Opportunities · Uni Antics

Why going on Erasmus was one of my best decisions

I’m writing this on the 9.45 train from Brussels to Amsterdam. I’ve never been to Amsterdam before and, I’ve got to say, I’m really looking forward to it. I went to Rotterdam several weeks ago – and loved it – but it’s so exciting that I’m finally getting to visit the Dutch capital. That’s the great thing about Brussels though; it’s so easy to travel elsewhere as it’s just that well connected.

Brussels was my first choice when I decided to go on Erasmus. I’ve been asked why so often since I arrived and my honest answer is actually because of Brexit. What a time to be a British person in Brussels at the moment! Politically, everything is so up in the air; and politics is one thing that absolutely fascinates me. (I should probably point out though that however much it interests me, Brexit also greatly saddens me).

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European Flags outside the European Commission Building

But anyway, I’m about three-quarters of the way through my time here and I can honestly say, going on Erasmus is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. More than just the heart of the EU, it is such a beautiful and underrated city. One of my favourite places has got to be the Grand Place (Grote Markt in Dutch) – it is especially beautiful at the moment in the lead up to Christmas.

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Grand Place, lights reflected onto the buildings changing colours

Not only have I learned so much about Belgian life, I’ve also found out loads about the cultures of other countries. Before I came to Brussels, I’d never had such an international group of friends. And honestly, this has been my absolute favourite thing about going on Erasmus. The people I’ve met here, who I otherwise wouldn’t have met, are some of the most incredible people I know. Despite being from different countries, we all clicked really fast and always manage to have a laugh whenever we see each other. The international community here is definitely what I’m going to miss the most.

 

And, as I’m sat here on the train to Amsterdam, I know how lucky I am that I’ve had opportunities to travel. Seeing other Belgian cities – Ghent, Waterloo and Tournai – was absolutely amazing. Each city has its own uniqueness and, even though they’re in the same country, they have their own sense of culture. (Although, Flanders and Wallonia are very different areas)!

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Tournai at night

And of course, both Paris and Rotterdam were lovely. It was great being able to return to Paris again after eight and a half years! I’m sure Amsterdam will be incredible too!

 

The most interesting thing, though, is that I almost didn’t come on Erasmus. The whole idea kind of scared me and I began to make excuses for why I wouldn’t be able to go. But now I’m here, I know I would have regretted it if I hadn’t gone.

 

I have just over a month left on Erasmus and I already know that I’ll miss Brussels so much. There have been so many challenges and things I’ve found difficult, but I’ve always dealt with them one way or another. And, without wanting it to sound like a cliché, these challenges have definitely made me better at dealing with problems. But despite them, I’ve genuinely had the most incredible time of my life. And I know that the whole experience will benefit me throughout the rest of my life.

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Uni Antics

5 Things That Help with Missing Home on Study Abroad

You’re in a foreign country having the time of your life: you’re travelling to new cities and even to other neighbouring countries. And it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever done. Genuinely. But of course you start to remember the small things about home. Dairy Milk for a pound, your favourite newspapers everywhere you look, easily accessible Heinz baked beans… you get the idea. You begin to miss the small, quirky things that make your home country, well… home. But I’ve realised that finding some sense of familiarity in your new home country really helps. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Belgium and the culture and the food (the waffles! the fries!), but sometimes it’s nice to have some of what you love the most from home. So these are some of the things that have helped me so far.

 

  • Staying in touch with my home uni

This has really helped with the sense of continuity. I’ve continued to write for Radar, the student magazine, and have contributed to the student TV station. Student media is one of the most important things to me at home, so staying in touch with everyone and maintaining an active role has been amazing.

 

  • Russell Howard

I didn’t think I watched a lot of TV back in the UK but apparently that was a lie. I began to sorely miss watching my favourite comedies or changing over to Channel 4 News at 7 o’clock or binge watching recordings of The Simpsons while having my dinner. So when I realised that Russell Howard had uploaded full episodes of his shows on his YouTube channel, I was so excited. One of my favourite comedians with all his shows in one place: what could be better?

 

  • Doing my favourite things

My entire summer was spent basically me going to coffee shops, reading and blogging. So now, whenever I have the time, I go to a coffee shop and read. Or maybe even scribble down ideas for the blog. Being totally lost in the moment doing one of your favourite things is genuinely the most incredible thing – and it sometimes helps to forget where you are for an hour or two.

 

  • Splashing out on typically British food

On the rare occasion that I do find something typically British, I feel so pleased with myself. I think it all goes back to the whole “national pride” thing. But it does go a long way in giving you a sense of being at home. So even though it’s all pretty expensive (€1.90 for a pack of Jammie Dodgers!!), sometimes it’s worth paying the price.

 

  • Waterstones

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I basically live in bookshops. It’s impossible for me to have a ‘quick look’, as I always find something new I want to read (hence my ever-growing to be read pile). So when I discovered the Waterstones in Brussels, I knew where I’d be spending rather a lot of my time. If I’m at the Waterstones long enough, it actually starts to feel like I’m in the UK. And outside the shop, there’s a stand of British newspapers which, for me anyway, is one of the most exciting things!

