It has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Belgium, and I finally feel like I actually live here. It took me a long time to adjust to my new surroundings, to being away from my family, to speaking a foreign language, and to cooking for myself! I have been thrown into a grown up world in a foreign country and I am happy to say that I finally feel like it is a world and country that I belong in!
The first two weeks were rough. I spent most of my days and nights crying and feeling so lonely and out of place. I didn't think that I was going to be able to make it through the semester. My poor Mom and sister were consoling me around the clock and constantly reminding me that I am loved and have so much support from all my friends and family at home. After many long talks of encouragement and a trip to the doctor, I am finally feeling like I can rise to the challenges that I will face this semester.
The first challenge that I have been battling is adjusting to the bureaucratic system of the university I am attending. In the two weeks since classes have started I have attended five classes. Often times professors don't show up to the lecture or they cancel class for no reason. Sometimes they tell the students, sometimes they don't. Usually they contact the class through their school emails, which I do not have yet. Technically, I am not even an enrolled student. I am told just to wait patiently, the university will get around to it when they feel like it. This is extremely frustrating because I need my student ID card and email not only to know about changes in class, but to get 400 euros off of my transportation pass for the semester and to get my residency card from the commune in order to validate my VISA. Talk about stressful! Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to expedite the process so I am forced to wait! The ULB sure knows how to test the patience of an anxious American!
Secondly, it is the first time in my life when I have to cook for myself. You have no idea how much I miss Chef Scott back at Kappa Kappa Gamma! My mom and sister have tried to teach me to cook many times before, but I always brushed them off. I am sure wishing I would have taken them up on their offers now! I have a stove top, a microwave and a toaster oven. The first time I tried to cook I decided to make scrambled eggs--how can you mess that up? I turned on the gas stove and waited, but it didn't seem that the pan was getting hot. I waited a few minutes, thinking that maybe this is just another Belgian device to test my patience. All of a sudden one of the other tenants in my apartment, Philippe, ran in and turned off the stove and asked what I was doing. I had turned on the gas but I did not light the flame so I was just letting gas leak into the apartment... woops! We had to open all the windows to let fresh air in. Since then, I have been eating lots of cereal and sandwiches. I have had the most luck with making grilled cheese sandwiches. They are so easy, and the cheese and bread here are so delicious that I feel like I am eating a gourmet meal!
My last big challenge has been speaking French. Everyday it seems to be getting a bit easier and I am finding myself really starting to enjoy the challenge. Philippe, my roommate has taken it upon himself to show me a different French movie or television show every night. It really does help to just be constantly surrounded by the language and it has been quite fun and relaxing to enjoy some good TV.
This past Friday, I had an interview with a Belgian company Orionagroup for an internship. I was so nervous because I really needed the internship so that I could replace two of my classes at the ULB with my time spent working. My brother in law had helped me so much to prepare my resume and letter of motivation for the position and I knew if I could just nail the interview the position would be mine. When the manager began asking me questions in French, I found myself understanding and giving him my responses with very little difficulty! I was so proud to have completed the interview in French and I was even more excited when he offered me the position! I will begin next week on redesigning their website and running their social media accounts!
Aside from my challenges, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many fun times in the past few weeks as well! Our program took us on a day trip to Binche to participate in their Mardi Gras Carnaval celebration. We saw the parade of Gilles, threw lots of confetti, caught oranges, and then watched the dancing and fireworks! The Gilles are men of the town who are asked to participate in the parade, it is a huge honor and they wear the ancient costumes with pride. They throw oranges into the crowd as a symbol of good luck to those who catch them! The teenage Gilles really throw them hard, so it is important to always pay attention! It was a very fun day and a great way to spend Mardi Gras!
Also, I took a day trip with many other CIEE students to Liège. We had the most delicious waffles I have ever eaten! They were hot and fresh and stuffed with three sticks of chocolate! The chocolate melted instantly inside the hot waffle. They were heavenly! After our waffles, we burnt some calories by climbing over 600 stairs to the top of the Montagne de Bueren where we looked out over a beautiful view of the city. While we were on top of the city, we received word that there had been a suspicious package found at the Liège train station and that everyone had been evacuated and no more trains were running. We all went in to a panic and thought we would have to spend the night in the city! Thankfully, things started back up after a few hours and we were able to catch a train. Before we left Liège, we went to a bar where we had peket. It is some sort of alcohol infused with many different flavors, it was delicious! Then we went to dinner where we had meatballs and fries. The meal was out of this world amazing. I ate way too much, but it was so worth it! I am so happy to finally feel adjusted to my life in Belgium. I am so thankful for my amazing family and friends at home as well as my new friends and CIEE family here in Brussels!
|The waffle stand in Liège.|
|Stuffing the waffle with chocolate.|
|On top of Montange de Bueren.|