Sunday, September 28, 2014

Insta Recap #3

Hello readers! Happy Sunday! Today I come to you with another Insta Recap! I also posted a picture of my dog Scout on Instagram this week, but I didn't put her here, since I figured my readers didn't need to see my dog. I traveled around Belgium quite a bit during my time here and this past week marked the first week of classes in Leuven! Enjoy!

Some stunning flowers I saw while in Brugge

A view of the yard at the Nachbar Huis

While in Antwerp, I got sassy with a statue as the MAS.

The most incredible Belgian strawberries from the farmer's market

In the Oude Markt with  a Belgian beer sign- you've gotta love Stella here in Leuven!

A throwback I posted on the Love Bridge in France

Posing as Manneken Pis in Brussels, the most famous statue there

If you are not already, please feel free to follow me on instagram @clementinejacobs to see all of my pictures in real time! I hope you all enjoyed my Insta recap #3- have a great week!

Friday, September 26, 2014

One month in Leuven

I have been in Europe for a month. An entire month already, even though it seems I only just arrived. Although it has only been 30 days. I learned so much. While the United States and Leuven, Belgium have many similarities, there are many things that are not the same in the slightest. In the article "Creating global Thinkers" by John Girard from the website, Girard writes about the importance of study abroad for students, emphasizing the lessons the students learn. In his piece, he claims that there are lessons that students can only learn when they study abroad, not in a classroom. Inspired by Girard's article, I am going to write about the lessons I have learned through the differences of living here compared to the United States during my first month in Leuven.

While in the Huis (that means 'house' in Dutch) kitchen for the first time, I noticed the first major difference: the garbage. In the United States, we have recycling and garbage in two separate bags. That's it. In Belgium, recycling is huge. Being such a small country, Belgium does not have the space to create many landfills or dispose of waste like the United States does. With that being the case, the Belgians emphasize recycling. Here in Belgium, there are three different trash bags and multiple bins for garbage depending on what is being disposed.  For example, there is a blue bag for cartons and bottles, a green bag for organic waste, a bin for paper, a special box for hazardous waste, and a brown bag for all other trash that cannot be recycled. When I first saw this system, I thought I would never understand it. There were so many bins and rules to follow, my head started spinning. I did not want to put the garbage in the wrong bin and get in trouble, which can happen, If the garbage is improperly sorted, we have to go through it and take out the illegal contents, which is gross. Being here in Belgium, I learned about the importance of recycling and when I go to the store, I am trying to only buy products that can be recycled, because the bags to collect non recyclables are quite expensive. With this new system of waste disposal, I am now more conscious of what I throw away and what I choose to purchase. In the States, I never thought about the waste I generate, but here I am seeing garbage through a new lens, thanks to the multiple garbage bins. I am learning to live with less and attempting to generate less waste, which helps the environment, as well as I consciously think about my consumerism. Belgium taught me to be more conscious of what I choose to buy and what impact my purchases will have.

The second major difference here in Leuven also fall under the eco-friendly category; In Leuven, everyone rides a bike as their main mode of transportation. On one hand in the United States, people drive as their primary transportation or take public transportation if it is available and might bike if necessary. On the other hand, Belgians ride bikes as their primary mode of transport, since Leuven is so small and gasoline is very expensive. During my month here, I have seen all types of people on bikes, from elderly women to businessmen in black suits, to mothers carrying children in carts their backs. Even when it rains, the people of Leuven are out on their bikes riding from place to place. Biking is so popular that bike theft is actually one of the number one crimes here! For me, it has been very eye opening to ride a bike or walk everywhere. Like the garbage, it has made me evaluate how I get places and how much more biking or walking I could do in the US, since driving is so horrible for the environment. Biking has shown me that I can perfectly navigate a city without the help of a car and that I could easily bike around my hometown without a problem, which I hope to do when my year is finished. Leuven, through biking and garbage, has inspired me to look closely about the lifestyle choices I have selected and be more aware of the impact my choices make on our earth.

