Before my semester, I highlighted a few goals for the upcoming few months. I wanted to meet new people, go out of my comfort zone and experience a new culture. These three goals were important to me, and I believed that by accomplishing these goals, I would be a more well rounded person.
The week before classes started included an orientation week where we had the chance to meet other incoming exchange students. Here, I met some Russians, a Brazilian and a Slovenian. Throughout the semester, we created a bond and constantly hung out around Leuven as well as during other excursions outside Leuven. These few people became some of my closest friends within four months and I know that I have a home whenever I am in their home countries.
Before the semester, I never wanted to travel alone. It was not because I was scared, but because I thought that traveling alone is boring. In March, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and plan a weekend trip to Copenhagen and Malmo by myself. I figured that this would be a test to whether I can successfully overcome my fears of traveling alone. Throughout that entire weekend, I was completely in control of my itinerary, which is something that would not happening if I were traveling with others. I also gained a new appreciation for life and different cultures because I was less distracted and more focused on my surroundings. This spearheaded my other trips alone, including Luxembourg City, Ipers and Dinant.
Throughout the semester, I lived on the same floor as 10 other Belgian students. On most days, our paths would cross in the kitchen while cooking or eating dinner. We would always discuss Belgian and European politics as well as US politics. I also learned a lot about Belgian pop culture and how important football (soccer) is in their daily lives. I would also practice my Dutch with them. A few of them became some of my closest friends at the end of this semester.
These past few months have felt like a never-ending dream. Never would I have thought that I would travel so much, meet such diverse individuals and learn about a completely new culture. Unfortunately, all dreams must come to an end, but the memories will never be forgotten.