The last time I wrote in this blog, I was describing the shortening of the days and how my schedule worked. Since then much has happened that I continuously forget to update this blog. December and January were incredibly busy months. They passed so quickly I hardly noticed the dark winter I was previously dreading. To give a full update its best to start at the beginning, where I last left anyone who is reading this. . .
The biggest event of the first week of December was St Nicholas day. This holiday is primarily celebrated in the Benelux countries and is when St Nick comes to everyone’s house and leaves gifts in the shoes of the children. I received a cute plate of candy typical for the holiday (including the best cookie on earth, speculoos). At school “St Nicholas” came and threw candy to all the kids from a second story window. Apart from that day not much else happened at school. December is the end of the semester and so there was more or less than two weeks of exams. Exams are nice here because there is only one per day and when you finish you go home. If you don’t take a certain course you don’t even need to go to its corresponding exam day.
Out side of school, December was for Christmas markets. In all cities there is a seasonal Christmas market. The one in Brussels was enormous. There was an outside ice-skating rink and a Ferris wheel in the middle of the city. There was even a ski slope for the month that went down one of the streets downtown. Speaking about Christmas, the Belgians have a much smaller celebration for Christmas. In comparison to the States version, it was much less material. Despite that, I really prefer the Christmas holiday in the US and how excited people get about it.
Right after Christmas, I took a day trip with my counselor and the other exchange student in my club. We started of at the American War Cemetery for WWII. Fun fact: the cemetery is actually American owned land, so I was back in the states for a couple of hours. Next we took a trip to a local brewery/monastery where we tasted homemade beer and cherries. We finished up our day in Auchen, Germany where we toured the famous cathedral and went site-seeing. I had so much fun, it was a blast.
I celebrated the New Year in a big way. My Host family took me skiing in the French Alps. I had only skied once before so I was terrified when I saw the mountain. After 5 days of lessons and different slopes, I feel much more comfortable skiing. I was even able to do a red slope by the end of the week. The food was amazing on the mountain and if regular French people eat anywhere near that much cheese, I’m impressed.
The rest of January went more or less according to plan. My school days are spent cowering by the radiator because my school doesn’t have central heating. Halfway through the month I took a day trip to Gent, on the three famous Flemish cities. This city is great. I liked it so much better than Bruges. The most recent city I went to was last Wednesday afternoon. For the first time on my exchange I went to Liege. I had a blast and it is definitely not the last time I go to Liege, especially on Wednesday afternoons.
In other news, I went through a mid-exchange crisis last week. Why you may ask? I celebrated my half-way exchange day. Yes I am officially halfway done with my exchange, it’s a scary thought. I’ve been trying to fit a lifetime in a year. I have taken full opportunity of being here, but now I know I need to work even harder to fit in all I want to do here. At the same time I still have six amazing, wild, incredible, unbelievably, exciting months. I think the adventure continues in a few weeks when I leave for vacation in Morocco. Bisous et a bientot