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6 posts from April 2011

04/27/2011

I have to say, since college began I have had a perfect track record of spring breaks: freshman year I went home to Boston with Molly, last year I went to San Diego to visit Ari and this year it was Nice, London and Mom & Dad visiting Brussels! Every year it’s gotten better, so I have some pretty epic expectations for senior year.

Nice was wonderful, it has been so cold and rainy since January in Belgium and Anna and I finally go to lay out on the beach and got burnt! It was wonderful; however, I realized once getting back to Brussels that Belgium doesn’t sell aloe vera, so that was a slight set back. While in Nice Anna and I also took a trip to Monaco, which was like a rich person’s DisneyWorld- it was so ridiculous. We saw a guy in the water with this like little water jetpack- he had a jetpack on and had a big tube attached to a small boat that pumped water into the pack and then it sprayed it out and he went up in the air. It was cool, but a ridiculous toy. We walked along the street and glanced in some shops- all designer, they even had a Baby Dior store! I like designer clothes, but let’s get real for a second. You’re going to spend like 100 euros for a toddler’s shirt that they’re going to grow out of in a month and spill food on in the mean time. Although crazy, it was really cool to finally be there after passing through a Grace Kelly obsession in junior high.

Mom and Dad came to Brussels two days after I got to back to Brussels and then we went to London the next day. I don’t think I realized how much I loved London until I traveled a lot more and then went back. Brussels is slow and quiet for a city and it felt so great to be in a fast paced and active city again. The first day we were there Mom even said, “This feels better.” Mom & Dad really liked London too. There’s so much to do in the city and while the shopping and eating and living are expensive, the touristy stuff is all free so it balanced out for us. I also FINALLY bought my Burberry trench coat after almost buying one last summer too. It was so much fun to do, but I’ve had it for about a week now and I’m still too scared to wear it. Not that anyone has ever spilled anything on me before, but it still makes me nervous that it will happen once I wear this coat.

Now I just have two weeks plus to go! I finish up my internship next Tuesday and then my last final is the following Wednesday! Overall this semester certainly has not been what I expected but I really feel like I have experienced living in Europe rather than just the typical “study abroad” experience. Living with a family, working part-time and going to school has all really made a difference in how much of the culture I’ve experienced compared to my friends on other programs.

IMG_1735

04/12/2011

bienvenue/ welkom!

I have only been here a week and I already feel exhausted- they say New York never sleeps, but apparently neither do study abroad students. I got in early last Sunday morning and we had 3 days of orientation before moving into our housing for the semester. In those three days we went on 3 walking tours, had Dutch and French lessons, went out to dinner every night, had information sessions on phones and public transit and history and culture. Finally we had orientation to our host institution (Vesalius College) and then a weekend break and classes began!
Laura

I moved in with my host family on Wednesday and it is going really well! I live with a woman, Judith, and her two daughters who are 12 (Valentine) and 9 (Angelique) and her boyfriend, Aldo. They all speak French at home and so far I am doing decently with understanding but I can for sure understand a lot more than I can speak. But there’s no better way to improve a language than to practice!

Today is only the second full day of classes but I think I will be taking Introduction to Dutch, Mergers & Acquisitions and a Belgian history/culture class we are required to take with the study abroad program I am on. The Mergers & Acquisitions class doesn’t start until next week and it is actually on the Boston University campus that they have in Brussels, so that will be another great way to get around and see the city! I am also doing an internship at Aspect Consulting (http://www.aspectconsulting.eu/) which I am really excited about! I will be working just under 20 hours a week, and I will begin next Monday- I am super anxious for it. The office is in what my friends and I call “Chocolate Square,” where all the ritzy chocolate shops are and in a really cute area for shopping and antiques- totally ideal for taking walks around on break or meeting people after work!

This weekend a small group of us plan on going to Antwerp (where there is 1 of 3 Starbucks in the country- the other two are inside the national airport terminals). It’s only 7.50 euro for a round trip and we want to hit the shopping capital before the sales end; in Belgium stores are only allowed to have sales in January and July to protect smaller businesses, so for me that simply means better to do the majority of my shopping now!

Brussels and Belgium definitely have their quirks (like having no government, for example), but so far I’m really enjoying getting to know the city and everyone who calls it home.

Au revoir/ Dag!

winkelen in Antwerpen! (or, shopping in Antwerp!)


For our first weekend without CIEE-scheduled plans, a small group of us decided to go to Antwerp! Just a metro and a train ride away (7.5 Euro round trip on the weekends, awesome deal!) we were there in around 45 minutes. We took the 8:30 AM train out and came back by 5:00 because we were all so exhausted from walking. We basically just shopped and ate our way around to city. To begin, the Antwerp train station has one of 3 Starbucks in the country (the other two are inside the terminals at the Brussels National Airport), so of course that was my first stop.

If they build it I will come...

