Friday, September 11, 2009

FINAL VIDEO!

Here's my personal video mainly chronicling my travels! It was the most exhausting to make but I love to watch it because it reminds me of everything I had the opportunity to do and all the places I had the opportunity to visit. It also happens to be my longest because I couldn't bear to leave any place out and I went so many places. Hopefully, it's not too boring for other people to watch!


video

Professional Video!

Here's my professional video! It's about why you should learn French!


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Video!

Yay! I've finally finished my first video. It's about Belgium and all the amazingly fun stuff it has going on. It might be a bit grainy; I had to cut the file size to get it on here.



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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back to the States!

It's been a long journey but I am finally back in the United States. I've just hit my three-week anniversary of returning and it's already been hectic. I miss Belgium horribly but there are some things that I am so excited to get back to. Like friends..and driving..and American food!


Now, though, I'm just taking two summer classes (ugh). Look for videos coming in the next few days! I'm almost finished!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The End..or close to it

So my semester is officially coming to an end. I leave back for the United States in less than a week. I am sad to leave Belgium but I think I am truly excited to come home.

Unfortunately, I am not the first to leave Louvain-la-Neuve. Many of the friends I have made have already gone home, including the majority of the Clemson students. Luckily, it will not be the last time I see them. I have a class with two of them in the fall. I'm sure it will be interesting. Something else unfortunate, all of my roommates have left. So now it is just me (spare for a few mice, eek!) in an apartment for 9. When they left, they also took the tv and the internet with them. So I am writing this from outside of a school building (they are all closed because classes are not in session). This makes it difficult to stay online for long periods of time because my battery life is little to none, and it also makes it difficult to post pictures. I will post pictures when I get back to the states.

Since classes have been out, I have traveled a bit. I think one of the most eye-opening experiences I had was my week-long trip to Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava. These experiences were not just from the places I visited but also from the people I traveled with. I went on this trip with two Portuguese guys. We met up with a few people along the trip, but the entire time I was the only American and the only native English speaker. This means I was asked a LOT of questions about the English language and only now do I understand why people find it difficult. We really do have a lot of exceptions, and compared with a Romantic language like Portuguese, it is quite different.

I was also asked a LOT of questions about the United States. They are not lying when they say that everyone will ask you about your opinions of President Obama. It's incredibly true. I was also asked a lot of culture questions. I was told that Portugal is one of the most Americanized European countries (they told me that over 90% of their movies and TV shows are from the States) and when they think about the US, they think about California. Most people didn't know where South Carolina is. I didn't expect them to though, it's a relatively small state (of course, not in comparision to their countries). I found it difficult to answer a lot of the culture questions because I only know the South (and have sadly, never even been to the rest of the US). I had to explain that while where I live we may not have a lot of European things, they very well may have them in other parts of the US. One of my friends said that he now thinks of the US as several different countries put together because the different regions and states are so different. I'm glad he thinks this way, because especially when it comes to cultural things, this is kind of true. I hope that from everything I told them, they understand the US a little better and that I didn't mess up on anything.

The trip itself was amazing. I am truly glad that I was able to see a little bit of Eastern Europe because I didn't think I was going to be able to travel there. All three cities were so beautiful. In Vienna, we went to the Leopold Museum. I think it very well may be my favorite museum. I never knew anything about Austrian Secessionists but I definitely think I will try to learn more. Budapest by far had the most to do. It is huge and there was stuff going on everywhere. Their Parliament is gorgeous, one of the most beautiful buildings I've seen in all of my travels in Europe. Bratislava, while small, is very picturesque. They also have a lot of random statues. These statues aren't of famous or important people, just random people. They have one statue that is just a man coming out of a manhole with a sign that says "Men at Work" next to it. It's very cool.

After that week of traveling, we did a lot of walking, enough to put a hole in my shoe. This is the second pair of shoes that I've done that with since getting here. I keep shoes for years at home but I come here and I've already ruined two pairs. My shoes are obviously not made for a lot of walking.

Alas, that is my week-long adventure. I will hopefully post at least one more time before I go home and probably a few times once I get back (with pictures!).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The year is winding down...

Ok so update: It's been pretty boring around LLN lately. Bloclus just ended (that's UCL's dead days but it's actually dead weeks because it lasted for two). People are starting to come back but mainly just to study because exams have officially started! I don't have any next Friday but I'm already getting worried. I also haven't traveled very much lately because of exams and even more because of money, or lack of.

