Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cultural Exchange Community

I have been back in the States since May 1 but I refuse to let go of the recent international theme for my life. I returned to Clemson University in August to live in the Cultural Exchange Community (CEC) on campus. My suitemate Jennifer and I decided last year that we would live here since we were both interested in going abroad. We have both since been abroad and are now living here with two other wonderful young ladies. Jennifer's roommate is Alexandra from Canada. She is extremely bubbly and friendly. I can't imagine life without her in my apartment. My roommate is Pauline from France. She is super sweet and I love seeing her every day. Jenn and I couldn't have asked for better roommates!
Life in the CEC is so much fun. I think one thing that really amazes me is just how genuinely nice everyone is. There are people here from all over the world: America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. I love how well everyone gets along and that everyone is able to have fun together even though we are all so different.
My favorite thing about living around so many foreigners is their accents. Foreign accents are absolutely amazing to me. I also think it's interesting when any of the students who speak English as a second language express feelings of inadequacy in speaking English. This just blows my mind because I know for a fact that I would be lucky to know one sentence of their language. As far as I'm concerned, they are all wonderful English speakers. I'm also really impressed with how diligent they are in their school work.
I love being able to talk to the international students about things that are different between here and where they're from. Some of the things that have come up... Sudents would never where pajama bottoms to class in Spain. The Europeans were so surprised to see girls wearing athletic shorts outside as normal clothes. Like I saw in Belgium, Europe and Canada employ reusable bags for grocery shopping. Also, Southern hospitality is something totally new to most of them.
One thing for sure that none of them have ever experienced before coming here is Clemson pride. They all comment about how nice everyone is and what a happy place Clemson is. I'm glad they all like it here. We love having them here as part of our community!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Videos

I've been home for quite a while now and I am a lot more comfortable being back in the States than I was at first. I just received an email requesting that we upload our videos to this blog so here they go... Of course, they could still be better. I feel like the audio leaves a lot to be desired but that's what happens when you're learning and working with this equipment. Overall, it was a fun project though.

This first video is about my experience abroad.

video

This next video is about Belgium--specifically Brussels, Belgium.

video

This last video is about business which is the field I was studying while abroad.

video

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good American Experiences

Yesterday I went out to eat and to the mall with my mom and sister. While we were out, I did some things that I consider to be very American--things I wouldn't have been able to do in Europe.
For one thing, while we were out to eat we all received free refills on our drinks. This does not happen in Europe, you have to buy a new drink if you want more after the first time you run out. I also used the restroom at the restaurant without having to pay for it. I was pretty excited about that. Our waitress was also really nice which was a different from what I had experienced in Europe. Waiters and waitresses in Europe get paid at least minimum wage anyway so they don't have to earn tips. Needless to say, our servers in Europe did not have much incentive to be nice and quite often were pretty rude.
As we were walking around the mall, I rode on the left side of the escalator without being told "adroit!" In Europe, if you stand on an escalator, you stand on the right side so that people that are in a hurry can pass you on the left. If you are in their way, they will let you know. While shopping, I rounded prices up because once I got to the register I knew there would be tax added on. In Europe, their ridiculously high taxes are already added into all of their prices so that whatever it was marked at was exactly what you paid. I was also pretty excited to get around places in my own car rather than having to take some form of public transportation. I enjoy being able to go where I want when I want rather than having to waste time worrying about when the trams and metros are running.
I do miss Europe a bit but I'm glad to have the freedom that comes with living in America.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

HOME

I am finally home from abroad! I'm super excited to be back in the States although I do miss Belgium at times. I think I actually went through more culture shock coming home than I did going abroad. It was like rediscovering my life all over again.
When I first stepped off of the plane, I was so excited to feel humidity again. But now that I've been back for a few days, it's really starting to hit me just how hot and sticky it actually gets here! I also forgot about how country people are in the South. It's weird to walk around and be able to understand conversations going on around you.
When I got home, my family and friends had a little surprise get together for me. This is the first time I haven't actually found out about a surprise party. I'm convinced that it's because I was out of the country during the planning.
So now it's back to normal American life. Of course I will never be the same after this trip. I feel like it was a major learning experience for me. I gained a lot of knowledge about life in general. I don't think it's an experience that I can really convey to anyone who wasn't there. People ask, "So how was your trip?" or they say, "Tell me how Belgium was." What are you supposed to say to that? Where would you even begin?
I am very grateful that I was able to have this opportunity to study abroad and learn more about the world. I'm also grateful to the people who made it possible... my parents, professors, and everyone else.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Italy = Love

