Monday, August 29, 2011

Brussels, Brugge, and Paris

This past week has been incredibly busy for me! So many new places and experiences. Last Sunday night I arrived in Brussels for the first time and met my host family. I really love my host family and the neighborhood they live in. The house has four stories, with my room on top. It is a great space with three beds, a table, and a living room area. The neighborhood is one of the nicest in Brussels and used to be owned by all of the barons and baronesses. My host mom took me on a small tour of the neighborhood that night, and I explored it more fully the next day. I am really close to a little park, the grocery store, several stores and restaurants, and the metro. I then walked downtown (an hour walk, though only 12 minute metro ride).
Downtown, I met my director and the three BCA boys. We got our metro passes then were left on our own with a scavenger hunt. We ended up getting a little lost and had to call our director, but finally ended up at a parking garage for a picnic. The top of the parking garage has one of the greatest views of the city, but because it was raining, we ate in the eighth floor. The dinner was fantastic with breads, cheeses, grapes, and wine. The next day we had to find the college by ourselves in the middle of a thunderstorm. That afternoon we went and got waffles and beer. That evening, I met my roommates, Krissy and Erika and hung out before going to bed.Wednesday was orientation at the college which was extremely boring, since I already knew the information. I was very thankful for BCA because none of the other study abroad students had received any orientation and had no clue what was happening. Most people there seemed very lost.
Thursday, I had an internship interview in Brugge. Brugge is an hour train ride from Brussels and my internship place was an hour walk from the train station. My friend Johnny (one of the BCA guys) came with me, which made me feel a lot better. Brugge is an incredible city and I LOVED the walk! There are canals everywhere and the whole city looks like it did in medieval times. We walked through a park and I felt like I was in a movie. The interview turned out not to be an interview because they had already decided on me. I will be a research assistant for United Nations University looking into issues of migration. For more information about the organization go to . I am really looking forward to the internship and the doors it could open for me. I will be going twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. The commute will be interesting, but hopefully I can use the train ride to get homework done.
On Friday I registered for classes and explored Brussels a little bit before catching a bullet train to Paris. My host family had invited me and my roommates to go with them and babysit the kids for them while they attended a conference. Krissy went earlier in the car with the children to watch them Friday night. I got in around 10 then Krissy and I headed to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I have to admit that I imaged it to be a lot bigger, though it was still surreal to actually be there. Saturday we hung out in the apartment we were staying in the morning, then had a picnic lunch near Notre Dame. Then the parents left us and kids off outside the Louvre for the afternoon. Ten minutes after they left, the middle son started throwing a fit and ran away. I had to chase him, then hold him while he screamed and cried so he wouldn't run off and get lost in the crowd. It was horrible! Everyone was staring at us. Finally we got him calmed down and we walked to the Eiffel tower, stopping a few times for rain showers. The kids did well, but it was quite a walk and so when we got there and were waiting for their parents, the kids played in a mud puddle.
That night, Krissy and I celebrated her 21st birthday by first walking up the Arc de Triumph (200 steps), then walking to the Eiffel Tower, eating crepes, then walking the steps halfway up (over 600 steps) then the elevator to the very top. The view was amazing and we especially enjoyed being there without the kids. Sunday, we hung out with the kids in the morning again, then in the afternoon Krissy and I walked together to the Bastille, then Notre Dame. We hung out there a bit, then walked to the train station and caught a train at 9 back to Brussels. Today, I slept in then got waffles with my roommates for lunch. I have my first class, elementary dutch (I decided to take dutch instead of french), this afternoon, which is taught by my director, so that should be fun. The rest of the week I start my other classes and my internship.

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