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28 February 2016

Living In Leuven | Post-Exam Celebrations & Orientation Week

After spending almost 3 weeks indoors studying for my exams, I was desperate to travel beyond Leuven and celebrate the end of exams with my friends. Unfortunately, around this time, some of my friends were leaving to head home permanently so it was the last opportunity we had to hang out together.

On the day after my last exam, Una and I headed to Antwerp for a day shopping along the Meir. We treated ourselves to an Ellis Burger for lunch, shopped and had a coffee stop in the Stadsfeestzaal. Thankfully, Una prolonged her Erasmus stay for the whole year - I honestly don't know how I would cope without her here in Belgium. We live in the same residence and also both study law - she is most definitely my closest friend here!

On the Friday, I met another fellow law student and neighbour, Ben, for a fun day out in Brussels before he moved back to Germany. We walked to the European Parliament, hoping to sit in a session, but unfortunately we arrived on the wrong day so we spent an hour in the Parliamentarium instead.

Afterwards, we took a detour through Jubel park towards the Royal Palace and Jardin Du Mont Des Arts before arriving at the Grote Markt.

We spent a good part of the whole day walking around Brussels, decided it wasn't enough and visited the Atomium before heading back to Leuven. The Atomium isn't really in the center of Brussels, so we had to take two metros in order to get there. The attraction itself is amazing and I really want to go back to go inside one of the steel balls one day - I heard they hold some student parties here too!

As the attraction was closing, we thought we'd make the most of our trip to the Atomium by having a photo shoot outside. I took some photos of Ben doing a handstand in front of the 'BeWelcome' sign and he took some of me lying in front of it (the first photo in this post). We were acting like kids and I honestly don't think I laughed as much as I did in the space of those 20 minutes!

I spent the following week in Leuven for the 'Orientation Week' (aka. freshers week for new international students). Most of the day events were for arriving students who wanted more information on how studying in Leuven works and about the possible change in culture from back home. I attended all of those events during the first semester, so it wasn't necessary for me to go again.

On the Monday, I went to IKEA during the day to pick up a bedside table for my room and other little bits and pieces I needed for cooking purposes. I went to the ESN pub crawl in the evening. I was actually really nervous to attend this event, because most of my friends had left Leuven already and normally there is a group of us who go on pub crawls together, but I was left to my own devices this evening! I met two really nice Belgian girls from the French part and I also bumped into some of my law friends from the first semester. It was their last night in Leuven and the evening was full of mixed emotions to say the least!

Tuesday was pretty chilled, so I used the free cinema ticket my residence gave me as a Welcome present last year to see the Revenant.

On Wednesday, I attended the speech from the Rector in the afternoon, which was followed by an international dinner in Alma (the student restaurant at KU Leuven). I met up with my German law friend from the first semester, alongside my two new Belgian friends and I met a Italian girl that night too. We had Belgian vol au vent with fries - it's definitely one of my favourite dishes here.

I went to a Dutch crash course on Thursday, which was a lot of fun. Throughout the first semester, I had been picking up small phrases in Dutch that helped me speak to a cashier in the supermarket, but apart from that I haven't had to speak Dutch otherwise. I learnt how to say where I'm from, what I studied, numbers and how to order in a restaurant during those 90 minutes! I learnt German in high school for 4 years, so I found it quite easy to learn the basics of Dutch as it's more or less a combination of German and English, with a variety of different spellings.

I met a few friends from my residence and some new friends I had met during the week on Friday night to go to the ESN and Loko International Party in Albatros. The venue was absolutely packed and we actually left at 1am because we weren't enjoying being squashed the whole night. The International party in the first semester was held in the KU Leuven student restaurant and it was one of the best parties I've been to in Belgium, but apparently there are less international students here during the second semester so the party venues are smaller (and more cramped!).

Saturday was the last day of the Orientation Week and I was really looking forward to the ESN city game being held in the evening. As I was looking for accommodation during the orientation week of the first semester, I had to be selective of what events I went to and unfortunately couldn't attend in September. We met in front of the University library and got into groups of 10. We were given a list of 20 'city tasks' to complete in 2 hours. Some of the tasks were almost impossible, including 'take a photo of the group in a tree' and 'record everyone singing the pokemon theme tune' - apparently the theme tune is different in every country, so we struggled to find common ground! Other activities such as 'construct a human pyramid in front of the town hall', 'make the word 'LEUVEN' using the group' and 'take a photo in front of 6 Fakbars' were do-able and a lot of fun! I was made team leader, so I was absolutely exhausted after 2 hours of running around Leuven and organising how to complete the tasks logically, I really enjoyed myself nonetheless!

We finished off the week by having a quiet drink in a bar called 'In Den Engel'. It's a really cosy bar on the Grote Markt in Leuven and we even managed to find a Scrabble board and have a couple of rounds before heading home.

That's another orientation week over and done with - it's actually the last one I'll have in Leuven! Although it wasn't nearly as hectic as the first semester and it actually lacked a lot of law events compared to last time, I met a lot of new friends and we're currently in the process of arranging a few day trips during the semester. I miss my friends from the previous semester terribly, so hopefully I can visit them at some point too. It's slowly starting to sink in that my Erasmus year won't last forever and it's heartbreaking :(

Until next time!

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