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02/09/2011

Welcome to Brussels!

“Brussels? That’s in Germany, right?”
“Belgium…that’s where they speak a funny language that sounds like a cold!”
Why are you studying abroad in Brussels?”

These are just a few of the questions our Business, Communications & Culture students are already accustomed to answering in the month that they’ve been studying and living in Brussels. And already, they’ve gone from wondering what exactly Flemish is (and no, it’s not a disease!) to planting some strong roots in this quirky country where they find themselves.

BCC group
Bienvenue à Bruxelles! The entire BCC group in Brussels' storied Grand' Place.

The first month in the capital of Europe has already been a crash course in all things Belgian. Students have learned just how serious Belgians take their ninth-art in a visit to the Belgian Comics Strip Museum, as well as experiencing the strangely acidic, definitely surprising, and unquestionably unique gueuze at Cantillon – Brussels’ last remaining brewery and one of the few remaining spontaneous fermenting breweries in the world.

On top of this, they’ve already started to scratch the surface of Belgium’s varied history in the CIEE Core Course with a visit to the Belgian Parliament (a surprise glimpse of the Hungarian Prime Minister included!). They’ve also explored, and in some cases, gone knee-deep, into modern Belgian history during the group excursion to World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, the sight of America’s largest military action. Our group was guided around by an eye-witness to the Battle and was treated to his accounts of what it was like to live in a house occupied by German soldiers. We also were able to see the GI’s foxholes which were used as protection in the forests of the Ardennes during the battle, now made famous by Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers.

Foxhole
Standing around foxholes left over from World War II's Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes.

Students even examined their own country’s politics and modern history in the Belgian limelight! Some of our CIEE students were asked by the VTM, the Flemish news broadcasting station, to watch and discuss President Obama’s State of the Union for national Belgian television! You can check out their moment of Belgian fame here.

Students have also settled into the rhythm of Brussels life. Now that we’re a month into the semester at Vesalius, students are starting to use their burgeoning language skills throughout the city. Many are flexing their linguistic muscles on a daily basis with their housing situations, interactions at shops or at their internships. A large number are also taking advantage of the ‘cours isolée’ option offered at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) to try their hand at taking a class en français with other Belgian students to supplement their Vesalius courses. Additionally, many students have participated in the French-English language exchange CIEE organizes with local francophone students. The first conversation table was a huge success and many students are looking forward to upcoming tables!

Conversation table BCC students hanging out with local francophone students at a typical Brussels café during the Conversation Tables.

We’re definitely ready for a fun semester that’s jam-packed with opportunities, so stay tuned for further updates and photos from the Spring 2011 BCC semester!

Comments

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You've got to love Brussels. Their culture and food are two things that are very difficult to resist. I can't wait to go here during my European trip.

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