Friends along the Way (Belgium)

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Author: Phillip Owen-Scott
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

Tim Cahill says that “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” and this is something that I truly believe in. One of the best parts about travelling overseas was most of the people in Artevelde are in the same boat as you, away from their family and friends. Now, that might not sound so pleasant but it also means that a majority of the people there also have the same drive for adventure as you and aren’t shy to make new friends or share experiences with one another. Many of the people in our program were multi-lingual and in my eyes much more talented than most of the mono-lingual English speaking North Americans but I found them wanting to know as much about us as possible. They looked at me as this person who came from some mystery land that they had never been too and wanted to find out as much as they could. Ironically enough I felt that Europe was a much more interesting place than anything back home but I happily obliged.

 If you follow the blogs, then you know that another student named Clemens is also in Ghent studying and we’ve become great friends over the last few months. Though we’d meet only a few months prior and we’d been friends with a great deal of others, I find myself enjoying the time I spend with him more than anyone else. One of my fondest memories is when he planned a Canadian Thanksgiving that involved cooking for 12+ people and went through the time/cost to prepare this whole elaborate event just too make others happy. We enjoyed mounds of food as well as party games and sharing stories with one another about back home. At the time, I was very sick and not feeling very upbeat but that one night made all of us feel slightly closer to home.

 One of my most memorable friends was a Bavarian man named Tobi. He’s a thin, short guy who has the humor you’d expect from a German, but was one of the most down to earth, and genuine people I’ve ever met. Whenever we’d have a conversation you knew that he gave 100% of his attention to you and would always have a great point to make towards any statement made. He’s never lied and will without a doubt tells you that you’re wrong if he felt it was needed to be said. His honesty isn’t outdone by his generosity that was given to anyone that was in need of help. We hold these poker nights every week and he would always come on time with beer to share with everyone, but of course would talk about how “Bavarian beer was the greatest” and “Belgian’s just can’t make beer as good as Bavaria”. This would be me with some groans and eye rolling but it was the thought that counted.

 One of my favourite things to do is both Tobi, Clemens and I share a Monday morning class at 8 in the morning (which we all looooooove…). The second week of classes we came up with the idea of going to breakfast and coffee since double doubles don’t exist in Belgium. This ended up becoming a recurring plan and we soon found a sandwich shop that was just near our campus were for 6-8 Euros you could enjoy a foot-long sandwich with your choice of coffee. We would spend hours chatting about our weekends, who we saw, where we went, what we did, as well as talking about current events and what was going on back home. We went there so often that the man who ran the shop knew us and remembered our order responding with “The usual” as we would sit down. He would make this small chocolate covered marshmallow and ask us if they were good enough to sell. By far though the funniest moment was after he would give us our food and drink he would respond with a brisk “You’re Welcome” before any of us could thank him for our meal.

 Even though I was able to travel all over Europe and visit numerous ancient cities or iconic landscapes I find myself enjoying and relishing those moments the most.

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