Admittedly, I was concerned about turning 21 while on my year abroad. I wouldn’t be seeing my family, or my close friends, on my birthday, and it was strange to think that instead I would be spending it with people I had only known for 2 months or less.
Should I have worried? Of course not. It was, again, an unnecessary concern of the year abroad.
The day itself was fabulous. Yes, I still went to lessons (even those that finished at 8pm) but the day was still filled with presents, cakes (and even waffle cakes, well, it is Belgium after all..) and a very happy me. Everyone in the accommodation knew it was my birthday, thanks to word of mouth and more in part to Facebook, and would stop me in the hall, on the stairs, on the bus, whereever, just to say happy birthday. I even got serenaded with an Italian version of Happy Birthday on my way home. I can’t remember a time when my face has been a more beautiful shade of crimson. Friends from home even got involved, sending cards and presents all the way to Liège for my birthday. So basically, I had a double, international birthday. And it was bloody brilliant. All my fears, my worries about it not being a good 21st, were ridiculous when I think about it now. How could it not be a great birthday?!
To make it even better, I signed myself up for a group visit to Amsterdam for the weekend of my birthday. For under 40 euros return, and one night in an incredibly cheap hostel, we managed to see the beautiful, and er, not so beautiful, sights of Amsterdam in the winter sun. It felt amazing to get out of the Liège cycle just for a weekend, and to spend silly amounts of money on Christmas Starbucks (sadly there is no Starbucks in Liège, it’s probably why I went a little overboard) and Dutch pancakes. Amsterdam is a strange city, one that I’m not sure I could stay for a long time in, but I loved the weekend nonetheless. Plus, everyone has to visit the Dam once, right?!
Sadly, it’s back to the grind since Amsterdam. While I have been lucky in discovering that a couple of my courses don’t have exams in January, just written and oral assignments, this does mean that my workload has become much heavier in the past week or so. But once again, I must stress that despite all this, the professeurs are so incredibly kind about it all, and will take you through anything you don’t understand or want to clarify. So, with one oral presentation, one essay plan, and two essays in within the next month, as well as regular 3 hour sessions of online French exercises, and attending and keeping up with classes, one could assume that my social life has gone down the proverbial pan? Of course not. I’m going to investigate as many European Christmas markets as possible in the upcoming month! You will never be in such close proximity to so many fantastic European cities as you are in Liège, and it needs taking advantage of. That’s not to say I won’t be rushing around like a headless chicken come December, but I’ll tell you how the balancing act goes…