I still remember the day I left Korea. Actually, I was nervous and did not want to leave. It was my very first time living away from home, separated from my family. I was afraid by the thought that I would have to deal with and solve all problems without any help. However, it turned out to be an unnecessary concern. All that was waiting for me was a peaceful country and warm people.
My experience in Belgium can largely be categorized into three parts: studying, meeting new friends, and travelling.
Most of the English courses offered in the Catholic University of Leuven (CUL) are graduate courses. Because I was an undergraduate when visiting CUL, I was worried that the classes may be too advanced. However, the classes were not as difficult as I had expected.
The oral exam was a type of exam that I was unfamiliar with, but it was a good chance to experience different forms of tests. I was very nervous sitting in front of the professors before the oral exam, but the professors were very considerate and worked hard to release my tension. Looking back now, I really appreciate their consideration.
The center of the EU (European Union) is located in Belgium, so I strongly recommend those interested to participate in classes related to the EU. Personally, the process of establishing EU was interesting, and it was an opportunity for me to learn the current issues around the world as well as the EU history.
Meeting new people and becoming friends with them is another great part of going on an exchange student program. It was my first time in Europe, so I was slightly afraid of possible racial discrimination. Despite my worries, it was not difficult to make new friends at CUL.
At first when I attended the reception, I was a little passive and defensive. However, though I only had a few minutes of conversation with a girl, she introduced me to her friends very welcomingly. I was really surprised and impressed at the same time – I did not know people could become friends so easily. This was a short moment, but after this conversation, I gained confidence and began to participate in every occasion to meet new people and make new friends.
Talking with new international students was very exciting. The most memorable part was the regular dinner party with my friends in the dormitory. We had a dinner gathering every other week, and every time we got together, we had a lot to talk and laugh about. We would forget about the time, and eventually talk until 1 a.m.
Above all, during my stay in CUL I learned to meet new people and bond with each other, even though we all had different backgrounds.
Travelling cannot be left out when talking of exchange programs. I spent a lot of time and money on travelling. Through the trips I became more independent and strong. Before, my parents would always prepare everything for me, but when I was in Belgium, I had to do everything on my own – from booking a ticket to planning an itinerary for the trip. I would study each country’s history in advance. In doing so, I learned a lot and was able to learn more about Europe.
At times, I was worried about my future since some of my friends were already working as interns and getting jobs while I was in Belgium.
However, I do not regret my decision to go on an exchange student program. Actually, the experiences that I had during my stay in CUL were experiences that I would never be able to come back to in the future. I can look for a job a year later, but I cannot study and interact with international friends after getting a job.
So if there is anyone else who may have a similar question that I had before, I will say to you, “Just go, you will never regret your decision.”
* Lee Yoo-jung (Business Administration, 4) studied at University of Leuven.