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!