C’est très belle (gium)


So sorry for that horrible pun of a title.

It’s kind of late, and I have class at 8 AM tomorrow, but I couldn’t go to sleep without accomplishing at least something today. I’ve decided to make that something this entry. There are a couple things I want to discuss, most of which pertain only to Belgium, not Erasmus in general.

1. Baptisms. No, not the religious kind. The scary, deadly kind. Okay, most aren’t that bad.  ‘Baptêmes’ are the weird Belgian equivalent of hazing, but for societies. Usually they just involve drinking and doing embarrassing things (note the plebs walking around campus in capes). However, there have been some instances which are downright stupid and horrifying. My Flemish friend told me a story about a girl who had to climb into a cow’s carcass which was then sewn back up. Sorry to frighten you, but the good news (for you Erasmus students) is that it’s really easy to have a great time and meet loads of people, all whilst avoiding this weird little quirk.

2. Le “Go-pass”. Buy one! This handy little piece of paper costs 50 euro and gives you 10 rides anywhere in Belgium, thus making the usual 20 euro roundtrip journey to Bruges half the price. Even better, more than one person can travel on the same Go-pass, so you can share it with your friends. A couple days ago I used mine for the first time going to Anvers/Antwerp/Antwerpen/why must cities have so many different names? I highly recommend it for a visit–beautiful, chill, chic city. Just maybe don’t go on a Monday, as most museums are closed (but they stay open on Sundays for tourists!).

3. Erasmus and mature students UNITE! So there’s a slim chance you might be like me. Don’t like to go to parties at random bars and drink until the early hours of the morning. Prefer to stay in room where it’s safe and warm. Well that’s fine, but you might have a hard time making friends like I did. Never fear though. You see all of those old ladies in your class who feel ostracized by the younger Belgian students? They will be your friend! Don’t worry, I do have a friend my age here as well, but Michèle is my 62-year-old saviour. (I think she could tell I was pretty lonely, and so she’s invited me to go to all of these art museums with her. This past weekend it was a photography exposition, and the next it’s Magritte (or possibly Tintin!). Brussels is great for Art nouveau–you can see it everywhere in the architecture, but I’m looking forward to going to some actual museums. Two years in Edinburgh and I never stepped into any of the national galleries. Shame. But mature students are the best. And they make sure to speak clearly for you, while the classmates your age just mumble.

4. Cinéma. Belgians love the cinema. Probably because it rains so much. I’d like to recommend the cinéma “Galeries” inside the Galeries St. Hubert. Open any guidebook about Brussels and you’re sure to find something on this “passage couvert”. A couple high-end leather and chocolate shops, a great bookstore, and this old cinema with student tickets for 6 euro. I’ve seen two films there in the past three days, my favourite of which was A Royal Affair. In Danish, with 1st line of subtitles in French and the 2nd line in Dutch. Sounds like a bit of a headache, but it was surprisingly easy to watch the film and focus on just the top line.

That’s all for now. Off to Spain this weekend to see my boyfriend/the reason Erasmus is so difficult!


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