Tuesday, May 27, 2008

International School?

Hi to everyone! Sorry for not posting yesterday. I was quite busy with school starting and everything. We had to wake up fairly early because Dr. Kreppel had to come over to show us how to get to the university. Basically, we had to take a bus and a tram and then walk a few blocks to get there and we would have never found it if she had just told us where to go. When we got there, we were all given an orientation and then taken on a tour of the university. We are taking classes through Vesalius College, which is part of a larger university, VUB (which stands for some Flemish words which mean Free University of Brussels). Kind of like the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is part of UF, Vesalius is the international, English speaking sector of VUB, which is a completely Flemish speaking university. Apparently there is also a French Free University of Brussels. This is one of the many wonderful and confusing aspects of the whole two languages thing, which I hope to address at some point in a blog. Anyways, we took a tour of VUB, which is probably one of the ugliest colleges I have ever seen. All the buildings were built during the seventies and all are made of just concrete. Consequently, they look like remnants of the Cold War which you would find in some Eastern European country. Basically, I have no idea what they were thinking when they constructed these. (I'll try to post pictures later so that you can see them in all their glory.) The campus itself is fairly nice. They have some nice green areas and a rugby pitch with a track around it. The campus is pretty small and compact and apparently most of the students there are graduate or doctoral students. Also, they don't really interact with the Vesalius students.

When we returned to Vesalius, we started class. First, I have Dr. Kreppel's class which is the European Union in the World. She introduced herself and told us about the course and then we went around and everyone introduced themselves because our group only makes up about half of the class. All the UF students were sitting together in the front and we all introduced ourselves first. Some of the people in the group were quite interesting in introducing themselves, with some of them explaining where they were from (ex: Pennsylvania) and then following that with, "it's in the northern part of the United States." Once we got through half of the other students, however, we realized that all the other students except for one were Americans as well. Dr. Kreppel had been telling us for days that this was an international school and that there were people from all over the world and we ended up with a class of Americans! It was funny, but pretty disappointing since we had all looked forward to meeting some different people. My next class, European Identity and Skepticism wasn't really any better. There are two Belgians, one Dane, and a girl from Turkey in the class and everyone else is American. Each of the classes lasts for two hours and my first class starts at 11. We have a one hour break for lunch from 1 to 2 and then the second class from 2 to 4.

After class, we had to set up our Vesalius computer accounts and stop by a copy shop to get the reading for Dr. Kreppel's next class because the book hadn't arrived yet. Then, we went to a store that is the Belgian version of Sam's or Costco. It was interesting. It was smaller than a Sam's and the "bulk" items usually came in much smaller packages than they do in America, but it was still interesting to see this because I had no idea that we had exported our love of buying things in bulk for cheap overseas.

That day, we didn't get home until about 6:30 and we were all pretty tired and cranky from the long day and not enough sleep. We all went to our separate apartments and some people took naps. I started on the readings we had for the next days classes. It looks like I will be spending a lot of my time here in Belgium either reading or in class. It makes you wish it was just "abroad" and the "study" part just wasn't there.

Later, some of us went out to a cafe down the street which was lots of fun and interesting because the owners were spoke Spanish, which a lot of people liked because most of them converse better in Spanish than in French.

Today, I got up and we all went to class. We all met up outside our apartments so that we could go together to the university. It took all 11 of us to make sure that we were going in the right direction, getting on the right bus/ tram, not getting hit by cars (the Belgians are probably the worst drivers I have ever seen!), etc. to get to school.

Classes were better today... much more interesting than the introductory stuff we studied yesterday. Also, we are meeting more of the other people in our classes, even if they are Americans, it is still good to meet other people and branch out a little from our little group.

After classes, a small group of us went home while others in the group went with some other students to the bar on campus. (Yes... you read right... a bar on campus. Apparently the drinking age here is 15 if you can believe that... just another interesting tid bit.) I went home and started on my readings for tomorrow's class. (I know... a lot of reading!) Then, some of us went up to the grocery store around the corner to get some things. This grocery store was much smaller than the other one we went to, but much closer and they had pretty much everything we wanted. The whole grocery store thing is very interesting. I had expected Belgium to be more like France in the fact that you go to different shops for different items that you need, but this is not the case at all. You go to a grocery store that sells everything. They do have specific bakeries here, but that is pretty much it as far as specific food stores.

Well, better close for now. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their summer (or almost summer for Fraz.).

Love to all,

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