Brechin student Laura Cuthill is currently studying journalism at a university in Belgium. She is on a three month exchange to Erasmushogeschool Brussels from The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. After a month in Belgium, Laura wrote to The Brechiner about her experiences abroad so far.
“She stated: “I left Scotland over a month ago now and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Along with five other students from my third year journalism course, I packed up my belongings to study for a semester over here in Brussels and so far we’ve had a great time.
“We are staying in a block of student halls in Jette on the outskirts of the city with lots of other students who are also on international exchange. The Erasmus Study Abroad Programme has been running since 1987 and has sent thousands of students to different countries and we are lucky to have been picked from our class to study here. There are pupils from Romania, Spain, Holland and Latvia to name but a few and they all speak brilliant English. Just as well as our linguistic skills are pitiful.
“Brussels is a really interesting city. They speak both French and Dutch here and all the street signs and products in shops are in both languages which can be quite confusing at times. Luckily our course is taught in English although even the lecturers have to ask us how to pronounce a word now and then. The city is famous for the ‘Manneken Piss’ or peeing boy statue as well as waffles, frites and of course, beer.
“The Belgians brew over 1,000 different types of beer and won’t let you forget it. In one bar they have a beer list the size of a ‘phone book.
“Brussels is very cosmopolitan and when Scotland played Belgium in a World Cup Qualifier the Tartan Army added a good dose of Scottish into the mix, much to the amusement of our new European friends who loved the “men in skirts!” For the first time in a month I could tell people I was from Brechin and they knew where I meant. The Europeans obviously don’t keep up with Second Division football like we think they do.
“Getting on the metro and tram is still a bit of a novelty. The transport system here puts the UK to shame. It’s so cheap and easy to travel around the city although I wouldn’t like to drive here, motorists seem to make the rules up as they go along.
“We are yet to find Irn Bru and I fear there is no hope of locating a Bridie or Scotch Pie (food parcels are welcome). However Waterstones book shop stocks a few select British items such as Caramel Wafers and Robinsons fruit squash so I’m sure we’ll cope. After all, beer is cheaper than a bottle of juice and they still sell Heinz beans in the supermarket.
“With only eight weeks of our studies left we’re beginning to wonder if we can fit everything we want to do in. There are 100 museums in Brussels and we are only an hour and a half away from the Menin Gate and the battlefields of The First World War. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Belgium and if you get the opportunity to study abroad go for it, you’ll meet so many interesting people and experience a different culture.
“I’m really glad I came out here even though it meant leaving my family and friends for three months. It’s an opportunity I will probably never get again so I’m going to make the most of it and learn as much as I can.”