That said, I will be traveling a little bit more after exams before I leave. I just bought a ticket to Bratislava, from where I will then go to Vienna and Budapest. I'm pretty excited. I haven't been to any eastern European countries yet and I feel like everyone else here has so I'm glad to get the chance to go before I leave. I also think I'll be going to Berlin before I leave too, on my last weekend here. The end is nearing and it's bittersweet.

Fun fact: I met some kids from USC who are doing researching here for a month.

Another fun fact: I went to Fête d'Iris in Brussels. I won't post a lot of pictures because I want to use some in my videos and don't want to show them all here but to give you an idea of what was there:


It was fun.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stress and Protests

Ah this week has been quite stressful. I think I've done more work this week than the rest of the semester combined. I am now getting a tutor for my French poetry class because, turns out, I don't understand it at all. Hopefully, this will make it possible for me to pass because so far, it's not looking good. Ok, talking about my stress is not helping it at the moment so I will explain the second part of my title.

This week was eventful for the town of Louvain-la-Neuve, Wednesday in particular. On Wednesday, ministers from all over Europe came to LLN for a meeting about the Bologna process.

The Bologna process (according to Wikipedia, so bear with me) was a major reform created with the claimed goal of providing responses to issues such as the public responsibility for higher education and research, higher education governance, the social dimension of higher education and research, and the values and roles of higher education and research in modern, globalized, and increasingly complex societies with the most demanding qualification needs. It's named after the city it was created in, Bologna, Italy.

However, many people oppose the Bologna process. So when the ministers were here on Wednesday, there were protests all over campus. The building where the meeting was held had fences and police (decked out in helmets and bulletproof vests, and with riot shields) surrounding it. There were also several police on horses riding around campus. While eating lunch, a group of students dressed as clowns (as a form of protest) were wandering around and when the police on horses blocked them, they started bowing to them. At this point in the day, I had no idea what was going on. This was when I started to wonder what was going on. I didn't question it before because this campus is crazy and there are always weird things going on so I thought nothing of the protests (it's not the first one I've seen here) but the clowns and the police made me question it.

Because the work mentioned earlier, I had no time to film any of this and I am sorely disappointed. I was only able to see everything in passing because I spent the majority of the day in the library (I never thought I'd miss a library but the library here is awful and I truly miss Cooper). However, I was able to get a few pictures of signs and graffiti that may give you an idea of what happened:
The first photo is the side of one of the school buildings. The second photo was taken in Grand Place. The sign is hung on the building next to the one where the meeting took place. To translate roughly: If you don't take charge of your university, your university will take charge of you.

There was also shredded paper all over campus but I'm not really sure what that means. Anyway, the students here take their education system very seriously. I am very curious to see what will come of the meeting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

L'alimentation

Ok here's a new installment of my observations. This time: Food!

1. Spices: They don't use any! Ok so this may be an exaggeration but seriously, I am craving something spicy and it's just not here.

2. Milk: The milk is not real milk. Or it's a special kind of milk. They don't keep it refrigerated in the grocery store (oh by the way, we have a Delhaize, which is basically a Food Lion). It just sits in an aisle in huge packages that you have to tear open to get milk or you're buying 12 bottles at one time. It is however refrigerated once it's home. Also, the expiration date is always months away. It's definitely not the same milk we have at home.

3. Lunch: Everyone seems to eat lunch on the go. They have about 10 sandwich and pasta windows around Louvain-la-Neuve that always have long lines at lunchtime because everyone grabs a sandwich or pasta and either wanders around or sits down somewhere outside (the weather is now amazing here! I've broken out the flip-flops and sent my big coat home).

4. Common foods: Speaking of sandwiches and pasta, Belgians eat both of these so often! You could never do low-carb here. I probably won't eat either of these for months after I return. I am so sick of them. They also seriously eat a lot of waffles here. LLN also has a waffle stand where I seriously have had the best waffle of my life. It's amazing. And so so tempting. There are two kinds of waffles here:
Gaufre de Bruxelles - waffle with powdered sugar or whipped cream
Gaufre de Liège - waffle with caramelized sugar (my favorite!)

5. Coffee: The coffee here is much stronger and much smaller compared to the States. The largest coffee I can get here is only two ounces bigger than a small at Java City. Luckily, since the coffee is so much stronger, you don't need nearly as much to wake you up. I was hoping to nix my coffee addiction when I came over here but no such luck. However, I have cut back and don't drink it everyday (having to actually pay for it makes me much less likely to drink it).

