Travelling abroad is usually an exciting endeavor for first timers; this was my experience when I set off to pursue a master’s degree program in Belgium. Looking back I wish I did my homework; reading and asking more about my destination.  Today, I share 7 S’s to think about which other internet sources may not reveal.

  1. Sinusoidal weather will be the order of your stay: 
    Imagine a sine wave you studied in your elementary school days of algebra or trigonometry…can’t remember any more; That’s exactly the up and down manner the Belgian weather will treat you to… crests of splendidly hot and troughs of sucking cold, wet weather

Oh I remember when I got to Belgium in September 2010, it was quite sunny but at the same time very cold, In Cameroon, if it is sunny, then it is warm! So I was a little embarrassed by the deceptive sun. This cold weather wasn’t going to be over soon… eventually the snow came. Lord! Then the cold, wet, rainy spring before the few months of summer. So be rest assured you gonna be in your jacket for quite some time.

  1. Several Stages of paper work to deal with:

Uh how I hated paper work back home, when I had to put documents together for the student visa! Had it been I knew how much paper work awaited me in Belgium, I would have probably taken a course on paper keeping 🙂 from the enrolment letter, the room contract agreement, the rules and regulations of living in a student building, the papers to take to the city hall, insurance and bank etc. hmmm how is Kewan going to deal with all these papers? I survived it though.

  1. Spacious accommodation? You either break your wallet or kiss them goodbye:

What a challenge making the numerous calls to landlords in search for a student room. Well back then in 2010 we were fortunate to get rooms with the university owned buildings which saved me the headache of dealing with complains from landlords about Africans. Nowadays if you are coming as a scholarship student, then you have little or no worries but as a self-supporting student. Men… you have to be prepared for the challenges of getting an accommodation.

You may also like to bid farewell to space before living for Belgium as a student! If you have a huge budget for accommodation great! If not then start entertaining the idea of sharing a bathroom, kitchen and toilet. (Something I never did back in my university days in Cameroon)

The first year and part of my second year as a student in Leuven, I lived in a shared room separated by a wardrobe:). Don’t get me started on the experience of having roommates from across the globe; India, Czech Republic and Cameroon.

  1. Student Jobs, Yeah! But it will have to take you a job to find one:

I think it is important to know you are not going to get a student job immediately you touch base. There is a laid down procedure before you can obtain a student work permit C. So if you are thinking oh when I get to Belgium I will pick up a job and do this and that… you got to be ready to stay for at least four months for your dream to be actualized especially if you are coming from a non-EU country. Talking about student jobs (a story for another day)

  1. Student loans are not really meant for students:

Be rest assured you can’t get stuck in Belgium because of student loan; you are not going to get one anyway. For instance; the University of Leuven has this to say on their website “The Social Service can only offer limited financial help for students who find themselves in a temporary and unforeseen financial difficulty, through no fault of their own”. Makes sense though because after all, before you are granted a student visa to Belgium, you would have proven your financial solvability for the duration of your studies.

  1. Superfluous church edifices may not echo Hallelujah on Sunday mornings:

Churches with magnificent old century arts and sculpture will be filled with visitors rather than worshippers. They are a beauty to behold, I was amazed at the sight of some churches built in the 12 century. Massive structures with no parishioners to fill them up. Upon enquiry, I learnt most younger Belgians have lost faith in the church (reasons to be discussed next time).

  1. Sleep – Sun – Siesta nexus

You may have to practice sleeping even when there is sunlight, the Sun will rise early and set late, street lights everywhere will act as though it’s still sunny. This may affect sleep rhythm especially if you are from that part of the globe below the equator. In the summer months, you still have some sun as late as 10:00 pm. Personally it was challenging to maintain my bedtime hours. Siesta, will be out of question, so don’t be ashamed to doze off a little in class, or in the bus/train (I did it!).

All said and read, welcome or should I rather say Welkom/Bienvenue to the land flowing with chocolate, French-fries, waffles and beer.

PS: If you need to meet and talk when you are in Leuven, feel free to connect with me via the contact page of my blog: www.kewanblogs.com