Monday, January 26, 2009

Wat een leven in Leuven!

We are now ready to start a new semester in Namur. I’d like you to take a quick look at what I did during the first one. As you may have noticed, and I hope you did, I was not hanging a lot on the 5th floor of our faculty. As a matter of fact I studied at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven from September until January. Here follows a quick description of what I did and information about my little life in the beautiful city of Leuven.

It all actually began back in July 2008. After my camp with youth movements, I went to Leuven. This was actually the first time I’d been there. First impression? Well, I can’t really put any word on what I felt at that moment. Leuven is a really beautiful city, and yet, “beautiful” is not strong enough to describe what I thought. Any

way, I went to Leuven in order to find a kot to live in during this first semester. I must admit that it was far easier than what I could have thought. The KULeuven actually prepares nearly everything for the incoming students. What I had to do was to find the right room in the city, which is at first not that easy since the KULeuven has rooms nearly in each part of the city (this is of course an extrapolation, but compared to Namur, the KULeuven is less centered than the FUNDP). When I found it, the people in the office for foreign incoming students gave me a list with the available rooms to be rented in the first term with all useful information like price, contact person, location, and number of students in the house. They have a very well established system that allows the incoming students to rent the room of an outgoing student from the KULeuven. The room I rented was the room of a student who had already left Belgium in July to study in Norway. I think this system has advantages and disadvantages. For students like us who are

intensely busy with Germanic languages and especially Dutch, the system is very positive since you get the opportunity to live five months with native speakers of your studied language. A disadvantage could be the fact that you don’t really get in touch with other Erasmus students from other countries and this is supposed to be one of the most positive point of an Erasmus exchange.

This was thus the beginning of my story in Leuven. As you may know, the courses start a week later in Leuven than in Namur. My Erasmus exchange actually started then on the 22nd of September. I must admit that I had apprehensions about this new experience I was about to live. I hardly knew anyone in Leuven and I didn’t know the city nor the way students live in Leuven.

In the beginning, I must say that I was quite disappointed with the way my housemates lived. I thought it wouldn’t be very different from what I knew in Namur, I thought we would often eat together and have nice evenings in the common parts of the house. Well it didn’t really happen that way. My hous

emates were very nice, but they were not very often present in the house. They often ate at the university restaurant, thus rarely at home. This is the opposite way of living than what I knew in Namur. But this little social disappointment was not an obstacle for me to enjoy my Erasmus exchange. As a matter of fact, I learned to live “more lonely” than in Namur, trying to catch my housemates as often as I could do. And I must say that I got used to that way of common life. I met my housemates sometimes in the evening, I watched TV with them and I had great conversations with them. One of them

was a student in Germanic languages too and this eased the contacts I could have with him. I had al

so once a 2 hours conversation with another “kotgenoot” about our beautiful little country and the differences we can have between the northern and southern part. It was very interesting to discover the Walloon people in the eyes of a Flemish guy.

But these social aspects of my life in Leuven were not the only reason I left Namur for one semester. I went to Leuven to study. As I already said before, the university makes it very easy for incoming students to integrate the university life. I already discussed the way you could find a room. As far as the choice of your courses is concerned, the University of Leuven doesn’t put any limit to the choices you make. They agree with what your home university decides for you. In my case, the only restriction Namur put on my course choices was that I had to follow at least one course given in Dutch and one given in English and at least one course with a literary charact

er and one with a linguistic character. Very easy then to find courses you like and you have interest in. The courses I chose were (the links are the full description in Dutch of the courses which are listed here after): Nederlandse volkskunde (a course about Dutch folklore), Populaire genres (a course about non canonical forms of literature and more especially literature for children and teenagers), Kennismaking met de Spaanstalige wereld (a course that introduce you to the history and culture of the Spanish-speaking world), Literature art and religion in Europe (the title gives enough information about what I did in that course) and Sociolinguïstiek (a course about the way the social structure of our society can influence the way we speak and the way language is generated). These five courses were very interesting and I enjoyed them a lot. The differences I could observe between courses in Namur and courses in Leuven were mainly differences in the way the courses

were evaluated. I had in Leuven a great deal of personal works and open book exams. The course Literature, art and religion was a course that only exchange students can attend, this was thus an interesting way of getting in touch with foreign students. The four other courses were normal courses for regular Flemish students.

Now that my Erasmus exchange is over and that I’m about to come back on my beloved 5th floor, I take a look back on what I did during the last five months and I must admit that it was a really great experience that I would start again if I had the opportunity to do so. For those who are interested in visitting Leuven, don't hesitate any longer, just go and let the city of Leuven

charm you as it charmed me.

Het stadhuis (city hall) op het Grote Markt en beeldje op het Fochplein.

If I had to choose for one thing I found the most interesting in my exchange, I would mention the opportunity to listen carefully to native speakers of Dutch and learn little things they say everyday and that I never learned before. Among these observations, I could name one for example that really struck me: young people in Leuven never say goodbye using words as “Daag” or “Tot ziens”, but they often use a French word that I’m going to use to end this little review of my Erasmus exchange in Leuven: “Salut hè!”.

KULeuven catchphrase: Discover yourself, begin with the world.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Woups, sorry for the "cahotic" structure of the text around the pictures :S