Monday, 25 October 2010

Learning dutch!

Hey everybody!

that post won't be really hard to write because I've just started to learn some dutch. As most of you know, in Belgium there are three official languages: flemish/dutch (Flanders), french (Wallonia) and german (Lüttich). I'm doing my erasmus in Leuven (Flanders) so the university gives to the new students the oportunity to learn dutch for free. At first it doesn't seem really useful, but I think it's being interesting and funny, although I have to study too. I don't know if I'll come back to live here again or maybe in the Netherlands, but I think it's really important to learn the language of your host country. Now I can say hello, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome... and I should know how to introduce myself and my family.

The funniest thing of learning dutch is that in the lessons you meet people from different countries and all of us have to learn the new language from the english (and that's neither my native language), so it's a bit more difficult but I really enjoy. If you don't have a lot of courses to follow and you want to learn something new, it's a good choice! It really doesn't matter if I'll use it again, I'll see :) but now it's being useful!

Maybe in future posts I'll write something interesting in dutch, now I just can write basic expressions. For the time being, here you have a funny song from the first lesson!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Last saturday my friends and I decided to go to Maastricht. From Leuven is really easy to go there and we thought it would be exciting to go to the Netherlands and visit such an important city. Troughout the history of the European Union there have been a large number of important cities where took place european conferences, meetings and treaties. Maastricht was the city where the European Community change its name to European Union as we know today. It was the first time that the member-state governments and representatives talked about an "european citizenship" and they also discussed about vital issues like judicial cooperation, subsidiarity and monetary union.

As a european citizens we wanted to come to Maastricht and see what happen with the city to had been chosen for the Treaty. In fact, there's nothing really different or special there but it's a nice city to visit. I don't want to write as a guide, because the article on wikipedia about the city has a lot of useful information. I'm thinking about how was our day there, how we feel there and what we enjoyed most. Firstly, I have to say that I feel really proud that we can go by train to the next country without no border control, we just had to go to Liège and take another train and ultimately we just spend an hour and a half to arrive to Maastricht. It was probably the coldest day I've ever had since I arrived to Belgium. The city it's not so far but I could really feel the temperature falling down. We haven't really planned the trip so we went from the Station (it's a nice building but I prefer Antwerpen station) to the Tourist Office and we decided to do a walk tour. It was getting colder during the morning and we didn't see the sun in the hole day so we walked around the city and we could really enjoy some sightseeings like the Helpoort or the Basilica of Our Lady. Through city streets I found some little charming shops with curious gift or home decoration items.

The white cloudy sky started to rain each half an hour, but we finished our walking tour around a nice animal park, where I could feel sorrounded by nature. Now I know why people say that the Netherlands means green and feeling peaceful... because you are in a city and in the forest at the same time, and that's great! You can choose what you prefer every day. I'm sure that it would have been interesting to go there in a weekday because normally it's full of students and, as happens in Leuven, the city changes a lot. But it was definetly alive and full of people in the shopping centre, where we could find a nice and cheap restaurant to rest a bit.

One of the most funny and surprising place was a bookshop which was inside a church. I'm not sure about the name of the street but I think it's quite famous. Inside the big religious building I could find amounts of books in different languages

What I found really interesting was all people speaking Dutch, I couldn't really understand them but I knew at least some words from the language course and I hope it will be useful in the future. Maastricht was rainy all the afternoon and we spend some time in the big Market, in the main city centre, plenty of food stalls (sweet snacks or the typical Frituur, which means fries and not really healthy things... but they tast always good, that's the problem!) But I think that the most strange and new experience was to have a warm chocolademelk (hot chocolate) in a Coffee Shop. Yes, a dutch Coffee Shop, and I just have to say that they ask us for our ID card. I'm not joint smoker and anything like that but it was surprising to stay there. That means also the Netherlands. And I was talking with a friend from Norway about the politics in this country, because there is allowed so much things that normally are forbidden in european countries (most people know about the famous red district in Amsterdam).

