Travel Log #14: “Global Connections and Rites of Separation” By Madeleine Harder. Brussels, BE

It’s always unbelievable to me how fast the spring semester flies by—this is even more true when you are a study abroad student. Going on this journey allowed me to further become a member of the global community. I say further because I did have strong roots in Germany after spending a semester there; I had friends, family, and professors that I stayed in touch with as well as considerable language skills. After taking one semester abroad I thought I had the hang of things but Brussels threw me some obstacles straight out of left field. For example I have nearly survived living 5 months with a woman who speaks exclusively French, I witnessed a terrorist attack and the aftermath, I made it through the most academically rigorous semester I could ever imagine (classes and an internship) and I’m all the better for it.

If there is one thing I have learned during my time abroad it is to talk to everyone, from that one guy sitting in the hostel common room to the office workers in your building to the neighbor downstairs. Everybody has a story; you just need to uncover it. Talking is how you can become a global citizen. It’s not always going to work out but putting in the effort and interacting with what is unfamiliar to you will open up doors you never thought were possible. This promotion and exchange of views is so valuable toward solving the problems of today’s world. Complex problems call for simple answers and sometimes the people that are closest to the problem lose perspective. Through my European Union policy class this semester I saw first hand the need to collaborate for a better future for everyone.

13169870_10205189336927709_31728774_oI was having a Belgian beer with my friends the other day and one of the guys told me he had seen a change in me. It was a passing comment and I tried to press further but I was happy to hear that; going abroad is supposed to open your eyes to the world around you and make you more opportunistic. One of my favorite experiences in Brussels was going to see The Neighborhood at Ancienne Belgique. In one of their songs is the line, “I was naïve and hopeful and lost but now I’m aware and driving my thoughts.” In a way running away from my problems for a semester, solved all of my problems. It reinvigorated me and gave me a new goal to work toward. Studying abroad put me on a completely different path than I had envisioned for myself but I feel like I’ve finally found the right path for me. My number one career goal as of right now is to move abroad. In order to pursue this I have decided that I will apply for a Fulbright grant to teach English in Croatia following graduation.

Saying goodbye is going to be challenging but I think the hardest part will be leaving my internship. This is strange to say because I didn’t particularly love it. However, I spent a minimum of three days a week in the office with my boss and the other intern. Naturally, I got really invested in the company. As a sort of goodbye next week after my last day I will be going out for a beer with both of them. I’ve been franticly running around Brussels the last few weeks trying to pack things in. Instead of saying goodbye I’m still trying to grasp every opportunity I can here. For example last night I went to the royal green houses and was absolutely stunned by both the architecture and variety of beautiful flowers.

 

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The university that I attend here in Brussels is mostly a study abroad feeder school. Luckily for me this means that 75% of the students are American. I’m not that worried about saying goodbye because if I really want to I will see these people again. The friends will stay the same but only the city will change.

 

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