For me thus far, the most surprising difference has been the difference in laundry, which I did not expect. While at home, I do laundry  in my basement or pay $2.25 at school to wash, dry, and fold a load in under 2 hours. With that in mind, I did laundry almost every week. In Leuven, it is totally different. To use the washing machine at school is costs 3.50 euro, which is about $5 in the United States and the dryer, which only makes your clothes slightly less damp, is an additional charge of 1.50 euro.  In Leuven, I changed my laundry approach, since it costs so much more and I have to use a clothesline to dry my clothes. Now,  I mainly wash my clothes in the shower. In the shower, I bring my clothes and some detergent and wash them like the "Pioneer Woman" I am. Once they are washed, I wring them out and hang them on a clothesline in my bedroom to dry overnight. Never did I think I would be doing so much laundry in the shower, yet here I am admitting that I have yet to use the washing machine since I have been here. Not only that, I wear every piece of clothing more than once before I wash it. Eventually, I will do a real load, but I am waiting a few more days until it becomes absolutely necessary, which it just about is. Not having the access to laundry I am used to, I adjusted my course of action. The laundry situation here has shown me that I can adapt to new things and that I can live without some modern conveniences and can devise new ways to solve problems, like the shower as a washing machine or creating a clothesline out of a wire ans some ingenuity. Changing routines can be frightening and hand washing my clothes has shown me that I can change my routines and still survive.  Plus, using the shower as a washing machine is saving me time and money, which is a major advantage.

The hardest thing I adaptedt to has been the timetables of life here in Leuven. In America, stores are open late, until 9 p.m. or later, some even 24-hours a day. I can run out at any time to buy groceries or get a cup of coffee. In Leuven, every store closes at 6 p.m. and nothing is open on Sunday, with the exception of bars and restaurants which are open late and on the weekends, too. Many an evening, I  sat in my room wishing I could run to the store to pick up an ingredient for dinner or a pack of flashcards to do homework with, but alas, I cannot. It has been quite the adjustment, since I have to plan trips to the store in advance to ensure it will be open. Sundays were the worst because nothing is open, so it felt like there was nothing to do. I adjusted to relax on Sunday, which is what the Belgians do, too. I go for walks, sit in the yard, and spend time with my classmates, which has been really nice. I enjoy my relaxing Sundays and I am getting used to the idea that nothing important can take place on Sunday, except maybe mass. With these different hours of operation, I am learning to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, as well as to plan what I need to do throughout the week. Sundays have become important in my routine because they help me to unwind and prep for the week, which has been really helpful. It has been nice on Sundays to reflect and have time to myself, something that does not always happen in America.

The final difference I adjusted to is in regards to going out. In America, there is a certain culture and standard when it comes to going out. We go out around 11 p.m. and come back around 2 or 3 a.m. We wear heels and dresses to go out, dressing to the nines with makeup and perfume. Plus, we only go out Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays. In Belgium, no one goes out until 12 p.m. and they stay out as late as 6 a.m. The biggest nights here for going out are Tuesday and Wednesday and the weekends are dead because the Belgians go home to their families to relax. When Europeans go out, it is incredibly casual, even if its to a dance club or a bar. To go out, everyone wears jeans and girls wear a nice top or tee shirt with little to no makeup, and the guys were tee shirts and jeans. In Europe, they do not try so hard when they go out and that got me thinking; Why do I have to try so hard when I go out? Can I go out without putting in so much effort and still feel comfortable? I realized that I like to go out and be dressed casually and I like not having the pressure to look a certain way. After a few weeks here, I like the way they go out here, minus the fact that they go out so late and I like to sleep! I enjoy not having to spend so much time getting ready and that I can wear the same clothes to go out that I wore during the day. On top of that, I feel as though I get to show my true self, not some made-up version of me. The European way of going out has taught me to be more comfortable with the way that I look, which can be hard nowadays. Being in Leuven has helped me feel more comfortable with the way that I look and how I present myself.

During my time in Leuven, I learned to become self-sufficient in a new way. I buy my own groceries, cook my own food, go to the pharmacy, and fill out legal paperwork to gain residency. Not only that, I navigate the city with help of others and have learned my way around quickly and feel confident  I can travel around Leuven on my own. Being here, I feel more independent than ever. I always felt like I underestimated what I am capable of and Leuven has shown me that I can do anything and I can adapt to a new way of living. I have gained confidence in myself and feel as though I can truly conquer anything, whether it is a challenging course or travelling around Europe on my own. I am challenging the way that I live, the way that I see, the way that I feel.

