The Belgium Diaries: The Last Page

Jamie Sterling - pic1 new

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

Classes have just ended here at Artevelde and, despite a final project and an exam in a few weeks, the goodbyes have already started.

It’s unreal.

But surprisingly, it’s not as much sad as it is disquieting. Life is about to change, again and I feel busier than ever. My days are full of studying, researching and applying to jobs, planning a short trip and slowly packing all of my things. On top of that, I’m trying to soak up every last bit of Ghent before I go.

Literally. It’s still raining!

Despite being completely in love with this city, the rain is something I don’t think I could ever get used to. Actually, throughout this experience there have been a few things that have remained completely foreign to me. For instance, there are ‘second chance’ exams where if you fail the first time you can try again during the rewrite period two months later. I just can’t get my head around it.

At the same time, there have been some things that have grown on me. I was reluctant but I learned to appreciate that grocery stores close at 7 p.m. every day and don’t open at all on Sundays. It’s inconvenient but it feels more relaxed, in a way.

And of course, there have been many things that I have embraced wholeheartedly. I will certainly miss cycling everywhere, spending sunny days sitting by the river in the medieval city centre and perusing weekly markets. Not to mention treating myself to a warme chocolademelk where the milk comes piping hot and you stir in the chocolate chips yourself!

In fact, I’ll miss all of it.

Whether I understood it, accepted it, adapted to it, or not — every part of this experience contributes to the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired simply by being here. Without the observation, problem solving and resourcefulness that come from being out of one’s comfort zone I might have never found my way to my apartment on a cold and misty morning four months ago. More importantly though, I’ve developed my relationship-building and communication skills in the context of an evolving intercultural awareness. There is nothing quite as special or as memorable as the diverse connections I’ve made here and I’m grateful to all the people I spent time with, learned from and have been fascinated by.

It’s bittersweet that the semester has come to an end but I know that when I leave, I’m not just leaving the city, the culture and my friends behind. I’m bringing with me a broader world view, an alternative perspective of my field, and a global network of wonderful and intelligent communications professionals.

So I won’t say vaarwel but dank u vel, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.