Last year, I studied abroad in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at Université catholique de Louvain between January and May 2013 aka snowmageddon as Belgium experienced its coldest winter in decades. I left for the US on May 24, 2013 wearing a thick jacket, scarf, gloves, boots, and a hat. If you’re anyone who’s anyone in my life, you should be fully aware that the harsh winter didn’t stop me from enjoying one of the best decisions I could’ve made in my life. Why Belgium, though? The following three reasons pretty much sum it all:
- Since I was 10, I’d always wanted to further my education in the French language and culture; however, when I was 14, the age when I decided I was going to study abroad in college, I knew I didn’t want to go to France as I considered it to be “cliché.” I knew I still wanted to be in Europe and with Belgium having a significant French-speaking population, I was adamant on studying abroad there.
- Belgium is situated in the heart of Europe, providing easy access to travel around the continent.
- I befriended numerous Belgians, including one of my roommates and now best friends, who studied abroad at my home school, Clemson University, while I was a sophomore in college.
Now, let me tell you a little more about my actual study abroad experience. My program consisted of a whopping 14 Clemson girls, who were all taking French classes to advance their French education. We had 4 classes all taught in French: 2 with just the Clemson girls and 2 with students from around the world. The international classes had people from every continent in the world…well, except for Antarctica 😉 None of us had Friday classes, so I made sure to take advantage of that…whether it meant I’d be traveling with friends or solo, which I did a couple of times. For the most part, I traveled with friends nearly every single weekend. I can only remember spending two full weekends in Belgium and one of those weekends was spent traveling somewhere interesting outside of Louvain-la-Neuve.
Photo above: Louvain-la-Neuve town centre
In total, I traveled throughout 10 different countries:
- Belgium – Brussels, Ixelles, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Wavre, Charleroi, & Namur.
- England – London
- Ireland – Dublin & Bray
- Spain – Barcelona
- Germany – Köln, Freiburg, Berlin, & Dresden
- Switzerland – Basel
- France – Paris
- Italy – Rome, Florence, & Venice
- The Netherlands – Amsterdam & Maastricht
- The Czech Republic – Prague
In my blog posts, I’ll recapture my moments in each city as much as I can. Why didn’t I start this blog earlier? As in, why wasn’t I blogging when I was actually traveling last year? To be honest with you, I was simply lazy and thought I would remember everything forever, but now, I realize how much I’m forgetting the little things. I keep telling myself that I just cannot afford to forget some of the best months of my life. Not only that, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve received a lot of travel advice by reading through other people’s blogs that I thought I’d create my own to share with whoever stumbles across my page.
Photo above: Happy as can be in front of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain in May 2014
Since coming back to the States in May 2013, I was itching to go back to Europe as soon as I could, so what did I do? After I graduated from college last month, I spent the last two weeks of May 2014 traveling throughout Europe again. I revisited many of the places I went to last year, mainly because the friend I was traveling with had never visited Europe and wanted to go to the cities I had already seen. Honestly, I wasn’t complaining. My weekend trips didn’t quite cut it last year, so I used this year’s trip as an excuse to discover things I’d missed in the past. Don’t worry, I also visited new places. The following locations will also be discussed in future blog posts from different perspectives than last year’s journey. 14 days, 11 cities, 8 flights, 5 countries, and 2 girls. Here’s the jam-packed list:
- Ireland – Dublin
- The Czech Republic – Prague, Český Krumlov, Hluboká nad Vltavou, Telč, & Holašovice
- Germany – Munich, Schwangau, & Füssen
- Spain – Barcelona
- Belgium – Brussels
For more domestic travel advice, I also visited NYC for the second time and Asheville, NC between the big Euro trips. I’ll be back to actually blog about all of these cities as much as I can soon. Just wanted to give you all an introduction for what’s in store!