Sitting at the airport in Philadelphia is bitter sweet. Cons: the anxiety of flying, greasy airport food, and goodbyes to family and friends until December. The pros, however, outweigh the cons by far: time to find my gate with an extended layover (and hour delay), prime people watching time, and the start to what will probably be the greatest adventure of my life.
My journey to Brussels has been a two year work in the making. After applying freshmen year to study abroad in Brussels the Fall of 2012, I was told that, despite my strong application,the study abroad office had hesitancies about sending a rising sophomore to such a rigorous program. While initially disappointed, I shaped the following two semesters to strengthen my application: I pursued my studies in international affairs and foreign policy, I took a job as teaching assistant in the French department, and, most importantly, found ways to stay connected to Belgian current events. When the time came to reapply to study in Brussels, I came, not only with more ideas and bits of wisdom from my academic opportunities, but with a refined set of leadership skills that made me a more marketable candidate. Upon learning of my acceptance, I was thrilled- I had always dreamed of studying abroad in college, and finally, my time had come.
I’ve been asked: why Brussels? And the answer is multifaceted. After my amazing experience with the Experiment in International Living (shout out to my wonderful FRNF family), I knew I wanted to return to Europe. While my academic studies rest in the Middle East, and my heart lies in Africa, Europe serves as the motherland of political ideologies and theories. It is a melting pot due to chaos and development,and is the ideal case study for transnational issues. In looking for a program, I also knew that I wanted the experience of living with a host family; in my opinion, there is no better way to learn the culture or people! A French speaking country was ideal,but in no ways mandatory. Finally, I didn’t want to be restricted to one city; I wanted the flexibility to explore, both in a group setting, and individually. I honestly never considered Brussels until my first meeting with the study abroad office freshmen year to discuss noted destinations for IR majors; while it sufficed all my criteria, it also provided the unique opportunity to return to the city where my dad spent four years completing his graduate degree. I had grown up hearing stories of his ‘glory days’ with Europe as his playground. How many kids get to say that they had the privilege to study abroad, let alone in the same country as their parents!?
I am both anxious and excited to embark on this new chapter: anxious to uncover the unknowns and get set in my routine, and excited for all the wonderful adventures that lay ahead. While keeping an online blog seems super cliche, I know that the few stories I’ll share when returning to the states will not do this semester justice. By jotting down a few memories or thoughts everyday, I can ensure that everyone who has supported me in this adventure is up to date (especially you Mem!! 🙂 ) I apologize in advance for my cheesiness and ethical rants (they’re unavoidable lol), and welcome everyone to leave comments or ask questions!
Finally, I want to give a few big THANK YOUs. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve inspired me in someway to make this journey; this semester is all about exploring, learning, and growing, and I wouldn’t have the guts, knowledge, or audacity for this trip without all your love and support. Thank you to Mom and Dad for believing in me and supporting me in my decision to engage in this experiential learning opportunity. Thanks to Becca for helping me to keep things in perspective and getting me pumped. Thank you Claudia for your beautiful card and the horrendous picture of me 🙂 Shout outs to Sarah for showing me the strength a passionate person can possess, Amanda for showing me the power of friendship, and Jordyn for keeping me sane. And a final thanks to Harry for making me cinnamon rolls at 3 AM as I finished my applications, helping me pick my classes, and reminding me of the power of taking risks.
Boarding now! A bientôt!!