So far my experience in Leuven has been absolutely amazing! I am having the time of my life and could not be happier that I chose to study here for the semester. Here is a little bit of what have experienced thus far.
I arrived in Leuven about three weeks ago not knowing what to expect. Once I landed in the Brussels International Airport I knew my journey for the next four months was about to begin. Getting to Leuven from the Brussels International Airport was a lot easier than I expected, but getting to my actual location in Leuven was extremely difficult.
As I stepped off the train in Leuven, I was a bit nervous because I was not comfortable with my surroundings and I did not know much Dutch (and I still don’t know that much Dutch). I did not know where I was going so I wandered around and eventually found the exit of the station to the city. The first thing I saw was this huge monument about 100 feet tall. I looked to my right and saw buildings that looked extremely old and it made me feel like I was in the 15th Century. At that moment, I realized that wow, this is going to be a wild and fun-filled experience and that I was not in the United States anymore. Then I looked around a bit more and found a map of the city right outside of Leuven Station. I needed to get to my buddy’s dorm room because my room was not open yet. I could not find his dorm on the city map, nor did I know what street it was on (definitely something I suggest to know when trying to get to a specific location). So, I decided to walk down what looked like the main street, and figure it out on my own. I walked about 3 blocks, just taking in what will be my new home for the next four months not really caring about getting to my buddy’s dorm. I then snapped back into reality, and realized that I needed to find his dorm before it gets dark out or else I would have been sleeping on the street that night. I asked a couple people where the dorm was and they did not know what I was talking about, but luckily I found a really nice young woman that took me to my buddy’s dorm. I thanked her, and then she went home.
Once I arrived at my buddy’s dorm, we immediately began planning trips, which was pretty overwhelming to me at that time because I had just arrived and had not even unpacked my bags yet. The trips we planned at that time were Amsterdam, Budapest, and Ireland all within four weeks of each other.
The next day, I settled in, toured the city, and went out that night. Later on in the week, I went to some orientation programs, registered with the school, and tried learning the important street names and buildings in the city. After about five days I became extremely comfortable with my surroundings.
The following weekend, I was off to Amsterdam. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too in my entire life. I also had my first hostel experience in Amsterdam, and it went very well.
Throughout the weekend, my buddies and I did all of the touristy things, such as going to the “I Amsterdam” sign, walked around the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, took a tour of the Anne Frank Museum, and also took a tour of the Heineken Brewery. My favorite attraction from the trip was the Anne Frank Museum. For those of you that don’t know, this Anne Frank Museum was built in the house she hid in before the Nazis had captured her and her family. It was a very eye-opening experience, and I definitely suggest this as a place to visit if you ever plan on going to Amsterdam.
The next weekend, myself and other kids from U of I took a trip to Budapest, Hungary. I really never thought or wanted to visit Hungary during my time studying abroad, but I new that I would never have an opportunity like this again and wanted to take advantage of everything possible. I could not have been happier with my decision to go to Budapest because it is one of the most magnificent cities I have ever been too. It kind of reminded me of a smaller version of New York, but in Western Europe.
During this trip, my group and I hiked to the highest point in the city and I saw one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. We also went to the top of a famous Church, and there was another magnificent view. There is a huge indoor market in Budapest that sells meat and souvenirs. I walked around the market for about an hour, bought a souvenir for my mom, and ate some Hungarian sausage and potatoes in the Market. It was really good, and I was very full after eating that meal.
The next day, people in our group split up and I luckily had the opportunity to see the Hungarian Parliament. The building was very overwhelming because of its size, but it had some of the best architecture I had ever seen. There were guards standing in front of the building, but I did not know why. This is a must-see building in Budapest, and you can definitely take some great pictures here as well.
Overall my stay in Budapest was absolutely amazing, and it is a must-see city if you ever plan on coming to Europe
Now it is the fourth weekend I have been here, and I did not schedule any plans for the weekend. However, a friend came to visit me and we met up with our friends in Brussels. Brussels is a great city, and it gives off that big city vibe like Chicago or New York. For those of you that didn’t know, it is the capital of the European Union, and is the most urbanized city I have seen in Europe so far. There are so many things to do there, and you will never be bored when you are there. The waffles are phenomenal as well. I ended up staying the night, and had a blast.
This has been my trip so far, and there will be many more stories to come.