Now that I am in Belgium as a STUDENT what else?

In one of my previous posts, (Before you travel to Belgium for Studies: 7 S’ to consider) I promised sharing my student job experience in Belgium. Now that I am in Belgium, what else besides studies? That was one of the big questions I asked myself.

I still remember reading the brochure sent to me prior to admission. Oh how I marveled at the different social services relished by students in Belgium: affordable tuition, subsidized bus fares, exceptional library and internet facilities; cheap health insurance & medical consultations. More to these, was the fact that as a student one could take up a job for up to 20hrs/week, something that was particularly exciting for me to know… (I’ll tell you why in subsequent posts)!

Upon enrolment, I settled in nicely with my accommodation, other administrative and school issues. While other freshmen were more into how to spice up their social life given the boring, cold start to the academic year, all I had in mind was how to use my free time to advance my journalistic career.

I got to Belgium with high expectations of working in a campus radio or some community media house. I still reminisce how my hopes were cut short before my very eyes. Little did I know about the kind of student jobs that were available for non-Dutch speakers! How come I didn’t know I was going to be a  working as a …

Wow! I recall having a conversation with some fellow Cameroonians and inquired about jobs with the media. These ladies sure had a good laugh! The kind that baffles you as though you said something ridiculous… Long story short, they simply offered me free tips on the sort of work I will be doing. I received a crash course on what to do when you get to your first client’s home: dusting, vacuum cleaning, washing the lavabo (wash basin), windows etc.

Okay! When my work permit  finally came, I had to register with countless temp agencies called interims here. In my tedious quest, I got into this particular interim; approached one of the consultants, greeted and went on to indicate the purpose of my visit. The first response was “Spreek je Nederlands?” (Do you speak Dutch?) ah! Here it begins! “Sorry Ma,am I do not speak Dutch yet”, and that was good enough to deny me registering in their student database.

Eventually I got called up by one of the job agencies: they gave me tips on cleaning as well, handed some gloves, safety shoes, T-shirt and an apron. Now Kewan was set to work. The week after, I sluggishly got out of my bed, ran to the bus stop to be able to make it at 8:00 a.m. for work.  It wasn’t a pleasant first week of work though, especially dealing with all the instructions and trying to get used to student job alongside attending classes.

The following week, I checked my bank account, lo and behold! The amount of money credited for a week of cleaning was staggering! It by far surpassed my monthly wages when I worked in a private media firm back home. The next day I got up earlier than usual and rushed to the bus stop singing “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” I was more than excited about work that day.

If I could make this kind of money in a week, then I was surely in the right place! Working as a poetsvrouw changed my perception on a number of things…