The Belgium Diaries: Arriving in Ghent

Jamie Sterling - pic1 new

Author: Jamie Sterling
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

After almost two months of preparations I have finally arrived in Ghent!

As I mentioned before, this included finding the cheapest flight-a one-way ticket on a red-eye to London, England. Afterwards it was just a ‎£12 coach bus from there to Ghent. It seemed like a great plan.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t pay for in dollars I made up for in bodily discomfort, lack of nourishment and severe lack of sleep.

Finally, at 5 a.m. on Monday, February 1st, I arrived in my new city. It was completely dark, slightly rainy and I was in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of the city. I had no idea how to get a taxi when a young man nearby offered to give me a ride with his mom.

Many thank-yous later, I got out at the corner and walked down the cobblestone street towards the place I was to be staying. It was empty and quiet, the air was misty but a dull light from the sun was starting to show behind the clouds. There were church bells ringing nearby marking half past the hour when I eagerly rang the doorbell.

I fell in love immediately.

My room is a large space on the third floor of a Belgian family’s home. It’s an old building with hardwood floors and high ceilings near the historic city center. Katrien, my exceedingly generous host, quietly led me in where she had sheets laid out so I could sleep right away. I was exhausted but my excitement kept me awake. I could not believe my luck!

A couple of hours later I was due at Artevelde’s campus for a mandatory orientation for international students in my program. There are roughly 60 of us in total. We had a brief introduction and a campus tour before spending the rest of the day getting to know each other and the city.

There are short sessions throughout the week to help us adjust to the school. We learned how to use the library and had a lecture on APA style, the standard here. We will also have some instruction on using the school’s intranet, which is in Dutch, and we’ll have a presentation on the campus culture and facilities.

On top of this there are activities organized by student groups to help us international students get to know each other and have fun. Things like bowling, a movie-night, and a potluck dinner as well as day-trips to other cities in Belgium in the coming weeks.

Classes don’t start until Monday but I’m already busy. In the next few days I’ll be getting a rental bike for the semester, joining the exchange student network and taking a guided tour of Ghent. Of course, sampling some of Belgium’s famous chocolate, waffles and frituur (fries) are a high priority, too.

I can’t wait to do it all.

I’ll follow-up soon with what I am learning, both in and out of the classroom.