Despite the cold and the rain we enjoyed our trip to Maastricht and it made me feel different. I could discover a small part of one of the powerful european countries and I would like to know more about that. It's unlike any other place I have visit so far. And it's attractive and, of course, it smells a bit different :)

Oh, the pictures will be uploaded soon! Blogger is doing maintenance!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Brugge: world heritage city

I have been thinking about what I should write about this amazing city. I found impossible to say how it makes me feel. It's the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders. Brugge. Even the name is beautiful. Some people call it the Venice of the North because it's full of canals. I've been to Venice and I can say it's really different.

Brugge it's the belgian most famous city, besides Brussels. Maybe it has too much tourists and you cannot really feel just in one day which kind of city is. Although it's a comercial centre with an important port, you don't awake its modern life because it seems to be stopped in the middle ages. Like a fairytale, as the city you could imagine when you're a child and you think about princes and princesses, witches, horse carts, haunted castles... It's quite difficult to get to the city centre because it's still the kind of city with narrow cobbled streets but it makes the walk more interesting. Well-preserved traditional buildings, small churches everywhere and a large number of nice pictures you can take.

As all the belgian cities, Brugge has the main centre in the Grote Markt, with the Belfry or Belfort, a medieval bell tower. It's so hard to walk up it but it's really worth. The city centre is plenty of interesting buildings as the city hall, the Church of Our Lady and the Burg Markt. But you can find all the information about that in a city guide or in the website ( I just wanna explain - and it will be a bit difficult because my english is not good enough to talk about feelings - what does Brugge conveys me.

When I walked around the main streets I found something different. It doesn't make me feel in my element but the quite atmosphere - despite the amounts of tourists - was relaxing. When I just left the centre and go around the canals (one of my favourites is the Dijver canal) to the north part of the city I felt like in another place, in another country, even in another world. Or maybe in other age. Of course it was interesting to see the touristical sights but I really enjoyed a short walk through time. If you just leave a bit the touristical part of the city you can find an incredible silence. A peaceful silence just broken by the river or the peal of bells. Just thinking about nothing and looking at the nice colourful houses.

Burgge has obviously important shopping streets and also a lot of souvenir shops. They were really nice but too much typical for my liking. Laces, chocolate, postcards... but, in fact, there was something else more satisfying. A sail around Brugge canals to find a different point of view of what you've seen before. The city insight. I think it's better than go for a horse ride though it can be really nice (but a bit expensive...). Afterwards it's a nice idea to find the Wollestraat (close to the Grote Markt) and there's a great pub where you can taste different kinds of belgian beers for a cheap prize and sit by the river and enjoy the scenery.

During the afternoon... what can be better than walking around the big river plenty of ducks and swans? Relaxing, lovely place. The Minnewater. It's called the Love Lake. And the closest Beguinage. Shooting, reading a book, sitting on the grass, walking into mysterious stories... I should write more about that and spend a long day in Brugge. I'll never get fed up visiting Brugge...

In this link you can find all the information about the city and also a really nice panoramic views.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

in the heart of Europe

Most of the subjects I'm studying at the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven are related to European Studies. This mean that I'm attending to lessons about politics, international relations, arts, literature... always related to Europe. Belgium is at least one of the most important countries in the European Union and if you're studying here you cannot ignore that.

I'm not going to copy my notes eventhough they're really interesting but I'll upload here some maps. Today the teacher of International Relations and European Integration has shown us these images and we've discussed them. It's really interesting to be in the same group of amounts of people from different countries and also different continents. I've seen how many points of view can exist all over the world and it makes me feel different. It makes me feel a little piece of a hole puzzle and also I have now the evidence that I have no idea about the world, not even Europe.

I just want to show everybody these maps because I'm sure you'll think about it.

European point of view of the world
USA point of view of the worldArabic point view of the world

Chinese point of view of the world

Let's think about that. Who has the right point of view?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Listening to Belgium

I have just discovered some beligan groups and good flemish singers. Here you have some of my favourite songs... I love to listen to new music from other countries, and they play really nice!

