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Study Abroad Belgium: Initial Meeting

It has been almost a week since I have left the United States and the transition has been a little difficult. When I first got off the plane I learned that my bag had been lost from the connection in Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels - great start, right? Once I finally found my way to my flat in Kortrijk (about an hour and a half train ride from Brussels Airport) I had realized I had been up for about 27 hours so I went to sleep almost immediately. Lucky for me, I arrived later in the evening and fell asleep at about 7 p.m. The next few days were really hard. Everywhere I went I couldn't understand a word people were saying, I was paranoid about going anywhere alone in my new city, and I hadn't gotten more than four continuous hours of sleep until about the 5th day of being here. I attempted to go grocery shopping, where I learned that THANKFULLY most Belgians knew enough English for me to understand them and vice versa. 

Some of the very first things I learned about Belgian culture were these things:

1. They do not refrigerate any drinks. Including milk!! At the grocery store I was so skeptical as to whether or not it was even milk that I stayed far, far away. Surprisingly though, groceries are quite inexpensive. Bread: 2 euro, noodles, 1.5 euro, etc. 

2. The coffee is the best coffee I have ever had in my life. American coffee (EVEN STARBUCKS) cannot compare to any European cappuccino. When I went to Brussels, there was a Starbucks right in the city center, aimed for the tourists I'm assuming, but I knew better than to go there for anything other than to bum off the wifi for a while. I have never before been a big coffee drinker until now. This cappuccino was the first European coffee that I had - the barista was so nice to translate the menu for me - this was topped with a little chocolate on the top and was absolutely heavenly!

3. To walk or to bike? I actually just got a bike today so this entire past week I have been walking everywhere. One thing I find strange is that Belgians are not in the slightest hesitant to cross the street, almost without looking for any other cars, they just jump right out in front of cars without fear. Surprisingly, drivers aren't even angry when you cut them off!

4. SO many smokers. Even my flat smells of cigarette smoke from the person who lived here before me. Almost all of the other international students smoke as well, and they are all from other countries in Europe too. I hate the smell so much that I know I won't pick up the habit but I'm afraid that I've started to smell like cigarette smoke because of those around me.

5. The waffles are not anything like Americans make them seem. Instead of topping them with chocolate, whipped cream, and whatever else, the waffle itself is VERY sweet. So sweet that to have anything on top of them would almost make you sick. And the grocery store has almost a whole aisle just full of prepackaged waffles! And they are so much better when warmed up in the microwave!

(Brussels city center - LOVE!)

After a tough first few days, I'm finally getting the hang of things. The architecture is magnificent, and everyone that I have met so far has been so friendly and helpful toward me. So far I've only adventured Brussels, and Bruges. Brussels is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been - and the beer is fantastic of course! I am excited for the coming weeks in my new classes and with the friends I've made as well. And even though the first few days were rough, they were still fantastic! I got to see so much of Belgium already and I've even started to pick up a little Dutch. 

(In Bruges for the beer festival)

Met Liefde,

Hillary

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