6. Woké: Ok so this is less of an observation and more of an obsession. Woké is a Chinese restaurant here. You put your order in on a computer and put whatever you want into your wok. It is seriously amazing and we are all obsessed. It's way too expensive for me to be eating there as much as I do but I cannot help myself. I don't even usually like Chinese food! I never eat it back in the States but if they opened a Woké in Clemson, I would visit quite often. It's probably a good thing.

So there are my food observations. Note: beer goes with anything, apparently.

Also note: While this has nothing to do with food, it is a cultural observation that I feel is quite different from the United States - Yesterday, they were handing out free "student packs" that included condoms and beer. I have a feeling I wouldn't be receiving one of these at Clemson.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ciao, Bella!

Ah ok so I totally haven't been blogging! It's been really busy here in LLN with some fun (music festival!) and some not-so-fun (writing a paper in French about poetry that is also in French). But I've just finished my first week of spring break where I went to Italy! It was definitely an adventure because I decided to go by myself (first time traveling alone!) and I definitely don't know any Italian. In the end, however, it was a blast!

Luckily, I was not actually by myself for much of the trip because there were a TON of other students on spring break staying in the same hostels as me! First, I went to Milan. Obviously, it was amazing shopping. But they also had a lot of really cool museums and some really beautiful churches. The first night I went to an apertivo. This is an amazing thing that should be brought to the US. An apertivo is like happy hour but way better because you pay around 8 euros to get one cocktail and a buffet of AMAZING Italian food. Of course, if it came to the US, I'm sure the food could not be as good as this. Also, as you could imagine, the gelato is delicious. And everyone eats it, all the time! I did not really expect it but it doesn't matter who you are, old, young, businessman, student; everyone eats gelato at any time of the day. Of course, the pasta and the pizza are absolutely delightful also.

In Rome, it was a lot easier to get around. Milan is not nearly as touristy so not nearly as many people knew English so it was tough to communicate. In Rome, however, they are used to English-speaking tourists and almost everyone knew at least a little bit of English.

Another observation I made was that I think Italy had more people asking me for money or trying to sell me something than any other place I've been. That is one thing I definitely do not miss from Italy. They would automatically start speaking English to me too! I guess it was obvious that I was an American. I tried not to look so obvious but I guess my flip-flops and map gave me anyway. Oh well.

Well, those are my main observations about Italy! I will be going to Paris and Amsterdam with my family next week so I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that! Ciao!

While it's not the highest quality picture (it was nighttime in the train station), here is something for your advertising pleasure:

I mean, could this ad be more Italian?




Also, on a side note, I broke down and went to a McDonald's (once I realized I had to stop spending 10 euros every time I ate). I tried a new McFlurry flavor: speculose (ok I also don't know if this is spelled right). It was amazing. I would highly recommend it. It's a type of cookie and tasted like cinnamon and brown sugar. Extremely tasty!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Euro Meal?: McDonaldization of Europe

McDonald's. What a restaurant. Yet here in Belgium, it seems to take a classier turn but still be fast food.
The first thing I did for this assignment (for CLAM) was go to the McDonald's Belge website. The first thing I noticed was that it was not a McDonald's corporate site; it's considered a third party. I was then confronted with the choice of Dutch or French. I chose the latter. When I went onto the website though, some stuff was still in English. It really seems random what is put in French and what in English. For example, there are the French tabs "Enfants" (Children) and "A la Carte" (the menu, basically), but then there was the English tab "It's What I Eat & What I Do". I thought that was interesting. Are they assuming you know some English if you are eating at McDonald's?

Next, of course, is the Euro Meal. It's like the Dollar Menu but not nearly as good of a deal with the exchange rate. I also noticed their new sandwich is the Chicken, Bacon, and Onion combo (on a square bun, no less!). I don't know if they have this sandwich in the United States but it certainly isn't advertised on the USA site like it is on the Belgian site. I'm wondering if that's McDonald's trying to cater to Belgian tastes? Maybe.

Side note: McDonald's has clothes? I never knew. While it's not a cultural difference because they indeed have McDonald's clothing in the United States, I didn't notice it until looking at the Belgian site. This is probably because I don't ever go onto the McDonald's website but still. I'm not sure if I want clothes from McDonald's. I'll stick with my McChicken.

Now, luckily, I went to Brussels this weekend for the Balloon Parade (pictures to come!) and went into a McDonald's. There are no McDonald's in Louvain-la-Neuve, just Quick and Goldway (Goldway is quite possibly the grossest fast food ever though).





Here's a picture to the right of the McDonald's I visited. As you can see, it is already looks classier than American McDonald's. It's right below the Marriott!
It's the same on the inside. Classier, but still fast food.





