Returning to Leuven at the beginning of February was quite the shock.
Almost none of my old friends are here (apart from a few British students from other universities who are still hanging on in there), I was not in Leuven for Orientation Week for the second semester and there are significantly fewer arrivals. Along with the sub-zero temperatures and travelling home and Germany for a number of weeks at a time while I still did not have a set timetable, I haven’t really had the opportunity to go out and meet many of the new people in Leuven. Instead it has been a lot easier to stick to my old friends in Leuven and stay in bed with Belgian Netflix (which has a significantly better choice of shows than in England).
Having done very little, apart from try to organise my very, very full schedule, I thought I should talk about my plans for the next semester and how things have changed now that I feel comfortable living in Leuven, Belgium.
1 / Visit friends from Term 1 and hope they still remember me!
I’ve already visited London twice now to visit friends I hadn’t seen since summer last year, and I’ve visited Frankfurt as well. There are plans in the works to visit Berlin, and I was so excited that a few of my friends from last term ended up visiting!
Staying in contact with friends both from Durham and Erasmus has involved weekly updates, snapchat groups and vague plans to visit as soon as possible; the old Leuven gang have been severely missed by those of us left here but it’s been great to hear about their new internships and trips across Europe and the US.
2 / Fewer exams, please.
I have taken two non-law modules this term in literature and sociology; I love writing papers and I love the two subjects, law modules are very harshly graded here (as are all subjects to be completely honest) and I felt like I might need a break from my other 6 law modules this term.
A number of my courses this term require me to write a paper project, rather than write exams. This is very common for the open modules available in Leuven, so it’s a mystery to me how I ended up with 100% exams last term. This time round I’ve tried to space out the work and stress myself out just a tiny bit less during exam season.
3 / Act like I know what I’m doing.
Now I’ve been here a term I feel like I have just enough knowledge about the culture, the cities and the language to blag my way through the next term. I don’t need to set up a bank account or register, so I can really focus on pretending like I have my life together in Belgium.
Here’s a few pointers from someone who has only lived here 5 months now and seems to think she’s a local: ‘dankuwel’ and ‘alstublieft’ are the most helpful phrases to know in Flemish, the best tourist city in Belgium is Ghent not Brussels and fries are better with mayo than ketchup. I feel like I don’t know much, but I know the important things… notably how good the Belgian’s fries and waffles are.
4 / Try more beer.
I’m still trying to get through all the different types of Belgian beer… I have a sneaking suspicion I wont be able to get through the 400+ beers on offer but here’s to trying.