Eva de Roovere - Fantastic Toch

Hannelore Bedert - Smaak

dEUS - Instant Street

Hannelore Bedert - Vocabulaire

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

discovering Brussels

It's quite difficult to explain which kind of city is Brussel... because it's really different from the other belgian cities. Not only is the biggest city, it's also the political and cultural centre, a risky mix of cultures, you can get lost in its streets and then feel like far away... but I think that if walloon and flemish struggle for it, they must have good reasons.

Normally most visitors arrive at Gare Central or Brussel Centraal, the main train station. If you come by train to Brussel, the international station is called Gare du Midi or Brussel Zuid. The city centre includes different ways of life, there is not only the most known buildings or museums, there are some other interesting and not really turistic places. It's only up to you if you want to get lost inside the old Brussel, sometimes it can be a bit creepy in the evening but I find it really cool because of the amounts of people who is going and coming anytime. I'm sure I should write different posts about Brussel, maybe the best start is going for a tour around the old town.

For the time being, I've been there four or five times so I'm not really an expert but I think it's so nice. When you're off the train in Brussel Central and you go outside, there's a square with the Le Meridien Brussels Hotel. You cannot really feel that you're in Brussel until you go a bit far through the Madelein street and you can smell the fries. In the corner between that street and le Place the Spagne there's one of the typical fries take-away shop. It has been the best one as far as I can know, and you can buy fries with different types of sauce, I've just discovered the brazilian sauce and it tastes really good! It's quite sweet but you can also find spicy ones.

Normally there's a market in the square where you can find atypical souvenirs like beer shaped candles or handmade t-shirts. Not so far there's the Galerie de la Reine, one of the beautiful places of the city centre where you can eat something or buy chocolates. But if you just follow the smell of chocolate you'll go to the Heuvelstraat, a small street that leads you to the famous Grand Place. There it's so funny to go inside the chocolateries and really get excited with the big chocolate fountain, if you're lucky someone can invite you to try it for free! it tastes really good and not too sweet. It's an important street also because of the Tintin Boutique, a nice shop about the famous cartoon plenty of t-shirts, teddies and so many things.

When you just follow the people and go to the Grand Place you can realize you're in Brussels. I don't know really why. You get really impressed for the beautiful buildings but also because there's a lot of people there and it's really a nice place to take pictures. Depending on the day you go to the Grand Place you can find a flower markt and a lot of painters selling their art. While you're looking around it, you can see that each building has its own charm... it's not just the appearence, it's also the story that all of them hide. Some weeks ago I went to Brussel and there was a big beer festival with a lot of tents selling cheap beer and people just staying there enjoying the sunny day (

When you know the story about the Brussels City Hall you feel a bit skeptic because it's funny and sad, maybe because the city can also be funny and sad. The city centre is plenty of street sellers trying to give you roses, cleenex or whatever they have... and there are also a lot of beggars (as probably in all the big cities). It makes you feel a bit strange because you are really enjoying the city as a visitor but probably everything changes a lot when you are in the same street every day. Following the Rue de l'Etuve you'll be in one of the souvenir streets, but I don't really like this kind of typical presents. If you want to find better designs you have to go to the Brussels Corner shop in this street and also in Grasmarkstraat (close to the Galerie de la Reine). The most interesting shops in Rue de l'Etuve are the laces shops and the typical chocolateries. But if you feel really sweet and you want to see the Manneken Pis, the famous statue, you just have to follow the belgian waffle smell through the street.

