I can’t believe it has already been around a month since I arrived here, to Leuven in Belgium for an Erasmus Exchange Programme. So let’s just have a while to summarize and stress what are the first reflections of living in or even just visiting Belgium.
1. Amazing and friendly people – When I was about to leave to Belgium, I had no idea what to expect from the culture, people, their behavior, language, lifestyle, and education, since I had never visited before.
As we (along with my 2 classmates from the University of Worcester) had no accommodation arranged beforehand, we decided to participate not only in the Introduction week but also in the stay at Youth Hostel with the rest of Erasmus students. I feel like thanking the amazing international team from the UCLL (partner University) who managed to successfully organize a lot of fun activities for us.
Thanks to the introduction week we met many people and made some new friends. That’s how our Erasmus adventure has started, surrounded by loads of positive and friendly people. In overall, people here are very friendly and helpful, trust me, you would enjoy it here.
2. Beer, beer and once again beer – Belgium definitely boasts with its beer culture. Yes, I would even call it a culture as you can find beer on every corner here and especially in Leuven, which is a home for the well-known Stella Artois, where its brewery is situated.
However, what got our attention was only the availability of small beer bottles, the 33cl ones. Since we all were used to the proper pints or half a liters, this was quite surprising yet could be a pleasant change for a while.
Belgian beers aren’t just regular beers, they vary a lot and you can choose from having a classic 4% alcoholic beer or even 10% alcoholic beer, fruit flavored beers or dark (sweet) beers, depending on your mood.
3. No language barriers – Honestly, before arriving in Belgium, I was a bit scared of the language barrier that may appear. Since I do not speak Dutch, French or even German, I felt I would be lost, useless and left with no friends (ok, enough of the drama).
On the contrary, I was nicely surprised when I realized that everyone, and I have to underline EVERYONE here speaks/ understands English. Therefore, there is no difficulty in having a conversation with Belgian students, cashiers in the shop, waiting staff in restaurants, drivers of the buses, strangers on the street when getting lost, bartenders in bars, teachers and administration staff in offices and so on.
So if the language is the obstacle stopping you from going abroad or on an Erasmus, I can assure you that it is going to be ok and there is nothing to be afraid or skeptical of (as for Belgium, of course). We are currently in the Flemish Province, where everyone speaks Dutch, however, if you travel to Brussels (which is only 20 minutes away), everyone there speaks French.
Interesting fact: Belgian students from the south of Belgium go on an Erasmus to Leuven for instance.
4. Breath-taking architecture – Last but not least, I would like to briefly mention Belgian architecture. Since Leuven was first mentioned back in the 1st century, the city boasts with traditional architecture and structure. The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, which is the oldest existing Catholic University in Europe and the biggest University in Belgium, is mainly responsible for the prosperity of Leuven.
The whole city center is shaped into a circle; the city center as such is, therefore, huge. But you can easily access one end from the opposite end of the circle within 30 minutes. In the main city center, there are many architectural highlights worth seeing, for instance, the Town Hall, St. Peter’s Church, The Oude Markt, University buildings, and beautiful squares.
Thank you for sharing my adventures with you.
Michaela, current Belgian Erasmus experiencer.