After we hit that up we went walking around and made our way to the main shopping street. Antwerp is known (according to wikipedia) in the fashion world for the “Antwerp six” who were a bunch of fashion designers from a fashion school in Antwerp and really influenced the fashion world with their avant garde style. One girl in our small group and I went to a hat museum they had there, and the woman in front of us in line had extra tickets and gave us hers!

After that we had some waffles (of course, like all good Belgians) and got back on the train!

battle of the bulge

This past weekend we had a CIEE excursion and we to see the Battle of the Bulge fields and got a tour by a man who was 9 years old when it happened and was living in a town just outside of Bastogne at the time. It was really incredible.



We were supposed to all meet up at 7:30 and I ended up waking up at 7:30, but luckily since it’s Belgium and people are always late when I called and they hadn’t left yet it wasn’t a big deal that I didn’t get there until 8:00. Case in point that there is no concept of “on time” in Belgium. We had croissants and pain chocolate (basically croissants with chocolate inside them) on the bus before we met our guide and watched an episode of Band of Brothers.

We had a great lunch and then started our tour of Bastogne. The whole day consisted of a visit to two American memorials (one my the people of Bastogne and one by the US), a German grave yard, a bus tour of the city, a museum and a visit to the fox holes. Our tour guide was a man who was 9 years old when the Battle of the Bulge happened and it was so interesting to hear all about his memories of the various occupations as a child. He talked about the differences between the occupations of the Germans, the Americans and then the Nazi SS. When he began the tour he talked a lot about how people in Bastogne will “welcome us home” as Americans when we’re here. At first I thought he was trying to get us to like him by saying that he liked America- but throughout the day and the more places we saw it really did seem like the people of Bastogne were still very appreciative of the American soldiers who had fought there. There were a lot of American flags in windows and buildings and streets named after American figures.

My favorite part of the tour was when we got to go see the fox holes where the Americans had been looking over Foy. It was really incredible to see the actual place where the soldiers were camped out and even though it was not nearly as cold as it had been then, it made all of our guide’s stories and history seem much more real.

host family bonding

On Friday night I was planning on staying in to do some homework but my host mom invited me out to dinner with her and Aldo and her two older children and neighbors and I feel like I should try to bond so I went.

It was the longest, and probably most exciting, dinner I’ve ever had. I thought when we went out to dinners with our program they just fed us especially well because we pre-paid for everything. Nope, that’s just the Belgian way. We had pre-dinner drinks (where I was the ONLY

person at the table who ordered water because I didn’t know alcohol was expected) and hors d’oeuvres (where again, I was the only one who didn’t order one), then the main course, dessert and for all of us about 5 bottles of wine. We left the house at about 7:45 and got back just after midnight.

The neighbor that was dining with us is an older man and he was in World War II and tried to speak to me a lot in English (which I was grateful for, I feel like I can prove to them I’m actually smart when I talk in English) and asked me a lot of questions about Grandpa! It was fun talking with him an

d he was super excited when he learned that this was my first time in Belgium and at the end of the night we all were putting on our coats and he made us all sit back down and he pulled out a bottle of champagne and put it down in front of me and said, “Welcome to Belgium!” Host-family bonding? Check.

On Saturday morning a couple friends and I woke up early to go to Gent! Mostly, we just walked around and stopped in the places that we thought would be fun. Gent was a very prominent medieval city (according to the guide books) so we saw a castle (where we saw a guillotine with the original blade, thank goodness for that) and lots of old churches and buildings. Needless to say, since the city was constructed since before urban-planning, we got lost quite a few times but luckily found out way to a bakery, to lunch, to the shopping street and a waffle stand. All in all, a very successful outing.

Well the thing is...it's in Milan

So last Tuesday at my internship my supervisor comes up and asks me about my availability to go to a meeting on Wednesday. I have 6 hours of class on Wednesday and so I told him I really couldn’t do it. Then he says, “Well the thing is, it’s in Milan.” Done. Sent in my homework and took a quiz and less than 24 hours later I had landed in Milan. Wednesday morning I flew out with a girl who had just finished her internship at Aspect and we got to Milan at about noon. We had about 4 hours to wander around the city before we were briefed about the event (which was just taking notes at a dinner about broadband) and then the event started at 6 and lasted until a little after midnight with debriefing and everything. The next morning I went out with two other interns who were there from the Paris Aspect office and we wandered around a little. It was fun because their English was much better than mine, but they were more comfortable speaking in French so most of the day they spoke to me in French and I would speak to them in English- but we could all understand each other just fine! Overall Milan was nice, but it’s a very industrial city and wasn’t super pretty.

Then at noon I took the metro to Milano Centrale where I caught a train to Florence to see Molly, my roommate at Macalester! Florence was gorgeous and a super cute small city. I spend the rest of the day with her and her friends having dinner, going out to some clubs, and just hanging out and catching up. I left early afternoon the next day.

It was such a random event but such an amazing opportunity! Now I have EXTREMELY high expectations for the rest of my internship.

 

Milan

 

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