Saturday, September 29, 2012

Student Kick-Off

In the largest student city of Belgium, the academic year usually starts with a big event: the Student Kick-Off. This year, it was last wednesday, on September 26th 2012, at St-Pietersplein. This welcome party for students by students is already in its 7th edition and has become the biggest student event in Flanders. This Student Kick-Off is the result of an intense cooperation between the students of UGent (and their unions), the City of Ghent and all the higher education institutions in Ghent.

Last year, 36.000 people attended the party hosting The Vengaboys under a great sun. By the way, since 2011, the entrance is set to 1€ which is entirely given to humanitarian funds. Every year numerous activities are organized on site. Students can also visit a huge info village with interactive and original stands of the Ghent Student Unions, the higher education institutions, the City of Ghent and associations of Ghent...

Before the event, I helped building the stage and other handyworks with other students. All in all, there were 900 students involved in the Student Kick-Off! I thought it was a good opportunity to meet some locals, outside of the ESN bubble. In exchange of our good work, we got lunch & drinks; as well as two beer-vouchers per hour worked, to be exchanged during the event.

The crowded entrance!
The party opened around noon and the first concert started a bit later. People were getting in by only one entrance, which was overwhelmed quite fast, making us queueing for some time! We enjoyed a few beers, listening to the pop folk of Absynthe Minded and getting all crazy on the Balkan Hip-Hop tracks by Merdan Taplak. Unfortunately, the DJ tent (sponsored by Monster) was full so no one could get in. In the meantime, it started to rain :/

 <<  Live video of Merdan Taplak.

>> Some pics of the night: link.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First steps at UGent

During the Welcome Days (September 21-22), we were about 850 incoming exchange students to gather in a big amphitheater, to receive general information about Ghent, the university facilities, the housing services, the student organizations, and so on... We all got a free lunch! I guess it was worth to attend then. We received a lot of paperworks to deal with in the upcoming days, some documents to send back to our home university and all this kinda annoying things which takes so much time!

As I said earlier, I got my student room in one of the 10 university halls of residence (Canterburry). For 31.200 students at UGent only (with 2600 international students), there is only 700 rooms available for foreign students. That makes it hard to get an accommodation for Erasmus students! At first I liked the room: not too small, quite recent and well-arranged with a small fridge. Unfortunately the rest isn't so great: it was pretty dusty; I didn't have warm water to shower; there is no oven, no pans or pots, no plates or cutlery in the kitchen; the laundry is expensive and there isn't much wash-machines for all the rooms. All of that for 391€/month! That's why I'm looking for something else from November 1st, but the university housing department doesn't want to cancel my contract for shorter than 3 months!

About my courses, a few of them already start this week. Unfortunately, I will have to make some changes in the courses chosen in my Learning Agreement. Actually, one class has an entrance test requiring an advanced level in statistics and using SPSS, which I never studied before so I better take another class! I'll make a separate post about that when I know more about it I guess.

Otherwise, I also registered for a Dutch course every Monday evening! As exchange student at UGent, I received a voucher (value: 169€) to take this class at the University Language Center (UCT), reducing the fee to 50€: for books and administrative costs. This class is 3 hours per week and gives 4 additional ECTS credits.

With studentENmobiliteit, I should get a bike for 30€ when I rent it for 6 months, repairs and 2 locks included. I think it's necessary to go downtown or groceries without wasting too much time walking up and down the hills! I just hope it doesn't rain that much (sigh).

That's all for now. Laters!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hallo Gent

Here I am. Backpack closed and train tickets printed. Ready to go. I'm leaving tomorrow for Ghent, Belgium. In the mean time, I checked things out on Universiteit Gent and I also received some general information about it.

Rijksuniversiteit Gent (State University of Ghent in Dutch) is one of the larger Flemish universities, with 32.000 students and 7.100 staff members. It was established in 1817 and French was the academic language until 1930 when it became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium. In 1991, the university was granted major autonomy and changed its name to Universiteit Gent.

Ghent University consists of 11 faculties - Arts and Philosophy; Law; Sciences; Medicine and Health Sciences; Engineering and Architecture; Economics and Business Administration; Veterinary Medicine; Psychology and Educational Sciences; Bio-science Engineering; Pharmaceutical Sciences; & Political and Social Sciences - , composed of more than 130 departments. In 2012, 143 new exchange students are going to study at my faculty, while 74 go abroad. Finally, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), ranked Ghent University at the 1st position in Belgium only, and at the 89th spot worldwide (whereas Linköping University is 8-11th in Sweden and 301-400th worldwide!).

That's all I can say for now. But I'm really looking forward the Welcome Days (and the following week) organized by ESN (Erasmus Student Network). I hope to get a full taste of Belgian's delights: wafle, beer, chocolate and fries! Maybe there'll be another Chocolate tasting fair soon at the uni! :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sweet transition

It's been two weeks since the semester started again, back in Sweden. My classmates welcomed the first year students in Linköping with a bunch of events as barbecues, sightseeing tours, get-together-parties and so on; thanks to Kristina and the rest of her team of SMIO Big Brothers and Sisters (follow their blog here)

Unfortunately, I didn't get back to Sweden and I actually don't plan to within the next 2 months. Instead, when my friends were enjoying the student fair Kallas downtown Linköping, I was visiting friends in Berlin, Paris, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Angers. I decided to take it (really) easy for a few more weeks!

As I didn't take part in the summer Dutch course in Ghent University, my Erasmus semester officially starts on September 21th, with two kick-off days. Moreover, I got a student room in a corridor of the university! That was good news as it seems super hard to find an accommodation there. Now that I just bought  my bus tickets, I'm all set for my stay in Belgium! 

A new experience is soon to begin: one Erasmus semester in Ghent University!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summer is over!

Hello world. What have you been up to this summer?

I got a quiet and silly summer job in my hometown for July. I spent my time catching up with old friends and wandering around Western France. Same old same old. 

August was far more interesting! I was in the Western United States with my family for almost a month. My dad spent a few months reading blogs and touristic guides so that he planned the whole journey ahead of time. 

We started with a few days in San Francisco, California. Really different from the rest of the U.S. and I loved it. I might look for some internships or jobs there next year. Then we headed East and visited Yosemite Park, Bodie, Mono Lake, Salt Creek, the Death Valley (...) until we got to Las Vegas, Nevada. 

That city is unique! What can I say? Nothing. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! Then we went further East to visit the Valley of Fire, Zion Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, the Arches National Park, the Valley of the Gods, Horse Shoe Bend, the Lake Powell (...) Eventually, after two intense weeks, we headed back West on the Road 66 towards California: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel and finally back to San Francisco where we took off for Europe!

The whole trip was great! Each city has its own character, with lots of different atmosphere in their neighborhood. The parks are impressive, telling the Earth's history, quite wild and with wonderful landscapes. I will definitely get back there, sooner than later!

Photos here (on my page dedicated to photography)