Bonjour Belgique!

Bonjour! I’m Jenn Chen, senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m a Marketing major and MIS minor. You really don’t need much background information about me, it’s irrelevant. There’s always that networking site known as Facebook for more information. Anyway, I’ll be blogging about semester abroad at the Universite de Catholique in Louvain la Neuve, Belgium (UCL for short)! My first post is lengthy… bear with me!

Where to start…

Getting here wasn’t too bad. I took a plane from Austin to Chicago, then to Brussels. The flight was very relaxing and airplane food really hits the spot when you haven’t eaten anything. I sat next to a Hungarian girl who worked in the Northeast over the summer. We talked about Europe and many other things when we weren’t trying to sleep.

From the airport, I met with a representative from ESN (a student organization that helps exchange students). He didn’t have room in his car for all 4 of the students he was to pick up, so another exchange student from Norway and I took the train from the airport to Louvain la Neuve. The train rides were made difficult from our clumsy baggage. We each had 2 large wheely luggage, and there wasn’t always a set of stairs or escalators.

Once we made it to housing service… Well, here’s the thing. There are a lot of lines, and they take forever. First, I had to meet someone from housing to confirm who I was and the location of my kot. A kot is UCL’s version of student housing. It’s basically a house that holds 4-6 students. Everyone has their own room. The students share the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms. After confirming my arrival, I had to wait in another room to sign my housing contract. Then I had to travel across town to get my key…

Louvain la Neuve is a small, new town. Its population comprises mainly of university students/staff and young families. It’s a pedestrian town, so you can walk anywhere!  The Norwegian student and I started our trek across town with our luggage to receive the keys.  We probably looked ridiculous. The distance is similar to walking from Jester to Kinsolving, but with cobblestone every now and then. I felt like a first year student: trying to read a map, but inevitably getting lost. Everyone was very nice when we asked for directions. Halfway through the trip, another student led the way while helping us with our luggage.

I’ll take pictures of my kot once I’m settled in…

I met one of my kot-mates. She’s from a small town in Belgium. She isn’t fluent in English, and I’m definitely not fluent in French. Thankfully her boyfriend is around to translate for the two of us. I want to pick up French (took it in high school), but it’s quite difficult. Hopefully she can teach me French, and I can teach her English. =)

I spent the rest of the day wandering the mall with several exchange students from Norway and Spain. I headed back to my kot since my kot-mate invited me to dinner with her friends. She made quiche lorraine. It was delicious!

The next day, I had to take care of paperwork. I spent two hours in line for a process that took less than five minutes. I did meet several people in line. I also bought a cell phone and other practical things such as dinnerware, silverware, bedding kit, and basic groceries. My kot is located far from the shopping area, so I have to be strategic with what I purchase!

The following day, I waited in another line for roughly two hours to continue my registration process. I met an American who’s doing his second year of research. He answered my random questions and gave advice. However, he couldn’t help me with the lack of heat in my kot. I can’t figure out the heater system, and I keep forgetting to ask my roommate.

I had orientation at the Louvain School of Management (LSM). Here the coordinators gave information about courses, wifi access, and the town. It was very helpful. I haven’t had internet access since I left Austin (no modem in the kot yet). I finally contacted my family and friends. (Miss everyone!)

It’s been hectic, but everyone is super friendly. Everyone here is open to meeting new people, and the majority is fluent in English. I’ve met people from all over the world! Students from Norway, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Columbia, China, Congo and much more.

So this ends my first post. It’s a lot of text and not many pictures… I’ll try to change the ratio next time!


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