I just got back from a trip to Rome and Venice. After this trip and my trip to Sardinia last weekend, I have decided that I absolutely love Italy and that it's my favorite country so far. The language is gorgeous, the people are nice, the landscape and architecture is breathtaking, and the food is delicious.
Sardinia is an island off the coast of Italy. We went there for our Easter break. It rained for most of the trip but we got one really good day of sun at the beach. It was pretty amazing to be on a Mediterranean beach. Easter morning we went to church at a Catholic church. It was an interesting experience. None of us really knew what was going on because it was all in Italian. That night we went to a club called La Siesta. Apparently it's some exclusive club that they were opening to the public for one night. It was pretty fun. My roommate and I took advantage of the salsa dancing there. The locals were amazing and we were nowhere near as good as them.
We were only back from Sardinia for a few days before leaving for Rome. I fell in love with Italy immediately. The countryside is so gorgeous. Everything is so green. The clouds were basically painted in the sky for the first day we were there. It really enhanced the the Roman feel... gods on Mt. Olympus and all. The architecture was also amazingly majestic. We spent two days wandering around the city and seeing all the sites. We were amazed by all of the different types of people and what they were doing to make money. There were side walk artists, break dancing boys, jewelry makers, a man playing musical classes (true story--and he was good!), as well as many others. Most of these were really interesting but some of them were kind of annoying. One of my friends and I were basically made to buy roses from this one man. I really enjoyed the fashions in Rome. I could window shop there all day.
We spent one night at an airport in Rome before heading to Venice. We were all pretty tired by the time we got there but we spent a day wandering around the city. Venice was beautiful as well--very unique. We ate lots of gelato there. I think I had about 8 gelatoes during my time in Italy with at least one different flavor each time. We came to love the gelato. It was probably one of the best things about Italy.
Everyone was surprisingly excited to make it back to Brussels. We have about a week and a half until we go home. This is crunch week in our program so here we go!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring!

Things are FINALLY starting to get green around here!! It is so exciting to actually see color and feel warmth as we walk the streets of Brussels. It's kind of sad that we only have a little bit of time left when the weather actually gets nice. This weekend is the beginning of our Easter break. A few friends and I are going to Alghero, Sardinia (an Italian island) to spend the break. We leave in the morning and we're way excited! It should be an interesting vacation since Italy is a predominately Catholic country and this is Easter weekend. Hopefully we will see some cool stuff. I'll blog again when I get back.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day

So today is April Fool's Day. I'm not sure if they even recognize this day in Belgium (I'll have to ask one of the locals eventually) but we have already had a few jokes within our little group of Americans here.
Nothing very interesting has really been happening lately. The weather is finally starting to warm up. We have had a lot of sunny days recently that are absolutely amazing. It's finally starting to act like spring around here and it reminds me so much of Carolina. This kind of weather is not something that any of us would have ever associated with Belgium up to this point.
Our second round of classes started recently, around the middle of March. I've just recently decided to drop my finance class because I just have too much on my plate right now. So I'm down to 15 hours. I absolutely love my law class though, it's so interesting!
I don't have much more traveling planned. I will be going to Italy twice in the middle of this month and I think that's it. I can't believe I only have one more month until I go home. This trip is flying by. I know it's going to be really weird to finally get home though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

European Parliament

My law class visited the European Parliament on Thursday of last week. We were given a presentation by a representative from Malta. We watched a short video and saw a powerpoint presentation. It was really interesting. There are 23 official languages for the Parliament so it is kind of mind boggling to think of how they have to function together. We learned about how they vote through legislation and how the different countries work together as the EU. It was kind of weird to think about since their countries are functioning similar to our states back home. It's like a similar system but from different perspectives.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Summertime in London and Paris

Last Saturday I picked up one of my Carolina friend from the airport and we headed to London. Summer and I have been friends since the third grade and she decided to come visit me for her spring break. So we planned to go to London with some other people from my study abroad program.We stayed in a Marriott hotel right on Park Lane, right by Hyde Park. It was a really nice place and it felt very classy to be staying there in London. While in London we took one of the bus tours around the city. I had never been on a double decker before so that was an experience to be able to ride on the top. We walked around Buckingham Palace a bit. We of course took tons of pictures. We also saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, etc.
It really wasn't as awe-inspiring as I thought it would be. I thought that Big Ben was rather small. It was still cool to see all of that stuff though. It started raining really hard about half-way through the day so it kept us from walking around a whole lot. We took a boat ride down the river to Grenwich, where the Prime Meridian is. That was nice just so that we were out of the cold wet weather. To get around London, we used the underground. I thought that their system was a bit more complicated than it had to be but it was still pretty easy to find your way around. there were just tons of stairs. That was annoying when we were dragging our luggage as we arrived and left. It was nice to be in a place where people spoke English again though.
As soon as we got back to Brussels from London, we left for Paris.



