Like the students taught by Girard, I have already learned so much during my time in Leuven and will only continue to grow and change as the year progresses. Girard is absolutely correct in saying that students learn lessons abroad they cannot learn at home and I am the living proof. There are things I have learned in Leuven I never would have learned in america and I am grateful for that. Here, I am going to continue to grow and change as a person, and that excites me. I enjoyed opening up to you guys about the things I have learned and I am thankful to John Girard for the inspiration to write this piece. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

If you'd like to read Girard's piece here is the link:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Antwerp and Breendonk

This past Saturday, I embarked on another Belgian day trip with some of my friends to Breendonk and Antwerp. Our first stop was Breendonk, which used to be a concentration camp during World War II. According to our tour, there were 3,500 prisoners housed in Breendonk, 30 of whom were women. At this camp, prisoners were tortured and forced into demanding physical labor. Many of the prisoners housed there were resistance fighters and criminals, as well as Jews. Our tour guide told us that all of the prisoners were interrogated and tortured to give up information and of the thirty women tortured here, not one of them ever revealed a thing. The willingness of these prisoners to suffer to protect others is incredible and I have infinite respect for these men and women. Being at the camp, it was difficult to imagine what it truly must have been like and I am grateful to our tour guide for telling us exactly what happened inside the walls of the camp. Our tour guide acted as though he was the SS, trying to give us a tiny taste of what being in Breendonk must have felt like. Visiting Breendonk showed me just a small part of the suffering that occurred during World War II and I am overwhelmed to have experienced this for myself. Nothing can compare with seeing one of these camps in real life and my words cannot, and will not, ever do this place justice.

Our Tour guide Chris in Breendock

The exterior of Breendock

A wall containing some of the names of the Breendonk prisoners

After Breendonk, we rode onward to Antwerp, a port city here in Belgium.Upon arriving, we walked through the city and went out to lunch. Kat, Lexie, and I stopped to eat at the cute outdoor patio of a restaurant called De groote witte arend, or "the great white eagle." For lunch, I tried a sandwich with radishes, onion, and cheese with a side of fries and it was pretty good. The other girls sampled the salad and the tomato and meatball soup, which smelled incredible.

Lunch time!

Since we were only in Antwerp for the day, our next stop was the Museum aan de Stroom, or the Museum on the River. This museum, which opened in 2011, is a must see for anyone visiting Antwerp.For this museum, we opted for the guided tour and our tour guide was like a history book of knowledge, which made the tour extremely educational. The building has a terrace, called the Panorama, on the top where we got a 360-degree view of Antwerp and the river. Inside, each floor of the museum is divided by a different theme. Some of the topics addressed in the museum were Life and Death, which was my favorite, Power, and Metropolis. This museum did an awesome job incorporating multimedia presentations with the artifacts and pieces of art. I enjoyed the themes used on each floor, since they were unusual compared to the sections of many other museums. Since we only had two hours, we had a brief tour of each floor, yet I could have spent two hours on each floor it was that wonderful! If you are ever in Antwerp, the MAS is a must see! After our time in the MAS, it was time to head back to Leuven.

A Minerva car from the 1930's

A giant mask used in Carnival

Getting sassy with a statue

All in all, Antwerp and Breendonk were two great areas to combine into one day trip that was not at all overwhelming. I do however suggest that if you visit the MAS, try to go for more than jsut two hours, since there is so much to see. I enjoyed Antwerp so much, I am looking forward to planning  a return trip very soon!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blooming in Brugge

Boy, oh, boy was Brugge beautiful. This past Tuesday, I went for the day with my classmates to Brugge and it was a wonderful day trip. Our morning started early, 7:30 to be exact, and I rode with two classmates to get coffee before we rode the train to Brugge. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I tried Belgian hot chocolate and the barista created it by putting a chocolate medallion into a cup of hot milk and stirring it until it melted into one. The train from Leuven to Brugge is an hour and a half, so before we knew it we  arrived.

