Was I ready? (Belgium)

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Author: Clemens Snoeijer
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

As Barbara Haines Howett once said “just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, he became a butterfly.” I personally feel strongly connected to this quote, as it seems to relate to my life. At the stage of the caterpillar, I grew up in the countryside of The Netherlands. Biking to school, hanging out with fellow classmates and spending holidays with family seemed ordinarily perfect. My life changed drastically when my parents made the decision to move to Canada. I had envisioned a different lifestyle that included many strong social attributes. At that point when I entered Canada, it felt like I could never adjust, as I started to get older, I always said that I would move back to my hometown, but was it maybe because of the culture shock that I was experiencing?

During my transition of becoming a butterfly and spending time in my own cocoon, I would say that the culture shock has finally worn off. I have been able to accept Canada as my new home with the opportunity to grow, through education and work. Having finally gotten over the culture shock of living in Canada, I still often thought, what if I just stayed? Could I continue onto the next chapter and catch up on many moments I had missed or did Canada become my new home?

On August 23rd, I began my journey to Amsterdam to reconnect with my family and friends. When I was reunited with my family, I noticed all the different progress and growth that they made while I was away in Canada. I was extremely proud of them and how far they have come while I was away. I was going to take full advantage of the time that I did have with them as I realized there was lots of opportunities to make new memories with my family and friends that I was visiting. I realized that I was not just here to strengthen the bonds between my loved ones, but I was also there to start something new.

The first night in Ghent I was mesmerized by the difference between apartments in Toronto and Ghent. I was now located in the heart of the city, a few steps away from famous tourist locations, something I had really wanted. Although the location of the apartment was great, I was a little unimpressed with my apartment. Not only was it tiny, many things were not functioning properly. The shower upstairs was leaking down to a housemate’s room, and I couldn’t properly open the front door to the building. It sadly also is badly maintained and seems rather dirty, but I’m hoping I could slowly adjust especially having to share it with 12 other housemates. I suddenly realized that living in Belgium compared to Canada would obviously be a little different, but I did not expect it to be so extreme, but I knew I was here for a new learning opportunity and thinking about the positive side of things was going to help me get through this culture shock. The one of the few positive things about this new experience is being able to make different friends from all around the world, right in my classroom.

The city of Ghent is beautiful and relaxing, making the progress of being in an unknown country easier. I enjoy sitting by the riverside of the Graslei and the beautiful architecture surrounded around the river. Besides the Graslei, I enjoy walking around browsing through small local stores, occasionally grabbing a delicious chocolate treat (Mmmh!)

Orientation week has been phenomenal. In the beginning of orientation week we had the opportunity to meet other fellow exchange students. I was set to make new friends where I forget to pay attention to sessions themselves; luckily they seemed very straightforward. During my campus tours I got to know several students, from Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Germany, United States and more. We haven’t really been separable since, as we had spent the rest of the week together going to local bars and restaurants. This definitely helped get rid of the culture shock, and I no longer had to explore the city alone. I am very excited to see what the next few weeks have to offer, and cannot wait for the schools kick off on Wednesday September 28. I have my first class early in the morning at 8:15, but luckily the rest of the week I start later. I’m excited to see the difference between educational system of Seneca and Artevelde University College. Lastly I am hoping to become the butterfly I want to become by discovering if Canada or Europe becomes my new home for the future.



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