The Belgium Diaries: In-Class

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

It’s now the fourth week into my semester at Artevelde. I can hardly believe I’ve been here that long! Of course, the time is passing quickly because it’s still new and fun but my irregular schedule makes it difficult to notice the time going. I never have a routine.

The timetable is one thing that’s really different from home. For the first six weeks I only have three classes. Then, after we break for Easter, two of my classes end, one has a shorter time block and three more classes begin.

It’s confusing.

On top of that, all the classes are for different lengths of time—some are for four weeks, some are for six and some are for the whole semester. They also range from one and a half to four hours long!

It doesn’t end there, the timetable can change weekly and it’s never final. A class that’s normally on Monday can have an additional session scheduled any other day of the week. Classrooms sometimes differ from week to week and guest lecturers can be added at any time.

For me, it’s strange. Yet, when I mentioned our fixed timetables at Seneca to a Finnish friend she thought it was really weird and she wouldn’t like it.

The cultural differences are endlessly fascinating.

That’s something that makes this program so special. I’m studying a module that has been specifically designed for foreign exchange students. We were able to choose from a select number of courses offered as part of the module and we only have them with each other. It makes meeting and learning about new people really easy. Whether from Turkey, Finland, Estonia, Romania, Germany or Canada, we’re all in the same boat.

It also makes for some really great class discussions.

On one of my first days we were defining the lines between public relations, marketing and corporate communications. I knew there exists a lot of overlap among the terms but what I took away from the discussion was just how much, or how little, overlap could be interpreted based on our different geographical and educational backgrounds. We were tackling the concept from a global perspective to come to a collective understanding not only of the terms in question but also of their place in our respective parts of the world.

Many classes tend towards these multi-cultural discussions and for me the information exchange is priceless. It’s like a two-for-one education and a big reason I chose to do a semester abroad. I’m nothing short of loving it.

Away from school I’m also using my time constructively. I’ve started teaching myself Dutch, the root language of Flemish. I’m exploring different parts of the city and the country. I’m visiting museums and trying as many new things as I can find.

In short, I’m learning a lot outside of class, too. I’ll save that for the next post!

Exploring Aberdeen!

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Author: Avery Navikevicius
Program: Fashion Business Management
Study Abroad Location: Aberdeen, Scotland

My first month in Aberdeen sure has been a roller coaster! When I first arrived, I think I got lost 5 times a day for about a week. Getting lost ended up being a blessing in disguise!

Each time I stopped to ask for directions, I was given a mini tour or history lesson about the area that I was in. I ended up learning a lot and I saw so much of the city.

After my first few days, I ended up catching a cold, which caused me to miss the school trips to Slain’s Castle and Stonehaven. (Don’t worry, it’s a happy ending!)

Since I was stuck in my flat for a while, I spent my time getting to know my roommates. I think this is the best living arrangement I have experienced so far in my adult life! They brought me medicine, and made sure I had food, while they kept me company. As soon as I was well enough, we all went to visit Stonehaven and Slain’s Castle.

I have really enjoyed that atmosphere at RGU thus far. It is drastically different from Seneca! The lectures are much larger than what I am used to. However, the tutorials are smaller than the classes back home!

It is definitely an interesting mix. I also do not have a single test or project due until the end of the semester. This means everything that is due at the end is worth 100% of my grade. I wonder how I will feel about this set up come exam time.

I think I have eaten my weight in chips (or in Canadian, French fries!) since I have been here! I think I have enjoyed pub food more than my body and wallet appreciates.

My goal for March is to get into a steady eating and spending routine. However, with trips to Amsterdam and Dublin for St. Patrick’s day, that might not happen!

Ready? Set…Takeoff!

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Author: Catherine Camara
Program: International Business
Study Abroad Location: Bavaria, Germany

Participating in an exchange can be an exciting and fun experience. The few weeks leading up to it on the other hand – not such a good feeling! You’ll have a lot of last minute errands so it’s good to plan extra time to get things done. Here are some key things to keep in mind the few weeks before your departure.

Call your bank– Just do it. Let them know where you’ll be and for how long. You’ll be glad you did.
Organize– If you’re like me and travel is your passion, then you probably planned some sort of trip on the way to your exchange country. Have all of your travel documents in order. (itineraries, visas, confirmation invoices, tickets, acceptance letter, proof of residence abroad, etc.) Do not procrastinate.
Know your escape– You can come home at anytime you want, so don’t be too scared!
Say good bye-Its important to say it. So get it over with.
Foreign Currency– Take out enough foreign currency to last you a week in your host country. This will be enough to last you until you reach an ATM and figure out how to go about setting up a bank account.
Create a playlist- This can be something you can always plug into.

Packing
I had no idea what to pack. Bathing suits? Winter jackets? Flip flops? I had to get organized. Making lists and sticking to them I managed to get 6 months’ worth of clothing into one suitcase and a carry-on. Here are some items that you didn’t think you needed but will probably get the most use of.

Portable Charger– Haven’t stopped using it since I bought it.
Book– I recommend a pocket booklet of your study countries language, and a good book to read on weekend trips.
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Towel– You will always need a towel. I recommend quick dry towels as they take up very little space.
Portable luggage scale– Whether it be for short trips or taking home souvenirs by the end of it all; you will get use out of this one.
Flip flops– This one should be a given, but leaving home without a great pair of slip-ons is a great mistake. They come in handy for shared bathrooms in your hostel stays, or hanging in the common room in your student residence. You’ll be thankful your feet are covered.

All this being said, it is important to do your own research. Read up on travel blogs and learn from others and their experiences. Doing this will help you gain different outlooks and opinions on what is important to take with you on your exchange. I hope these lists have helped you! Ready? Set, take off!

Best,
Catherine Camara