 

So when I decided to come to Belgium for Erasmus, I knew I wanted to really immerse myself in the culture. And that’s still what I try to do as much as I possibly can. But I have to admit, taking a step back into my familiar ‘Britishness’ really goes a long way in helping me feel far less homesick.

Interests · Opportunities · Uni Antics

Living Abroad & Your National Identity

I’ve been in Brussels for exactly four weeks now and my eyes have been opened to so much. I’ve learned loads about the Belgian culture, customs and so much more. And having a very international group of friends here has allowed me to find out so much more about the world. But the thing that has surprised me the most since arriving in Brussels, is my own sense of national pride. I’ve always known I’m patriotic and proud to be British, but I hadn’t quite realised to what extent that was the case.

Going to Brussels for study abroad is genuinely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m getting to immerse myself in a whole new culture and I’m learning a new language – by the way, Dutch really isn’t as hard to learn as I’ve been making it out to be! And I’ve made friends who I get on so well with – we all have a good laugh and have done absolutely loads in the time we’ve known each other. So Brussels has been pretty exciting so far. And also, it’s an incredibly valuable experience for achieving my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent.

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Brussels City Centre
Ghent bridge
Ghent

But one thing I’ve found is that I become really excited when I see something typically British. Even things I usually wouldn’t give a second thought to at home: Jammie Dodgers, Robinson’s orange squash and Heinz baked beans to name a few. I began to wonder why being abroad for a long period of time makes you so happy to see things you otherwise wouldn’t give much notice? But I came to the conclusion that it was my sense of national pride and a connection to “home”.

Also, when we visited Ghent the other week, I seemed thrilled to see a guy playing the bagpipes, even though I wanted to be solely exposed to the Belgian culture. I’m not even Scottish, but they definitely caught my attention. But when there’s something from the place in which you live, you can’t help but turn and look.

From the day I knew I’d be coming to Brussels, I was so excited to become as Belgian as I possibly could. (That still didn’t stop me taking a bag of 200+ Tetley teabags and hanging the St George’s Cross on my bedroom wall though). And now I’ve been here for around a month, Brussels has definitely reinforced my ambition to find out about and share the stories of people from all over the world. I’ve met loads of awesome people here, all with different personalities and backgrounds, which I’m delighted about. I absolutely love it. So that’s definitely encouraging. But I’ve also realised that wherever I end up in the world, I’ll always have a strong connection to my English roots, and I’ll continue to be the proud and patriotic Brit I always was.

Uni Antics

My First Few Days in Brussels

Admittedly, I’ve been neglecting the blog slightly over the past few days, but for a pretty good reason. I’ve finally moved out to Brussels for the next few months, which I was really excited about. So I’ve decided to write a post about how the first few days have been.

I might as well start at the beginning: day one. So I arrived in Brussels at about 9.15 (local time), having had to get up for a 6am flight (killer!!). I think I was pretty tired already but the mix of emotions kind of took my mind off it and kept me going. I was really beginning to feel nervous at this point – I had literally just arrived in a totally new country alone, where nothing was familiar. But I knew it could only get better, right?

So I arrived at the student dorm and unpacked my things. I think I was pretty grateful to have something to keep me busy for at least a while. I kept my door open, secretly wishing someone would go past and I could go and speak to them. A couple of people did walk past the room and said hi, which did make me feel slightly better.

Once I’d finished unpacking, I decided to wander around the area and perhaps find a supermarket. I walked through a nearby woodland area, which reminded me of the woods in the town I live. It was quite nice to discover something that reminded me of home, especially as I was already beginning to feel a little homesick. And eventually, I found a small shop and bought the basics for the next couple of days.

I woke up on the second day feeling slightly better (having actually slept!) but I was still feeling pretty isolated. I still didn’t know anyone yet and it was beginning to wear me down – I had to speak to someone. But when I heard two people speaking along the corridor, I was delighted that an opportunity to do just that had come up. I was quite nervous about going to speak to them, but I knew it’d be worth it. And it totally was! They were both absolutely lovely and invited me to go out shopping with them. I was so grateful to them that they let me go with them – it made me feel so much better about being in Brussels.

And so my second day in Belgium was amazing! We bought some necessities and I even tried my first real Belgian waffle. I learned so much from my two new friends, including how the public transport works and where the main shops are. And I was having a great time exploring more of Brussels. And even now, I’m still so grateful to them that they helped my confidence grow in my new home city.

Also on my second day, I met someone who I have become very friendly with – she was moving in that day. Since then, we’ve both made other mutual friends and, as a group, we’ve seen even more of Brussels. We tried waffles (I couldn’t resist a second!) and the fries with mayonnaise. We’ve seen a fair few sights, and they were absolutely incredible! Each day since I arrived has become even better than the last. And I already don’t want to go back home!