Our time in Brugge began in the Begijnhof. According to our professors, a Begijnhof is a community where women lived together, taking a vow of chastity. The women that lived in the Begijnhofs were similar to nuns, yet they did not take any type of religious oath. All women, pure or not, were accepted into these communities, living simple lives, Women could bring what they had and could leave when they pleased. While the women of the Begijnhof  no longer exist today, this community in Brugge is now inhabited by nuns. Prior to going to Brugge, I never heard of the Begijnhof communities before and I found the idea behind them to be very inspiring. These women supported and accepted each other, which is incredible considering the time they lived in. While at the Begijnhof, we saw how traditional lace is made in Brugge and it is an incredible skill. Thread is laced onto pins with small wooden rods and the pins are moved to create the pattern of the lace. Seeing this skill, I am forever going to be impressed with anything lace.

Inside the Begijnhof

A woman demonstrating the traditional lace making of Brugge.

After touring the Begijnhof, we visited the Church of Our Lady, or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk. The highlight of the church, without a doubt, is the Michelangelo marble sculpture. After studying art history my freshman year, I have been anticipating seeing a Michelangelo for some time and it did not disappoint. In the sculpture, it looked as though the Madonna and child could have come to life at any moment. The fluidity of their garments, coupled with the realness of their flash, makes the bodies look like people covered in a smooth coat of paint. On the other sides of the Michelangelo and two other sculptures, and in comparing the three, I could tell the superior quality of the Michelangelo.

The Michelangelo inside the Church of Our Lady in the center

Our next stop was the Groeningmuseum, a museum of Flemish and Dutch artists. In the museum I truly enjoyed a few pieces by  Francois Joseph Kinsoen, Frits van den Berghe, Gustave van de Woestyne, Rik Wouters, and Henri Victor Wolvens. It was a small museum, my perfect size, so it was easy to do in an hour and a half and see everything more or less.

Francois Joseph Kinsoen
The death of Belisarius' wife

Frits van den Berghe
Lovers in the Village

Gustave van den Woestyne
The Last Supper

Rik Wouters
Portrait of Mrs. Giroux

Henri Victor Wolvens
Beach at Koksijde

After gaining some culture at the museum, I set out on my own experiment: to find the best chocolate in Brugge. By the Bell Tower, I wandered down one of the streets, stopping inside every chocolate shop I found. In each shop, I peered into the glass cases, mesmerized by the scent wafting out of the shops. the chocolates, like little brown jewels, sat waiting to be selected.  I finally settled on purchasing candy from a shop called Chocoholic, where I selected quite e few pieces to sample- sea salt caramel, speculoos, truffle, dark chocolate mousse, chili pepper, almond, and chocolate covered orange peels, My favorite, by far, was the chocolate covered orange peel. While eating my candies, I stopped into a few stores like Zara, C &A, and a home goods store.

Town Square

The Bell Tower

Chocolate "Research"

No trip to Brugge would be complete without a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This Basilica, which is tiny, claims to have a vial of the blood of Christ. The Basilica can best be described as a jewel, with colored light streaming in through stained glass that then beams off the gold gilding. While at the Basilica, we even got to venerate the blood, which is a rare treat.

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Interior Of Basilica of the Holy Blood

Finally, the group went on a short canal ride through Brugge, where we saw St. John's Hospital and the swans that inhabit Brugge, In my opinion, everyone should see Brugge from the canals. It allowed us to get a new perspective of the city, plus it was a relaxing way to end a day full of walking. After our boat tour, we rode the train back to our home base, Leuven.

Riding through the canals 

Brugge was a beautiful city that can certainly be conquered in just one day, which is perfect for a busy student like me! I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about Brugge.

 Some stunning blooms in Bruuge

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Insta Recap #2

Hey all! I have had quite the week. Since Tuesday the 9th, I have been attending Dutch class for five hours each day and then I took a midterm Monday! It was a lot of work, but I know I am going to learn quite a lot this semester! Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands- that means "I speak a little bit of Dutch." I also went to Brugge on September 16, so I will be posting more in depth about my time there. Without further ado, my weekly Instagram recap!

On Monday the 9th, we celebrated holiday in Leuven! This meant there was neither class nor work. Instead, there was a carnival all over town with rides and yummy street food. For dinner, I ate an awesome vegan pad Thai on the cobblestone streets and finished with a Belgian chocolate covered strawberry!

On Sunday, I explored the farmers market that occurs every Sunday in Leuven throughout the year. At the market, there was everything from quiche to veggies to local milk to clothes and so much more! On the walk back to the Huis, I had to stop to take a picture with the bread vending machine! Of course, I cannot wait to try it out!