Paris was where Summer really wanted to go so we fit that trip in before my second session of classes started. In Paris we stayed at a Marriott on the Champs Elysees. It was even more fancy than the hotel in London and it was right in the middle of everything. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Dame, and walked around the city some. The full day we had in Paris happened to be a Tuesday. Unfortunately, this was the one day that the Louvre is always closed. So we had to go early in the morning before leaving Paris the next day. the Louvre was absolutely huge and amazing. Of course we only saw a small part of it. I would love to go back one day and explore more. I think my favorite parts of Paris were Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower at night. The tower at night is gorgeous.
This is the Nike ad that was all over the metro in Paris. Summer is actually the one that pointed it out to me. We found it weird that they didn't use the "Just do it" slogan. Also, the "V" thing is different, I've never seen that before and I couldn't find anything about it on the American Nike website. I also took apicture of a warning sign on the metro in Paris. I just thought it was so random that they used a rabbit to warm people about getting their hands caught in the door. In Brussels they use stick figures with very little detail to convey similar messages.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

McDonald's Again

I had forgotten to look at the McD's website the last time I posted. So the main difference between the American and Belgian websites is that the American is in English and the Belgian is in French. Other than that, they are pretty similar for the most part.
The American website has pictures of people being outside, active, and happy while the Belgian website is more likely to list nutrition facts for the food. I think this is because the American culture in general is bigger on exercising than the European population. They seem to eat healthier for the most part over here. Both websites lit more than I want to know.
I think that the differences in the styles of the restaurants between America and Belgium (even Europe in general) was because they seem to target two different audiences. McDonald's in America is usually just a cheap, fast option. It is also accessible to even those who have very little money. Eating out in Europe seems to be something that you don't do unless you have the money and since a lot of stuff is more expensive here, the people who usually eat out are more well off.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

McDonald's

To be honest, since arriving in Belgium I haven't really had any desire to go to a McDonald's. I only know of one McDonald's in Brussels and I always thought it looked pretty American. I actually went inside it last night for our last "fat kids'" meal (that's another story) and it was actually pretty different. I have noticed that, in general, McDonald's over here in Europe are a lot more posh than back in the States. There was one in Galway, Ireland that even had cushioned rotating arm chairs at every table. The restaurant here in Brussels (pictured above) isn't quite that stylish. However, there is a significantly different feel when you walk in the restaurant compared to back in South Carolina. Back home, I always thought of McDonald's as a restaurant made out of bright colors and plastic, geared mostly toward kids. Here the McDonald's looks more high class. It is decorated with more neutral colors and the furniture has a more sophisticated, even stylish, look to it. The menus are generally the same with slight differences in feature items. There is no dollar menu here, which is unfortunate. There is a "euro menu" but it isn't everything for a euro. It lists things for one or two euros. They don't have value meals here but instead sell the sandwich and drinks separately. This is one huge difference--no free refills!! I can't wait to get back to the States and my free refills!! Also, you have to pay for ketchup here, 0,50 euro for a little thing of ketchup. That goes against everything I hold dear. I'm pretty sure that ketchup is a basic human right at all McDonald's so it is almost blasphemous to me to have to pay for it.
It was a crowded day yesterday because Carnival was going on in the middle of the street and everywhere in Brussels. Since the lines at the restaurant were backed up to the doors, one of the McDonald's employees came to the people in the middle of the lines, took their order, and gave them a piece of paper to give to the register, and went on to the next person. I had never seen that happen before. Overall it was a good experience but it was a little expensive.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

IRELAND!!

