Monday, October 13, 2014

Study Abroad Sneak Peek: Belgium



           I have always loved fall.  But autumn in Belgium in an entirely different season than the fall I’ve adored in Los Angeles.  For one thing, the season actually begins close to the calendar’s “First Day of Autumn”.  I’m not joking—the day before that first day, it was sunny and too warm to wear tights and sweaters but literally overnight fall set in and the gloom of clouds and drizzles made themselves very much known.  Of course, I don’t mind the clouds—the softer lighting makes for interesting pictures—and my hot chocolate addiction looks all the more reasonable when it’s a bit chilly outside.  Long story short: I’m loving the Belgium weather.
            As this program is called the EU in Action, it makes perfect sense to be in close contact with the institutions that make the EU function and make Brussels more than a pretty dot on the map.  Monday ended with a trip to the Council of the EU (note: different from the Council of Europe and the European Council, which are of course very different from each other) to discuss the current period of transition plaguing, I mean, that the EU is currently enjoying.  All of us geeked out a bit when we got to sit in the Council members’ chairs and “represent” (for a half second) an EU country. (We also had fun guessing the English names of the EU countries based on their native names). 
           
Belgium is an interesting country to live in.  The divisions along language lines are very real and very stark.  For example, one of the first weekend I was here I went to a castle in Flanders, which is the Flemish speaking region outside of the Brussels region. As soon as we crossed the border between Brussels (which is dual-lingual) and Flanders, everything was in Flemish.  The next day I went to Namur, which is in Wallonia aka the French-speaking region of Belgium—everything is only in French. This includes train announcements when traveling within Belgium; based on where you are going and coming from, the order of languages the announcements are spoken in changes! The language divisions make the governmental makeup of Belgium all the more interesting.  Most political ideologies are split into two parties—one for the French and one for the Flemish.  Thus, forming a parliamentary government can be quite difficult.  Belgium holds the Guinness World Record for longest time period without an official government: 541 days.  After the most recent elections, the Belgian government was just sworn in on Saturday, five months after the elections!
            My time in Belgium has been awesome, and I look forward to the adventures I have here for the rest of the semester. Until then, au revoir DC!

Credit for this blog post goes to third year Global Scholar Becca Ehling. Thanks, Becca!

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