Monday, February 28, 2011


As the last year of our bachelor degree was getting closer, we were given the opportunity to study abroad via the Erasmus (Belgica) programme. Discovering another university, another way of life and living abroad for a few months had always been one of my dreams. For different reasons I found Leuven one of the most attractive destinations. I knew it was a very beautiful town. And in March I heard I would spend 5 months there:

Compared to other destinations, it was very easy to enrol in the university (there is not a lot of documents to fill in, no complicated procedure and so on). On top of that it was very easy to find a room. In July I went to the office for foreign students and they gave me a list of dozens of rooms which were available during the first term and other useful information (the location, the price, the number of students in the house and so on).
To become familiar with the Erasmus programme I took part to the orientation days. It was difficult to meet people because we were divided into big groups. However, I would advise other people to go there because useful information was given about different organisations, we visited the city (we could check out the place) and the (huge) sports centre (where we took part to different sports activities), parties were organised...

Erasmushuis - Faculty of Arts

Aula Max Weber - Faculty of Social Sciences

The lessons began on September 28th, almost two weeks later than in Namur. It was difficult for me to find interesting courses which answered the criteria given by our university and which did not overlap (the exams could not overlap either). I finally opted for three courses in the faculty of Arts (populaire genres, Nederlandse volkskunde and English linguistics) and two in the faculty of Social Sciences (communicatiewetenschap and mediasociologie). Some of them were very interesting, others less. Since I had only 22 credits, I also had a lot of free time. It gave me the opportunity to discover Leuven and the students’ night-life, to do some activities and to work on my term paper. The Erasmus students have great advantages: the buses and the sports card are free. Therefore Nathalie and I went to the sports centre (by bus because it is off-centre) every Monday to play basketball. The trainers and the players were all nice but there were so many people (more or less 60) that it was impossible to play matches.
During our free time we sometimes went to a sort of Erasmus cafĂ© (“Pangaea”). In Pangaea you can read newspapers from all over the world, you have access to the Internet, the drinks are cheap and, if you become a member at the beginning of the year (you just have to pay 4€), you can have coffee and tea for free during the whole year and take part to activities (a trip to the Ardennes, visiting the Stella Artois brewery...).
The places to be at night are the oude markt (“the longest bar in Europe”) or the different parties organised by the students (the TD’s for example). But be well-dressed because the Flemish students are elegant when they go out (indeed, it is very different from the Bunker :)). Rumba & co and MusiCafĂ© were the nicest disco-bars where TD' were often organised. If you stay in Leuven during the week-ends parties are organised for the Erasmus students and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other.

I will conclude my story by giving some tips to the future Erasmus students. First try to find a room which is not too far from the centre (walking at night is a little bit frightening though Leuven is not a dangerous town). Second ask information about the sphere in the building in which you want to rent a room. I lived in a building where no one talked to each other, people were withdrawn and I hardly spoke to them. Therefore I often felt alone! Third you have a lot of free time so take part to as many activities as you can. And enjoy your new life!
My Erasmus experience was different from others’ because I only crossed the language border within my own country (which was funny to explain to other Erasmus students) but I have kept a lot of memories and it has changed me in a positive way. The most interesting element has been the fact that I talked to native speakers, that I was in an immersed in a natural language context.

Images: Google Images and Facebook

Valentine Etienne

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