I just got back last night from a 5 day trip to Ireland. I would have blogged during the trip but I had very limited internet access. I didn't take my laptop with me. I basically lived out of a backpack for 5 days. I was pretty proud of myself for that because I am usually such an overpacker.
So we flew from Brussels to Dublin last Friday. We got in pretty late at night but we were all excited to be in Ireland! On the plane over we were in the company of a whole slew of Irish pre-teens. It was way cool to talk to them and interact with them because they are so different. They all had a very punky clothing style but you could tell that it really fit them. They also seemed very mature. They bought newspapers to read on the plane, had political opinions about America, and were giving us advice on where to eat out in Dublin. I thought it was crazy how mature they seemed. When we finally got off the plane and out into the city, we had a lot to figure out since we had never been there before. We were all pretty excited that almost everyone spoke English. I kept catching myself trying to slip in small French phrases for "thank you" and "excuse me" though. I thought it was funny because usually English is my default for everything.
We stayed the first night in Dublin and the next day traveled to Cork by train. We explored the city a bit and ended up taking a bus to Blarney to see the Castle. We took a bus to get there. It was way different to have traffic running on the left side of the road. It kind of throws you for a loop because for the first bit you always look the wrong way when crossing the street. By the time we left Ireland, I was used to riding the buses on the left though. Blarney Castle was pretty cool but it was just another tourist thing.
The next day we hopped a bus to Killarney, which was a cool little town that one of our friends who had been traveling before us found. It wasn't a big place or anything but it had a lot of cool shops. We went exploring there. They have some sort of national park on the edge of the town and it was absolutely beautiful country. It was all so green and peaceful. We spent several hours walking around there. There was a gorgeous lake and lovely walking paths.
The next day we made our way to Galway. At first, I didn't like Galway at all because compared to Killarney it was such a city and I loved seeing the country. We found a hostel right away and were warned that it was Ragweek in Galway. Apparently all of the college students were off of school for the week. We were told that it was originally started so that they could raise money for charity, this piece of information coming from one of the elderly men that worked at the hostel. However, it had turned into a week for all of the students to get wasted and then trashed on top of that. We witnessed it first hand. There were young people all over the streets, dressed in ridiculous outfits. We arrived in the city around 2 in the afternoon and most of them were already drunk or well on their way. It was an interesting sight but almost a little scary at the same time. The party got even more rambunctious as the night went on. It looked like chaos. I have never seen such a thing. My group went to a pub in the area and listened to the band. I was so excited when they played Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" for us Americans. That was probably my favorite thing about Galway... other than the flame thrower in the middle of the street.
The next morning we took a bus to the Cliffs of Moher. They were absolutely beautiful. Words can't even describe and pictures don't do them justice.We had almost two hours to walk around them and take pictures. It was a very sobering experience and not one to forget. From there we made our way back to Galway in order to catch another bus back to Dublin. Once we were back in Dublin, we basically just killed time until our flight the nest morning. We were there the night of Mardi Gras but there didn't seem to be much going on, especially compared to Galway.
We flew out of Dublin on Wednesday afternoon. We were all pretty sad to leave Ireland but so glad that we had the chance to visit there. Everyone talks about the horrible rainy weather in Ireland but we were lucky and didn't have to break out an umbrella once. When we got back to Brussels, however, it was cold and wet. I still don't understand how we came back south from Ireland and it got colder. Oh well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bruges, Valentine's Day, Babies



Several people in our group went to Bruges, another city in Belgium, two Saturdays ago. It was a pretty cute city. It seems like there aren't really a whole lot of people that actually live there but it's more like a tourist town. It wasn't a French or even English speaking town but we ended up getting around alright. There was a lot of random stuff to see. My favorite part was climbing to the top of this really tall tower of one of the churches. There was a pretty sweet view from the top. The picture shows me with the view. It was a pretty cold and wet day but overall the trip was really fun.
Honestly, Valentine's Day was rather uneventful here. When you think of Europe on Valentine's Day, you might think of little flying cupids and pink hearts floating through the air. Sadly, I saw none of these things. As always, America seems to have done a pretty god job of commercializing a holiday more than the place where it actually originated. At church yesterday I asked someone how their Valentine's Day was and if they got any valentines. They told me that it isn't the same over here as in the States. When you get a valentine from someone in Europe that means they REALLY like you. This might be why the ladies at Chocopolis were so confused when one of the guys in our group was buying chocolate for myself and another girl at the same time.
I just have to say that I absolutely love seeing the little babies and young kids around here. I've always lived in the South so I've never seen kids wrapped up so tight that they can't even move. Sometimes you can't even see them at all because normally strollers will have a plastic covering over them since it rains so much here. When you do see them though, they look like little marshmallow people with their jackets that swallow them whole and their little mittens that dangle from their hands. They are so adorable. I also love to hear them talk. It so amazing to me that these tiny people are better at French than I am and their cute little kid voices seem to sound a bit different in another language. When my friends and get close to babies around here, we usually smile and coo at them. We haven't noticed any natives doing that though. Then again, there isn't a whole of interaction between strangers on the public transportation systems. I guess that could be the same in the States though. However, being form the South, I just can't imagine going a whole day without smiling at people I pass on the street and saying hey.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Belgian Dinner