The Manneken Pis is smaller than you think, sure. But it's also sorrounded by tourists. The funniest thing is visit him different days and see how many dresses he has. Sometimes it can be a bit stupid but the legends around the statue are funny. There's also the Manneken Pis Chocolaterie with a lot of different products inspired in the famous statue. The fist time I saw the Manneken Pis I couldn't find anything such interesting to be as famous as he is. And five years ago I cannot really find it cool. But it's different... and Brussels is different.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Stadpark afternoon

Rainy day in Leuven... but life doesn't stop, even if it rains. It can be a sad grey city. But it's wonderful anytime.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the Stadpark of Leuven. It's such a nice place. My friend Laura and me went there to stay calm sitting on a bench, talking and talking... and she said me something that surprised me but I also liked it. She said that the erasmus is like a fairytale. Both of us really loved fairytales when we were young and now we're enjoying a new one but a bit different. Fairytales always have a prince who has got a kingdom. We had also a kingdom when we were at home. We grew up there and it was really confortable. But if the prince wants to achieve his dreams he has to fight for them. And that's what we're doing now. As he usually does, we will have to fight against dragons and mysteries... our fears and all the problems that we have to solve.

This fairytale won't be easy. But we cannot give up it. It's our dream and we're convinced about that. So if we try to fight, maybe we will be able to found another kingdom. Each one has to do that. And I hope mine will be the best kingdom possible.

Monday, 23 August 2010

around Leuven

It's difficult to write what Leuven means... which Leuven is in front of my eyes... Leuven is not a city of great contrasts, I think that the contrast of Barcelona stole my heart years ago... but Leuven is different. It's incredibly beautiful, it has a special light which changes each hour... the blue sky is a bit different, not so cloudy now but plenty of different colours during the sunrise and the sunset. What I like most is sitting somewhere and watch people going and coming back in the street... Leuven is calm and movement, it hides lots of charming places and it's so nice to discover it by bike, trying to get something new. When it's sunny people leave their home and fill the streets... families, students, old people sitting and discussing about everything...

I like Leuven any day. It can be rainy and windy but it's funny to come back home fast by bike. It can be sunny and I love spending hours in Ladeuzeplein (in front of the central library) watching people, reading... it's a nice place where you can feel alone in the crowded city. In the Grote Markt you can feel as a tourist taking photos from the Old City Hall and St.Peter Cathedral, and eat a belgian waffle while you're dreaming about centuries ago... and within easy walking distance... we can find the Oude Markt and it's the best place to discover the Belgian Beer and nice ice-creams!

One of my best streets in Leuven is the Muntstraat which is situated behind the Old City Hall and you can find lots of different restaurants. It's lovely to go for a walk during the afternoon there, when most people are sitting outside and having dinner, so you can see the meals they've chosen and decide what you want! Pizza, pasta, mexican, belgian cuisine... and after dinner it's a good choice to have a coctail in the Professor (Naamstraat street). If you want to eat Japanese, Portuguese... you can go to Paarijsstraat, so close to the Oude Markt. It smells really good!

I'm not an expert about the city but I like going for a walk and try to discover nice places. I hope I'll improve my Leuven skills :)

Grote Markt
Belgian Waffle
University Library - Ladeuzeplein

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Looking for the acommodation

Well, the acommodation...

Probably I've just started the most difficult chapter about Leuven but I could achieve it with patience. It's useful to read (and to study hard!) the KU Leuven website, because it's a bit caothic and it's difficult to find what you are looking for. Leuven is a student city, so most builidings are inhabited by students, but it doesn't mean that most of them are comfortable. Generally there are three kinds of acommodation, depending on your habits, what you like and the money you would like to spend on it. It's also important to know in which faculty will you be studying (some of them are inside the ring of the city, it means in the old city centre) and others are in Heverlee or Kessel-Lo (you can go there by bike or bus).

Leuven has got student residences. Some of them are subzided by the university, so in the KU website they say that this kind of residences are only for belgian students or students with a scholarship. It can be sure, but you must ask by email to this residences and some of them have got rooms available. There are other kind of residences, which are private and they have got a lot of rooms in different floors where you have to share the kitchen, the bathroom and the toilets. Some residences have got rooms with private kitchen or bathroom but they are more expensive than the others. The problem with the residences is that you have to apply for the room from abroad, most of them close the applying period in may so you have to be quickly asking information! and also you have to transfer some money for the reservation. I don't know a lot of information about the residences but I know some names (ask to our know-all Google!):

- Thomas Morus
- J.L Vives
- Goede Herder
- Regina Mundi
- Loyola International

These are some names but there are more residencies available for international students. The problem is to find out the information in the KU website (some of the residences don't have their own website). You can try to look for them in flemish (studenten residentie, for example) and maybe you'll find the web and then you can change the language.