As you'll notice to the left, there are some interesting McFlurry flavors here at the Belgian McDonald's. I certainly haven't had Caramel & Pecan flavor (nor will I ever) or a McFlurry Crumble (which actually sounds good).

I didn't eat at the McDonald's though. I had actually made it my goal to not eat at a McDonald's while I'm here. I did, however, eat at a Pizza Hut. This Pizza Hut was like a real restaurant though. They had a hostess and waitresses and everything. The pizza was also better in my opinion. I'm wondering if the McDonald's is the same.

Ok so they are the same in the basics. I am guessing the reason for the different flavors and choices is to provide choices that Belgians would like more. There's still the Big Mac though. I also feel like everything is nicer in Europe, often because everything is in old, majestic buildings even if all they have in them now is a McDonald's. I feel that the differences between McDonald's would be much more pronounced in an area where other things are much more different. For example, India (I am told) has mutton burgers instead of beef because the cow is holy to them and they have rice instead of potatoes because they are so scarce in India. Now don't take those words too seriously in case I was mistold but it sounds correct. Europe and the United States definitely have some similarities and McDonald's is one of them. However, they also definitely put a European spin on it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Classroom Observations

Here are just a few things I noticed that are different in the classes at UCL versus Clemson.

1. Pencil bags: Ok this is probably my favorite thing. Everyone here has a pencil bag! It's always out during class, just sitting out next to their notes. I'm pretty sure I haven't used a pencil bag since 5th grade. I like it though. I'm thinking of bringing this trend back to Clemson.

2. Cell phones: Not so much with my own but I have had a few of my professors' cell phones go off in class. I've even had one answer it during class. I find this a bit strange but I don't really mind it.

3. Breaks: Classes are almost always two hours long so we get a 5 to 10 minute break between the hours. I really like this because it gives me a break from trying to figure out what my professors are saying.

4. Attendance: Ok so basically there is no attendance policy. They do not take attendance ever and I don't think they really care if you come to class or not. It is a good idea to go to class anyway just because some classes are based entirely on the lecture (like my lit. class).

5. Books: My classes basically don't have any real books. Which is awesome. I probably saved hundreds of dollars right there. All I have are the syllabi (which I did actually have to buy but they aren't expensive) and one French grammar workbook. It was so cheap to get all of this! Here's another thing I would like to take back to Clemson with me.

Ok so these are the five main things that stuck out to me. There are a few little things that may be different too. I could also go on forever about their administration (it is so difficult!). So that's all for the classroom. Next: Food!!

Ah I forgot one! Graph paper! Everyone takes their notes on graph paper. I do too now because it's cheap and I feel like I stick out a little less haha.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day Weekend

Valentine's Day weekend was pretty eventful. It was quite nice because we decided to take two day trips instead of one overnight trip. This meant I was able to stay in my own bed and get possibly the best night of sleep I have gotten since arriving in Louvain-la-Neuve.
Saturday we went to Antwerp. This is probably the prettiest city we have visited thus far. The architecture is just amazing and all the buildings have gold on them. This building right below is actually just a bank but it looks like it is something much more amazing.


There was hardly any graffiti which was a nice change from LLN and Brussels where there is an abundance of graffiti. Not that I really mind for the most part. I actually find graffiti to be very cool and add character to a city if it's done right. Those who really take it as an art form are able to really make a plain building beautiful. It's only those who decide to scrawl random curse words on the sides of trains that really ruin the way something looks.
There were also a lot of street performers in Antwerp. Here's my favorite. This guy was riding a giant unicycle and in this picture he has just finished juggling flaming sticks.

Amazing, right? Even more awesome, this guy could speak three different languages, English, French, and Dutch (or Flemish, whatever). His English and French were perfect and I'm assuming so was his Dutch. It's just amazing how everyone over here know how to speak at least two, if not three, languages fluently. It's such a big deal to know more than just English if you live in the United States, yet here, it's just everyone.
There were random things going on Antwerp, but none of it compared to the random street performances I saw in Maastricht on Sunday. Everyone seemed to be dressed up in costumes and there were several random parades. But the parades were just people dressed up and playing instruments but it didn't even really sound like they were playing together. Everything about what they played was wrong by American music standards but it actually worked. Here's one of the random parades:


There were also stages set up around town where people (also in costumes) were just standing around and waving to the crowd who were playing instruments. It was probably one of the most interesting things I've seen since coming to Europe. It's something I'm sure I would never see in the United States. I know part of this is because Carnival is coming up very soon. There were a lot of decorations around town in red, yellow, and green. I assume this is for Carnival or some type of festival they have around Maastricht.
Also, keeping up with ads, here's an ad I found in Maastricht:


I'm not sure what it says or what it is for but I personally find it creepy. I'm not sure who it is appealing to but it is not me. Ok so that's all for this weekend!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Getting started...

