They warn you about the bad – the times you feel alone, the alienation you feel when you walk into a full classroom and the only sounds escaping the tongues of the students are completely foreign (and let’s face it, ugly – Dutch is the slightly less scary cousin of German). The nights when you can’t sleep and the gravity of your year crashes upon you with suffocating weight aren’t ideal.
But god, you get so caught up in preparing for the bad, that the good comes in and sweeps you off your feet and suddenly you find yourself in love with a new city, a new culture, a new life.
I’ve been in Antwerp a little over a month now and I’ve already told my parents multiple times that I’m never coming home. Not only is this the most beautiful city – I find myself in new cozy, cobblestone streets almost daily. But Antwerp is also the ideal city for a wonderful study abroad experience. The student atmosphere is definitely present. Twice during the first week of school all classes were cancelled for ‘student activities’. The university actually paid to provide a free festival for students in the city – multiple music stages, a red-bull “free-fall” platform, inflatable jump houses, etc.
But if you want to get away from the university atmosphere – walk five minutes from the university and you’ll find yourself surrounded by history. Beautiful guilded houses, a city hall to rival them all, and one of the most beautiful train stations in all of the world.
And of course the international experience is not hard to find. Antwerp has the second highest international population in the world and its central location makes traveling around Europe a breeze.
There’s more to Belgium then waffels, beer, and chocolate. My year is just beginning and I cannot wait to discover it all.