Last Wednesday the couple that owns our building had all of us girls down for dinner. We're pretty sure that it was mostly because they wanted to have us sign the housing contract but it was nice of them anyways.
So the first thing that we did was sit down in a little sitting room. We were positioned on a couch directly across from the Del Pierres and there were little snacks on a tray between us. They poured everyone a glass of champagne. I tried telling Monsieur Del Pierre that I don't drink but he wasn't paying attention so I got a glass too. So for this whole part of the evening I was switching glasses with my roommates so that it looked like I was drinking it, so as not to offend anyone. We found it a little weird to have adults offering us alcohol. The appetizers were pieces of sausage, an assortment of nuts, and a little cracker combination. The cracker thing consisted of a mustard cracker topped with banana slices and fish (anchovies?). I'm not going to lie, it was pretty gross. The fish had like little hairs on it or something. I ate one of them just to be polite. A couple of my other roomies ate two to be polite. I couldn't have done it. We signed the housing contracts as we ate the appetizers and talked.
Next we moved on to the table. First everyone was poured a glass of wine. There was maybe a second that I contemplated trying the wine, just for the cultural experience but then I decided that religious convictions were more important. This time I got across the message that I would just have water. So I opened the bottle on the table and poured myself some. It was carbonated and oh, so gross. It was better than nothing though. Then they brought us out a little plate with a bit of salad and a slice of kische. I've never had kische before. It wasn't terrible but it's not something that I would actually seek out to eat. I was glad that the salad was made with dark leaves rather than ice berg lettuce. The dressing was basically just oil though so it wasn't very appetizing. I finished everything on the plate though. The main dish was chicon au grata. When Madame Del Pierre first told us about it I thought she said 'chicken' and I got really excited. When she actually brought it out, it looked like enchiladas. Sadly, neither of these things were the case. The dish consisted of some mystery vegetable (we think they were leeks but I have no idea what one of those looks like?) wrapped in a slice of ham and covered in some kind of cheese sauce. I was determined to eat the whole thing so I did. I also had a side of boiled potatoes. For dessert we had a bit of yogurt with a side of cream/milk stuff, all topped with raspberry sauce. I don't even like yogurt in the states so I had to make myself eat that too.
Needless to say, this wasn't one of my favorite meals ever. I know that I sound really picky and I guess I kind of am. I'm one of those people that finds something I like at a restaurant and that's basically what I order every single time. So meals in Belgium have been a bit out of my comfort zone because I don't know what to order and whenever I do think that I know something, it never ends up being the same as back in the States. I guess that's all part of the experience though.

The Accomidations

About a week ago the heat in our room just stopped working. I'm pretty sure that it was warmer in the unheated hallway than in our apartment. It was about 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days straight. This may not sound cold but it really is when you have to live and sleep in it. I am so grateful for central heating back home. Also, our shower didn't give hot water so my roommate and I had to shower in the girls' apartment above us. We finally got the heat back on after about 3 days. It took so long because it was a little difficult to communicate with the couple down stairs about what we needed and we weren't exactly sure what was wrong.
Around this same time our program director called a mandatory meeting for all of the students in our program to discuss how people live and use energy in Belgium. This is the first time they've brought so many American students from Clemson to Belgium for such a long time. Apparently a lot of our landlords had been talking to the housing directors about the amount of energy we've been using since we've been here. We were never told before that things were different in Belgium than from America. However, we quickly found out that things are a lot different.
I feel like Belgium in general is more 'green' than the United States. At the grocery store we go to, they don't have the generic plastic bags like they hand out every day at Wal-Mart. We have some more sturdy plastic bags that we take with us every time we go shopping and we reuse them. They also sort their trash here according to paper, plastic, glass, outside stuff, and just general garbage. You get fined if you don't sort your trash corrrectly.
So, being the typical Americans that we are, we were totally throwing off their system. We learned at this meeting that energy was more expensive in Belgium. I'm not sure why they said that was... maybe because of the way their power is set up. Anyways, gas is like around $6 a gallon or something like that in Belgium. They sell it by the liter here so when I saw the $1.25 prices at gas stations I didn't think it was bad until I found out they don't do it by the gallon. Apparently water is more expensive here too. So we've been asked to make sure to turn off all the lights when we aren't using them, to turn down the heat when we leave and at night, and not to waste water. I think that these are reasonable requests anyways. I only see problems with us not exactly knowing how to work the heaters and stuff over here. At least we have heat now though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Church

