Armistice in Ypres

November’s a rough one. The weather has taken a turn for the worst in Brussels and I’m constantly looking for ways to stay motivated. However, Monday was one of those days that made me feel very fortunate to be in Europe this year. Ana and I travelled two hours on a train to Ypres (Ieper), a town on the west side of Belgium for Armistice ceremonies. In Canada November 11th is known as Remembrance Day; we participate in ceremonies at school, at work, and at city hall. Here in Belgium Armistice is a national holiday, so we didn’t think there would be any better way to spend it than to visit a historically-renowned town from World War 1.

IMG_1508The town’s main square was full of ceremony onlookers from all over the world.

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The upper level of Menin Gate, its walls lined with names of the fallen.

IMG_3227Menin Gate

IMG_9769A beautiful splash of colour at the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

IMG_1559Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

IMG_1815It was a cold day; all the more reason to drink a cold Belgian beer!

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Antwerp and a few thankful thoughts

We spent all day Saturday in Antwerp, a city about an hour train ride away from Brussels. I had heard from many people that Antwerp is by far the best place in Belgium to spend your time (and money; the shopping is to die for) and they were totally right. Luckily we were able to meet up with some new friends who knew the city like the backs of their hands, so we saw all we needed to see and more! I spent my fair share of money on some new clothes, most of which came from some really awesome vintage store/coffee shop hybrids, which I LOVED. Aside from shopping, we walked the side streets of the main square, bar-hopped after dinner, and ventured up to the roof of a ten-storey museum to see the city at night. One thing is for sure, and that’s that I’m going to be going back to Antwerp many times before the school year is over!

Photo 10-12-2013, 1 59 13 PMAntwerp Central Station; I couldn’t believe my eyes.

IMG_2280A stunning church off of the main square!

09Photo 10-12-2013, 6 57 19 PMDusk.

IMG_2313This happened.

IMG_2310And this.

Photo 10-13-2013, 12 03 28 PMThey are the best.

On a non-Antwerp related note, I think today was the first time since I’ve arrived that I really missed home. I wouldn’t say that I’m homesick, I would just say that I really wish I could have spent this weekend with my family and friends in Burlington and Toronto. All I can do from here, though, is say what I’m thankful for. The list could go on forever, but here’s the brief synopsis:

I’m thankful for my selfless parents who support me tirelessly, day in and day out, in every single thing that I do. I’m thankful for the rest of my family still being an integral part of my life: my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’m thankful for a relationship that makes me undeniably happy every single day, and I’m thankful for my close friends who are stuck by my side for the long haul. And as much as I wish I could be at Thanksgiving dinner tonight, I am SO thankful for the opportunity to study and travel in Europe for an entire year!

La vie est belle/belge! (I think I’m going to change my blog name to that.)

The city, and the less than fairy tale transition into exchange life

Lost in a taxi: that’s exactly how I started my exchange in Brussels, Belgium. (That was a stressful experience, let me tell you!)

I settled into my room at Village Patrimmonia, a complex where I’m living on a res-style floor with other exchange students, about a ten-minute walk from L’Université Libre de Bruxelles. Most of my floormates are from Québec, but there’s also a girl from Italy and a girl from Paris! My friend Ana, also a Glendon student, is living directly beside me and my other close friend Meena (you guessed it, GL as well!) is living in the other building in the complex. I’ll post photos of my room at some point because it’s really cute, but it’s pretty messy at the moment so you’ll have to bear with me. 🙂

Brussels is an adorable city, full of beautiful architecture and DELICIOUS food. See for yourself:

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Grand Place in the centre of Brussels

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Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

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Street Waffe. I die. ♡_____♡

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Mussels in Brussels (hehe.)

I’ve met some great people, most of whom I don’t have photos with yet, but it’ll happen! Though we’ve all been making our own travel plans, we decided to all go to Prague, Czech Republic, together in October. That is sure to be an unbelievable time!

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Ana and I with Sara, an indescribably awesome girl we live with. She’s from Gatineau, not too far from us!

Ana and Laure (from Paris) loving the free hugs at Grand Place

Ana and Laure (from Paris) loving the free hugs at Grand Place

We haven’t gone on any trips yet, but we did take a day to visit the beautiful town of Bruges, an hour train-ride north of Brussels. I didn’t think it was possible to make as many ‘In Bruges’ references as we did, but rest assured that it happened!

Bruges Centre

Bruges Centre

My favourite photo I took that day. We went on an awesome boat tour on the canal that runs through Bruges!

My favourite photo I took that day. We went on an awesome boat tour on the canal that runs through Bruges!

Next on the itinerary: BARCELONA. THIS WEEKEND. I turn 21 on Thursday and I can’t think of a more exciting way to celebrate!

On a more serious note, transitioning into this new life has been nothing short of difficult. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the time change in more ways than just being tired; staying in contact with friends and family at home is more difficult than I imagined and I have found myself staying up really late at night in order to do so. Staying up is something that I never do and it’s royally messing me up! I’m also not a person who has experience interacting with people from all over the world in an entirely foreign place. It’s something I’m starting to get used to, but it’s a whole lot to take in this quickly.

To quote a previous post of mine: “It’s okay to be shy, it’s okay to be crazy and wild, and it’s okay to be who you want to be. Despite popular belief, you do not need to change who you are just because you’re ‘starting fresh’ at a new school. You will find your ‘people’.” Aside from Ana, Meena, and the handful of people we live with (who we’re slowly but surely becoming closer with), I have yet to find my ‘people’. I’ve never had a problem discovering who my ‘people’ are, but I suppose studying abroad and ‘travelling the world’ is more of a fairy tale in one’s mind than it is in reality. I have a feeling that maybe this difficulty is originating from my lack of campus involvement. I went from full-fledged immersion in campus activities to NOTHING. It’s also much more difficult to find clubs and activities here than it is at York and Glendon. To put it into perspective, I have seen nothing of a students’ union/student government at ULB o_O. To my fellow Glendonites and Yorkies reading this, we are so lucky to have such a streamlined extra-curricular program; never ever stop appreciating its awesomeness!

With that said, I may have found something that I will truly enjoy here at ULB. The campus’ Model United Nations team is world renowned; they achieved ‘Outstanding Delegation’ at National Model United Nations in New York this past year. ULB MUN involves the exact kinds of people that I love to work with, and I have no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to be involved with this year. However, selection for ULB MUN involves a heavy and competitive application process that scares me a little. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress on this front; hopefully I get to be a part of this awesome experience!

À bientôt! A post about my classes and academics at ULB will be up soon. 🙂