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!