So classes will have to start soon and I’ll have to do at least some studying. But I know there’s so much more I’ll go and see, both within Belgium and further afield. I’m so excited to see what the next few months will bring. I absolutely love my new home and I know I’ll always keep coming back.

Uni Antics

Moving to Belgium: being alone in the big, bad world 

We are now in August. This means I go out to Belgium next month. It’s pretty hard to believe just how quickly it has come around. I’ll actually be moving away from my home country for a while. And I’ve never even been to Belgium before, so everything will be totally new. I have very mixed emotions about the whole thing, but they are mostly positive.

For obvious reasons, I am quite anxious about being alone in a country I don’t know. But this is the perfect chance to experience something completely new. I’ll have to do things without anyone else’s input and I’ll have to think entirely for myself. But these are life skills that, as far as I’m concerned, I really need. I know it’ll make me a much more independent person. So while it seems like a scary thought now, it will definitely be worth it.  

But what I feel above all else is excitement. I have the amazing chance to become immersed in a whole new culture. With Brussels being at the centre of the EU, I’ll be able to interact with more people from all over Europe, and possible even beyond that. And learning some Dutch and brushing up on my French will be a bonus. All of this will surely go a long way in helping me achieve my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent.  

I’m sure this next month and a half will fly past and I’ll be in Belgium before I know it. It’s all starting to become more real now, and that’s perhaps the most exciting thing of all.  

Uni Antics

My time so far as an RGU student

I’ve done a similar post about my time as a Journalism student but for this post, I decided to focus on my time as an RGU student. I’m coming to the end of my third year at uni and I’ve honestly loved it.

You might remember from my post about being a Journalism student that when I first started at uni, I was studying Social Work. I think I suspected before I even started the course that I should have applied for Journalism. But anyway, focusing on the positives…

Even though I chose the wrong course, I still absolutely loved my first year at RGU. It was so easy to adjust to university and everyone was so helpful. I felt like I could approach anyone about pretty much anything. And I’d made a few pretty good friends as well, which is always a bonus.

Then the big change happened. And, truthfully, the last two years have been the happiest of my life. I know it’s easy to thoughtlessly say it, but in this case, it’s so true. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, or doing anything else. And the friends I’ve made in the past couple of years are absolutely amazing – I wouldn’t change them for the world. They’ve helped make my time as a Journalism student at RGU just incredible.

Since coming to RGU, I’ve always felt like I’ve had opportunities to look forward to. I went to Glasgow and met journalists and editors, and got the chance to speak to Nicola Sturgeon; I went to Birmingham with RGU:TV and had the absolute time of my life; and I’m going to London in a couple of weeks to visit ITV Studios (through RGU:TV again). So the fun never really stops!

And I’ve also got Brussels to look forward to in September. Yet another opportunity I have to grow as an aspiring journalist. Even though it’s for only 12 weeks, I know I’ll miss it at RGU – a sign, for me, that it’s a great place to study.

And last but not least, it is such a pretty university! The scenery is absolutely stunning and it’s great to go for a walk by the river (when it’s not actually raining).

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Near the River at Uni
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Going Between Buildings
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In the Autumn
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Trees Next to the River

 

So after my exam on Wednesday, I’ll hardly be at RGU before I set off for Belgium for 12 weeks. But I know I’ll have an amazing uni to go back to when I come back.

Uni Antics

Studying in Brussels – The Months Before I Go

A few weeks ago, I found out that I’d be getting the opportunity to study in Brussels, Belgium for a semester. I wasn’t really sure if I even wanted to do study abroad, but I registered my interest anyway.

But when I got the email saying I could go, and doubts I had about going vanished. I was delighted! Straight away, my mind was made up. There was no way I wouldn’t go. The reality of it was so exciting. I was actually being given the incredible opportunity to spend an extended period of time in a foreign country. And I couldn’t wait.

It’s not for another few months that I actually go, but there is still so much to think about: getting the formal application in; accommodation; money; cultural differences; language barriers. But, as they say, nothing good ever comes easy. All I need to do at this point is ensure everything is done so I can enjoy my time away when I get there.

There is so much I hope to do and achieve while I’m over there. Obviously, brushing up on my language skills is a must. As a foreign correspondent, having at least some knowledge of a few foreign languages will inevitably be of huge benefit.

I also hope to visit the European Parliament. As someone who is interested in politics, it will definitely be worthwhile visiting. And what an interesting time for a British person to be at the heart of the European Union! I’ll probably feel the need to keep apologising for what’s happened and stress that I didn’t want that outcome. But I’ll keep the elephant in the room out of my conversations as much as possible. (Like that’ll really happen though!!)

But despite how long it feels until I actually go to Brussels, I know I will absolutely love it. I plan to send footage to my uni’s TV station and write articles for the student magazine while I’m over there. Just like a proper foreign correspondent! It’s such an amazing chance to really work towards what I aspire to do as a journalist. I am so incredibly lucky! I can’t arrive in Belgium soon enough!