I had waited all summer for the months to pass until I could finally begin my journey abroad. After fourteen weeks of waiting, I finally boarded my plane in Denver, Colorado and started my voyage to Brussels, Belgium. Now, I’d like to tell you that once I landed I felt energized and was ready to start exploring my new home, but after over twelve hours of flying and a two hour lay-over in Montreal, the first thing I wanted to do when I got to Brussels was shower. Before I could go home and unwind, however, I had to actually make it out of the airport. I was greeted with warm smiles from my ISA Directors, and brought over to a quaint little cafe in the airport where the rest of my ISA companions were sitting.
It was an interesting first few hours. We received information packets with maps of the city and an itinerary of our first week in Brussels. The information packets proved to be very useful later on. I repeatedly kept on referring back to mine because I kept on forgetting the dates and times for our meetings. I blamed it mostly on my jet lag and partly on my poor memory. After the meeting, we were whisked away to our respective residences and I met my host family for the first time. I am living with Spanish speaking Belgians, originally from Colombia and Chile. At first I was apprehensive about living with a family with a culture so different from my own, but the Torres family was nothing but kind. They greeted us with a peck on the check and immediately gave us a tour of the apartment. My two roommates and I have the first floor to ourselves, and our host family lives above us. Then they invited us upstairs to have some breakfast and settle in. I didn’t think I was very hungry, but I guess I was considering I inhaled my croissant and ate half a baguette with jam and butter by myself (I learned quickly that you can’t have any qualms about eating carbs in Belgium; just accept eating large quantities of bread as a way of life). After breakfast I finally got to shower. It was glorious! I finally felt like I was truly ready to start exploring, but after almost 48 hours of no sleep, my body practically tucked itself into bed.
The next morning we had orientation, outlining the dos and don’ts of being abroad. Most of the information was precautionary advice about losing valuables and staying safe, which was very helpful, but in retrospect I think it gave me the impression that I was going to be consumed whole by the mean streets of Brussels. I probably looked very silly traveling out and about the first few days because I kept on clenching my purse close to my body. I would even check my pockets multiple times every few minutes to make sure that no one had taken anything. I am happy to say that one month in, I feel completely safe and I have not had anything stolen. I can’t say that it is completely out of the question that something dangerous and unexpected might pop up, but in general, it is definitely pretty safe.
We took a tour of Grand-Place our third day here to get a feel for the city of Brussels. At first glance all you think you see is multiple peeing statues and waffle stands, but this city has a fantastic history. The architecture alone makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the Middle Ages. I am so excited to continue exploring this historic city!