Be careful because here in Leuven there are other kinds of buildings called residences too that are not what (at least, in Spain) you expect. This kind of residences normally hasn't got an official website, so you find them while you're looking for a room. They are similar to the official residences and the owner is who takes care of the facilities and hires the cleaning service.

Well, there is a "culture" of the acommodation in Leuven. The KOT. I haven't got enough information about what it means at all, but it usually is a room in a building with other students with their own room. There are a lot of builidings like this, most of them are old but they have been restored (and some others are still too old, in my opinion). The buildings in Leuven are so beautiful (you just have to look for pics on the internet), precisely because their appearence is charming antique. Depending on the owners of the buildings, the facilities can be better or not. It's so important not to arrange the room from abroad because although it seems to be great for you by the description and photos, it may be not your room.

So the best way to look for this kind of acommodation is spending some days here in Leuven during the summer and try to find the suitable room for you and sign the contract. If you have planned to do a summer language course or some tourism before the beginning of the academic year, there are many available rooms during july and august, or you can also find people who can rent you the room any time. The available rooms or studios will change depending on the time you'll arrive in Leuven.

In my case, I'll only spend here the first semestre, so I planned to arrive here in August so as to have enough time to find a good room (I didn't have time to arrange a room in a residence from Spain because I didn't know anything about the procedure and the period). So it's important to remind you that most residences only rent rooms for students who will stay here during the hole academic year (10-12 months), but some of them offer rooms during a semestre.

Well, about the kots, they can be rooms or studios. This mean that a room is smaller than a studio and it usually has got only the bed, a desk and a wardrobe. This also depends on the owner of the room (pay attention on it because some rooms don't have mattress and you'll have to buy it one here!). Some rooms has got private kitchen or private bathroom but most of them are in buildings where you have to share them with other students (I've seen many different rooms that seemed to be good for me but I didn't like because, for example, I have to climb to floors to take a shower or there was only one toilet for eight students). This kind of rooms has got different prices depending on the facilities and the situation, ranging from 200€ to 350€.

The studios are normally bigger than the rooms, most of them has got private kitchen or bathroom. They can be in a building with other studios or not. Some of them are individuals an others has to be shared (so if you come here with a friend it can be the best way to live, probably cheaper). The prices rang from 400€ to 600€.

Well, my choice has been a bit different. Depending on how much time will you stay here, the Housing Service of the university gives a list of available rooms and studios. I found a room in a shared apartment with two belgian students. It is a new building so the facilities are so good and I'll only have to share the bathroom and the kitchen with two people. My room is 30m2 so it's so big and I can invite friends :) The monthly price is 370€. I started looking for rooms between 250-300 but most of them didn't seem comfortable.

I hope this information will be useful :)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The luggage

Well, after booking the flights and the guesthousing in Leuven the most important thing is planning everything you have to do before leave so as to be succesfully.

It's important to read carefully the dossier Living in Leuven from the KU of Leuven and has got under control everything related with the health insurance, passport, Visa... In my case, I had to ask for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), in Spain you can do it trought internet and they send the card at home (it's so easy and useful!). When you arrive in Leuven, the City Hall will ask you about the health insurance and you can show this card.

Another important thing is the International Student Card which will allow you to have lots of advantages. I haven't got it yet but I think it would be possible to get it here in Leuven. I'll ask for it!

About the luggage... oh it's a bit difficult to set up everything well! I only had to think about the first semestre, so my cases were plenty of sweaters, scarves, winter hats... I think the winter will be cold this year. Dispite this, I took summer and autumn clothes too. Don't forget lots of socks and underwear! I cannot give much advice about it, because it's a personal decision, but it can be useful to take a little iron, a sewing kit and something to clean shoes.

