This is where you can find my travel blog in which I will reflect on my thoughts, feelings, and experiences had while in Europe! BEWARE: before reading on, this will not be a step-by-step of my time here. Nor will it contain any journalistic prose or even cohesive sentence structure for that matter. Expect typos and many opportunities to shake your head in disbelief that I've made it this far in my educational career...
Having provided a necessary disclaimer, I will continue. This week has been wild. I feel like I've been going a million miles an hour with only the occasional shut eye, most of which is temporary while adjusting to a new schedule. But I must say, the transition could have been worse. The team at The IES and Jean-Marie (and his girlfriend) have been incredible. In fact, I can't imagine doing this first week without their guidance and help to show us the ropes. From buying us meals to aiding in my poor pronunciation of French words, they have been pillars of stability and comfort in an extremely transitory and fluid week. Or, to borrow from the Jason Mraz song that is currently blaring though my headphones, "an island of reality in an ocean of diarrhea" (sorry, too perfect of timing not to include it).
But it hasn't been just free meals and city tours, though plenty of both have been included so far. We have done some preliminary work, most of which has been orientation to the program at IES and Vesalius College. I am super excited about the EU Redux curriculum we are learning at IES. The two lectures we've had so far have been tremendously informative and held my interest longer than I initially expected they would. The best so far has been a comparative analysis of the internal markets of the EU and the United States. I will know more about the International Trade course at Vesalius next week.
When it comes to the housing, I counted my chickens before they hatched. But, to be fair, Hendrix teased us with extremely nice accommodations at the U-Residence (where we had daily turndown service *wtf we're 20-something college students*) and then put us into this Martin-Hall-esque student house where a creature seems to be growing out of our bathroom vent. While I do bitch a bit, that isn't to say that the place is not extremely interesting. Lofted beds and lots of other languages make for interesting evenings.
We've tackled a lot of stuff in just one week. So far my favorite experiences have been the tours of Brussels and Bruges. There is so much great stuff to see. Bruges was by far my favorite, though. The city is gorgeous and I couldn't help but take a billion photos of the architecture for my daddy. There is a reason the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We saw some neat things, but nothing compared to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The structure was built in 1134, only four years after the crystal vile (purportedly) containing the blood of Jesus Christ was obtained by crusaders who placed it in this site, en Bruges (shout out to Collin Farrell).
I sat down for a moment in the front row of wicker chairs to reflect. I looked up at the stained glass and saw figures (presumably) from the church's past, the Stations of the Cross, and the stunning murals on the walls. I couldn't help but feel a connection with those that have come before me (sounds cheesy, I know but shut up and stop reading if you can't deal). This thought lead to another. It led me to my Grandma Judy. My mother's mother, a devout catholic with a protestant work ethic. She's worked for everything she has, and as a result my mother gained this trait. I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of both gratitude and ineptitude in that whicker chair. I don't often pray, but I said a prayer for my Grandma. I prayed for her health and asked for half of the strength of that little, ole' Irish lady. She and I used to light candles at her church (St. Joe's in Conway!) during adoration when I was young and couldn't get out of going to Mass. I paid 50 Euro cents and lit a candle for her. I made sure to set it far apart from the rest...
It's now 1:43 a.m. here in Brussels, and the fact that I'm tired means I'm finally adjusting. I think that's enough for tonight, but I want to end on what I'm looking forward to next week. I found out that I got one of three interviews for an internship at the European Parliament. I'm SUPER excited about this, but at the same time a little nervous. Regardless of how it goes, I feel blessed to be this far since it's based solely on my resume. It means I'm doing something right. We will be going to Amsterdam next weekend where I will meet up with an old friend who is studying in England. I have gotten to know this group of people much better in just this week alone, and I couldn't ask for a better group to be here with. I'll leave off with a few photos and a song. The weather here SUCKS and I can't get some lines in this song out of my head. Makes me miss warm summer nights in Arkansas. Until next week, au revoir (said in my native arkie tongue... *pronounce the "r"s*).