It is Tuesday and, just like last week, everyone else is at class and I am back in the flat doing work for my online classes amongst other things. I have been here for a little over a week but it seems like longer. I have finally figured out the trams and the metro system. I am definitely not used to public transportation and I kind of miss having my own car. However, I do not envy driving here. I can find no method to the madness of these roads.
I had a really good weekend. I was able to find my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and attend this Sunday. It takes me about 30 minutes to get there and I have to take the tram and the metro. Luckily for me the ward is both French and English-speaking. They had separate Sunday school classes for English and French-speakers. For the main meeting they had these little headphones that would translate anything said in English into French and anything said in French into English. It was pretty cool. We also sing hymns in my church. Back home I would have a hard enough time not getting distracted from the melody as my mom would sing the harmony beside me but now that we have people singing in two different languages and all different ranges, it is a whole new ball game. It's really cool to have both languages there though.
One of the things I found most interesting was how the people acted. I walked into church with a pair of missionaries who spoke English so I had no idea what to expect form the ward members. I was surprised when the Belgian members, even though they had never seen me in their life, came up to me, touched their right cheek to my right cheek, and kissed the air, greeting me with a, "Bonjour!" They also did this as we left, saying, "Au revoir!" Even though I was a little apprehensive at first, I thought that it was a very friendly gesture.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weather and Claustrophobia

I have discovered that Brussels is not any colder than South Carolina. There have been colder temperatures in Carolina for the past week than there have been here in Belgium (although Belgium has been a lot more rainy). However, I never wore scarves and gloves back home. I have decide that this is because people in Carolina usually don't go outside as often or for as long a time as people here in Brussels. All day, people are walking everywhere. Public transportation is also a lot more common here than I have ever seen back in the South. Sometimes it can get really cold as you sit and wait for the tram or the metro. One of the trams that we take around the city is shown below.
Another thing I've noticed about Brussels, and I wonder if it's true for Europe in general, is that everything is more narrow. This is especially true for passages: the doors to the tram, the aisles in grocery stores, the staircases in houses, etc. I'm pretty sure that it's because people in general are thinner here. I think Europeans probably eat healthier and a majority of the population smokes, causing them to keep a lower weight. It makes me a bit claustrophobic sometimes to have to maneuver in these places that are smaller than I'm used to.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Doors



So today was the first day that the other girls and I actually went out to do stuff by ourselves. We found a little group of stores where we did some shopping and had lunch.
I have to say, the whole time I felt very much too American. We had trouble ordering our lunch so a nice man from here offered to help us. Then we were trying to find a bank to get some money. Every door we tried was always locked so we kind of stood in front of them or knocked on them. Later we found out that they were just supposed to be pushed, not pulled. It was a bit embarrassing, I have to say.
Door trouble seems to be a theme with us though. We can never unlock the door to our building on the first try. It usually takes us about five minutes each time. It's kind of ridiculous. Hopefully we will get better at blending in in the future.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sparrow Has Landed

I'm finally in Europe! My plane arrived in Brussels around 8:00 this morning (2:00 EST). Although I had never flown before, the flights went well. After connecting in Chicago I sat next to a very cool British man for the flight to Brussels. He gave me a lot of good advice about my stay in Europe.
There was a whole group of Clemson students at the airport this morning to be picked up by our program director. She took us to our various locations. We are pretty much spread out all over the city. I am rooming with the another girl from my program and we share a one bedroom flat. It really is the cutest thing I have ever seen.
The building that we are staying in is owned by an older couple that live on the first floor. Allison and I have the flat on the second floor and then two other Clemson girls will be on the third. The couple don't speak a lot of English but combining the English that they know with the French that Allison and I learned in high school, we were able to communicate pretty well.
Brussels is such a beautiful place, I can't wait to see more of it! We haven't done much more today other than arrive and sleep. Since Brussels is six hours ahead of what we are used to, our schedule is thrown off a bit.
And I just have to say that I love speculoos. I think that's how you spell it. It is like a cross between a ginger snap and a graham cracker. The couple down stairs gave us some and said they are a Belgian thing. They are so good!