I took two big cases with clothes and shoes and another little case which was on the plane during the flight. I put there a clothes change in case they lost the luggage, the camera, the videocamera and other electronic things. Don't be afraid if the luggage is so heavy, it's normal :) so depending on your flying company you should pay more or not. Maybe you can plan with your family that they can send you most heavy things like books

I think I've said all about the luggage :) see you!

From Leuven!

Hi everybody :)

I'm writing from the famous library from the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven. It's probably one of the most spectacular buildings I've ever seen.

I arrived here the 8th of August and it is being the great adventure of my life. I've just planned to talk about different topics: the luggage, the flight, the guesthousing, finding the acommodation, banking... I don't know if I'll have enough time for all these! Unluckily I haven't got internet connection in my apartment yet, but I'm trying to get it soon :)

I just want to explain my viewpoint about these first days, and I would like to do some advices if you're planning to come here. It's a good city, it's the student city of Belgium and you can notice it because it's plenty of young people from all over the world and there are a lot of buildings from the university. I cannot find any street without one of those!

So, I apologize for the mistakes. I'm trying to practise, you know!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Before leaving...

There's so much to do before flying to Belgium!

The bureaucracy it's a bit stressful but I'm sure it'll success little by little. It has been difficult to do the "Learning Agreement" with my home university and the Katholieke University of Leuven. Finally I've just chosen four subjects and I hope I'll be able to follow them, it must be difficult to attend english lessons but it will let me improve and that sounds great!

Well, my erasmus tutor from Barcelona let me choose some subjects which are not related to journalism at all. I'll attend to lessons about International Relations, European Policy, Human Righsts Law and (my best election) European Art and Literature. In the KU of Leuven do not exist an specific degree in journalism or media studies, so I'll be studying in the Social Science Faculty with other students from this area. However, when I start the lessons in Leuven I'll be able to make changes, depending on the timetable or the language of teaching.

It's not easy to advise about the learning agreement because every university has different procedures but usually erasmus students cannot attend to technical or practical lessons (most offered subjects are theorical or historical). In the UAB we use an application from Sigma company which allows erasmus students to do the learning agreement easier but sometimes it is a bit confusing. You have to calculate the equivalence between the spanish credits and the ECTS for each subject and print different copies in the spanish and english version.

I've just bought my flight to Belgium too. It's a bit expensive to travel through most famous airlines so I decided to fly with Vueling. It's good because I can travel from Barcelona (El Prat) to Brussels (Zaventem), which was considered the best european airport in 2005. The other Brussels airport is Charleroi, which is situated in the south of the city and it's propierty of the Walloon government. When I arrive to Leuven I'll write here my opinion about the flight, I hope it will be ok because it's only the second time I travel by plane!

Well, the last part (and so important) is to arrange the guesthousing. The website of the KU gives information about youth hostels and this kind of acommodation but I prefer a hotel because I'll be there during a week with my parents and they want to stay on holiday. The Housing Service plans to find my acommodation in a maximum of one week so I've booked the Mercure Leuven Centre and it seems a good hotel with comfortable threefold rooms. Some websites like Trip Advisor helped me to decide.

I hope to write soon.
See you!

Monday, 12 July 2010



my name is Liss and I am from Barcelona (Spain). I'm studying a degree in Journalism and I will be studying in Leuven during the first semestre of the next course.

Since I was a teenager I was thinking about travelling and studying abroad. When I was 16 I did an exchange with the Mater Dei School in Brussels and I stayed one week with a flemish family from Tervuren, a little village near to the big city. I lived there the best experience of my life and it'll be a pleasure to come back. Now I'm planning my Erasmus and it's a bit difficult to follow all the steps but I'm really excited about the experience.

I'll try to explain my experience through practical information on this blog and I want to do it in english to improve my writing skills, so I'm sorry for the mistakes! Luckily, my Erasmus will be a good way to speak and write better, because they'll teach me in english. I'll attend to subjects related to international relations, european policy, european art and literature... It sounds great, doesn't it?

Thank you so much to read me :) see you on the next post!