Yay! I have housing! Ok well I've actually been living here for almost a week now but have just gotten around to blogging. I live with 8 other girls in a 3-story "communal apartment". We all have our own rooms though. It's pretty nice. The stairs in my new apartment are quite intense though. I walk up 4 flights of stairs, go down an outdoor hallway, into my apartment, and then down a spiral staircase just to get to my room. It's a work-out every time!
Louvain-la-Neuve is a really fun place. I have met a lot of great people, including some other international students! I have met quite a few people from the US, oddly enough all from the South. There are several people from Texas, Florida, and even North Carolina (App State! They even knew a lot of Clemson students). I also met a Canadian who has a Clemson hat and says we have the coolest logo. I thought that was pretty random...and awesome.
While LLN is fun during the week, it's quite dead on the weekends because everyone goes home. I feel like I'm going to travel a lot on the weekends anyway. So, speaking of traveling:
This weekend we took a day trip to Bruges. It was really beautiful! Here's a picture of the view from the tower in the center of town, Belfort:
This picture doesn't even do it justice. I highly recommend taking the trek up the steps to get there (300 ft!) if ever in the area. The people in Bruges are very nice too. Not that they aren't nice everywhere else in Belgium, but I feel Bruges handles the crazy amounts of tourists well. Bruges also has a wide array of museums, including the Frites (like french fries!) museum and the Chocolate museum (which we went to and it was really interesting). The Belgians definitely take their chocolate seriously and at the museum you get to learn the history of chocolate. It was actually really, really interesting and, as a bonus, they have samples.
Well that's it for my ramblings today. I will hopefully have more to talk about later! I think we are planning a ski trip soon and maybe even Dublin for St. Patty's Day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yay! I'm in Belgium! The plane ride wasn't too bad. I had two seats to myself so I got to sleep more than I thought I would. I had a layover in DC which I thought would be crowded because of the inauguration (yay Obama!) but it wasn't at all. I got through customs fine. And during the first 5 hours of being in Belgium, I got to know the Belgian airport quite well because I arrived at 7:15am (1:15am back in Clemson) and was not picked up until 1pm Belgian time. Wonderful. I was, however, the ever-so-elegant American tourist and took pictures of random things. I'll share a few.
Right below here is just the vending machine section. But I thought it was kind of cool-looking because there are trees on the walls and the floor looks like grass. Oh and you can't tell from here but the first machine is for waffles, which is pretty awesome.

Continuing with the waffle theme, here's an ad I found (sorry it's sideways, I'm too lazy to change it and load it again). I thought this fit pretty great with the class too since we talked a lot about ads. This ad would definitely not work in America, or at least it wouldn't be very effective. Maybe one shaped like a hamburger would fit.

I took some other photos but they aren't as interesting. One observation, though: They had a burger place called "Quality Burger Restaurant". Not to knock on the Belgians but the word "quality" obviously as slightly different connotations. When I think "quality" I go back to my dorky band days where "quality" means one level above poor. That doesn't make me want to eat a "quality" burger. I figure it means something a little better in Belgium or they wouldn't name their restaurant that.

Well on to the rest of my trip so far:
Ok, so we have no where to live. Sara and I are staying with a Clemson faculty member that is over here right now in Brussels. The guys are with a UCL faculty member. The university hasn't given us any housing and we've been looking for apartments without much luck. It's kind of stressful.
In some more stressful news, Sara and I got lost on the train going to Louvain-la-Neuve (where UCL is) so that we could register for classes (which we ended up not being able to do) and look for housing (which we didn't find). We actually ended up going to Leuven where everything is in Dutch and we definitely didn't understand! On the bright side, it was kind of a funny adventure and we got waffles while waiting at the Leuven train station (which were amazing, even better than I expected).
Louvain-la-Neuve is a decidedly very cool place. I'm a fan. There weren't any college students around because they are on vacation but there were a ton of high schoolers and it's embarrassing to say that they all dressed better than me. European fashion is pretty high class. Also, I had a sandwich that cost only 1 euro and was too big for me to finish, so I'm pretty psyched about finding that place. I also had my first Belgian beer while there, called a Hoegaarden, that I was also very pleased with.
Ok so enough writing. I only hope my European adventure gets a little less crazy and a little more relaxing.