrangement literally steps from great food and night life. The tourist in me needed to experience the Belgian tradition that is Mussels and Fries or Mosselen-Friet in Dutch. Luckily, a friend of mine tipped me off on this great street that has all the best deal on this local dish. We had our feast, visited a few local attractions, decided we need more food love and went out for chocolate, waffles, and fries again. It was a great night. The next day we had an ever so classy Saturday brunch and window shopped until we found Brussels’ pride and joy; the Manneken Pis. What’s that you ask. To put it lightly, the Manneken Pis is the most overrated, anticlimactic national monument in Europe (in my professional opinion). It’s a tiny boy relieving himself in front of everyone, hence the name. Classy, right? I HAD TO SEE IT!
After I finally saw the little guy, we hopped on a train back to Gent (probably an hour long ride home) and ate literally all the Belgian chocolate we had just purchased. Oh well.
Preparing for France. Last Wednesday, I officially was “nominated” as an exchange student at Audencia School of Management in Nantes, France. So this basically means that phase two of the craziest year of my life is almost set in stone. Wow I might actually do this guys. I received a super sweet email from the Education Abroad office FINALLY checking up on me here (yeah thanks) and also congratulated me on my acceptance into this program. I’m so excited! There is one catch though, I still need to file for my French Student visa or France is a no go. I’ll be going back to Brussels next week to hopefully file without a hitch. A very huge catch is gone, however. Academic schedules in the states are a bit different than in Europe; students come back for three-four weeks after Christmas to cram for exams, obviously that wouldn’t work for me if I were to return to BG. Luckily, my time at Audencia doesn’t start until the beginning of February so I can act like a normal European student and have a nice and relaxing winter holiday, return to Artevelde for a bit, then literally move to France in a week. How fun does that sound?
Exploring Gent. Ana and I like to do this thing where we find a new coffee shop every Sat/Sunday and sit there for the entire day “doing homework”. I’m actually just seeing where I can get the best cappuccino in this city. My friends and I have also been looking around for different and interesting restaurants to try. Last Saturday we went to a place called Balls & Glory , highly recommend if you like huge meatballs. Basically you get to choose from four different kind of meatballs and then your choice is plopped onto either a huge portion of mashed potatoes or an amazing salad. To make this meal even better, each meatball is filled with a liquified cheese center (they even had a spinach/rice veggie option!). I heart eyed all over this place. I also really enjoy just aimlessly walking around. This place is beautiful but expensive, and walking around for hours is free.
- Fun fact: I will be on the move and traveling twelve out of the next twenty-one days. And I only included the next twenty-one days because those are the only trips that I have planned so far. 1) Next week I am back to Brussels to file to for my French Long-Stay Visa (that trip is still up in the air, not all of the paperwork is in check and I am not about to experience NYC again). 2) My friend group is venturing up to Amsterdam for Halloween weekend! 3) We’ll return just in time for my Fall Break to begin; Pinja and I are traveling to the UK for a few days. For the first part of our break, we’ll be in Manchester to witness the Manchester Light Switch On. I’m so pumped! Then skipping on over to London for a day. 4) Not even a week after I return back to Gent from break I’m flying down to Milan to visit my Italian bestie Erica. Erica spent a year in the states for my senior year of high school and I haven’t seen her in ages. When we finalized plans her exact words were “I’m taking you to Milan, save up for shopping!” Oh my lord, this is going to be amazing!
- Christmas: None of this is set in stone yet, but I’m hoping to convince my parents to come and visit me for Christmas. I’ve found a lovely city in France that is sort of half way between Paris and Gent for us. I’d love for them to experience the European life that I’ve come to know and love.
- Accommodations in Nantes: As I mentioned above, plans are officially official for Audencia thus far, that means I have to start looking for housing options (so if you have any connections, let me know). I’ve been asking some students who studied at Audencia before and they’ve been extremely helpful so finger crossed that I land something within the next few weeks or so. My plan is that during part of my winter holiday I can begin to move a large portion of all the crap I’ve accumulated over here in Gent over to France so the big move at the end of the semester isn’t awful.
Here are Those Culture Shocks I Promised You (in order of shock)
- Lugging my clothes a block and a half up the street to do laundry. Hahahaha today the Wassalon (the laundry mat) was super closed upon my arrival. Frustrating.
- Bringing my own bags to the supermarket. I have one canvas bag that I carry around with me while I grocery shop and once that sucker is full, I’m finished. It’s really sad.
- Not paying immediately when ordering coffee places. I’m still thrown off by this. I know I look like a fool just standing there waiting with my wallet open.
- A million vegetarian options. SO MANY DIFFERENT OPTIONS. It’s like they knew I was coming. I still haven’t really seen tofu.
- Europe is not as progressive as we all think. One of the reasons I was so keen to study in Belgium is because this country rocks. Gay marriage has been a thing here since 2003, capital punishment was abolished the year I was born, the gender wage gap is WAY below average; I was so enticed by how this country works. Apparently, not all Europeans think the way Belgians do. Wow that was very eye-opening. Side-note, for all of you frustrated with how old-fashioned or backwards the states may seem right now, we are doing just fine. We are making progress. We should embrace our “melting pot-ness”.
- Cobble stones. To this day I still can’t get the hang of these cobble stone things. I trip over them on a daily basis. I’m never safe. The streets, the sidewalks. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! That is why, I titled this blog post trippin’, because that is all I seem to do over here.