At the time of writing, I have only been in Belgium 3 weeks since the start of February 2018. But that has been more than enough time for me to love Gent and Belgium as a whole.
I’ll begin with the student life, because it separates this exchange destination to what my other friends on Erasmus experienced. 30% of the 260 000 population are students, with 5% of these being overseas academics. The sheer volume of young people give an incredible vibrancy to a city steeped in tradition. This contrast is best demonstrated by having one of the 500 available beers at the pub opposite the Belfry tower, and then partying at the seedy Overpoort avenue which are open until 7am. To balance out the consumption of carbs you will drink, sporting pursuits are abundant. The large Spanish contingent means there is significant competition in Futsal, whilst basketball and volleyball are also promoted.
Whilst the accommodation looks like a correction centre, its mixed dormitories and shared cooking spaces provide great social outlets. Try and be quiet after 11pm, but if you listen to me you aren’t grasping the essence of exchange. The greatest drawback is NO WIFI, and rationed VPN connections. Read a book, I guess.
Academically, this has been the most eye-opening semester of my life. Three-hour lectures are tough, but when you are tackling subject matters like ‘Sexual and Relational Ethics’, you can really sink your teeth in. The campus is similar to UTS, but spread across the whole city, so invest in a bike and nothing will be more than 15 minutes away.
The language to learn in the region is Dutch (Boterham means sandwich!) however everyone speaks English but try and put in an effort. Proximity is the most impressive part of the low countries, with 30 minute trains taking me to Brugge one weekend and Brussels the next. But unlike the tourist trap former and industrial latter, Gent will steal your heart by being a functioning city whilst feeling like you are in a fairy tale. If you somehow get sick of this place, travel is easy. I have 5 different trips planned, and that doesn’t even count the world cup in Russia!
Bachelor of Business
University of Ghent