'T Galetje is the BEST gelato I have ever had, I ate there twice this week (oops!) and this is a picture of the tiramisu and cookie, both of which were amazing. The net time I went, I tried the speculoos and had another cookie scoop, which I highly recommend!

 Finally, this Tuesday the 16, I traveled to Brugge, Belgium for the day! This photo was taken inside the Begijnhof, which used to be a religious community of women who were almost nuns, but they never took a religious oath. Today, the Begijnhof is inhabited by nuns. Brugge was wonderful and I cannot wait to tell you all more about it!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

France: The small treasures

In France I experienced more than I ever imagined to in just six days. I have already talked about so much; the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, San Malo and more, Since I posted about the major stuff, I thought it would be nice to post about some of the smaller treasures I found in Paris. I am going to post a few pictures about things that I have not mentioned yet, so let's get started!

They had clementine oranges at a fruit stand in Paris around the corner from my hotel, so naturally I ate one and took a picture of the sign!

Rue du Sommerard, in the Latin Quarter, is location of Hotel Home Latin. Hotel Home Latin was the perfect place to stay in Paris! I loved the blue in the street signs complemented with the green borders.

To be completely honest with you, my favorite meals throughout my week in France were the breakfasts at the Hotel Home Latin! I love breakfast to begin with and French breakfast might be my absolute favorite type of breakfast! I loved having chocolate croissants, baguettes with butter, jam, and cheese, applesauce,yogurt, hot chocolate, and fresh fruit every morning. Seeing this pictures makes me so hungry!

Outside of Shakespeare and Company, we saw some wonderful street performers. I forget the name of the group, but they reminded me of Mumford and Sons, but with a female lead singer! 

On the first night, I saw the Love Bridge in Paris! The amount of locks on the bridge is absolutely amazing. Due to the weight of the locks, some were removed since it was dangerous for the integrity of the bridge!

Here I am outside of Napoleon's tomb, the Dome de Invalides, which is also a has a functioning hospital attached and a wonderfully up kept little garden, which you can see on my right in the photo!

Inside the dome where Napoleon is buried

Inside Shakespeare and company, there is a wall with drawings of many famous authors, so I thought I would pose with F. Scoot Fitzgerald!

 This is the path that I walked out on to get to the Island off the coast of San Malo to watch the sunset with my classmates. It is hard to tell I am standing in water because it was so clear!

I hope you enjoyed my final pictures from France! Au revoir, France!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Normandy and Brittany

While I have mentioned  my time in Paris, I have yet to mention the two days I spent in Normandy and Brittany. After spending four days soaking up the sights in Paris, my classmates and I set out for Brittany and Normandy. After leaving Paris, we stopped in Chartres to see the Cathedral of Chartres. We had a wonderful tour guide who explained to us how to read stained glass windows from the bottom to the top, like going from earth to heaven. The Cathedral was wonderful and then we had free time to explore the town, Chartres can be best described as quaint, with cobblestone pathways and little shops lining the winding streets. While wandering, I saw a farmer'a market with fresh local produce and I stopped in the boulangerie and a sweet shop. The sweet shop, with red awnings and boxes filled to the brim with chocolate, was so inviting.  Caramels and chocolate bonbons covered the counter tops, creating tablecloths of candy, the aroma wafting out onto the street. It was so hard to resist the sweet treasures within the shop! With my classmates, we sat an ate lunch while basking in the French sunlight, stopping to take photos in front of the small river running through the town. After our few hours in Chartres, we made our way to San Malo.

The Cathedral in Chartres
With my friend Lexie by the river in Chartres

Basking in the French sunlight in Chartres- There is nothing like the sun in France!
San Malo is a seaside town on the English Channel, with ramparts on the perimeter that kept pirates out! After our arrival, we spent time walking along these ramparts, relishing in getting to see the French coast and the town from the top of the wall. The next day, we made our pilgrimage to Mont-Saint-Michel, a popular religious site that honors St. Michel the archangel. Like any pilgrimage, we walked from the parking lot all the way to Mont-Saint-Michel, which took about forty minutes. While walking, I thought about all the other pilgrims that walked this path before me; it was moving to think about all of the other believers and what they must have felt walking along the path. The actual Abbey is high off the Mont, so we ascended up the stairs to visit the Abbey. Inside, there was a chapel and a garden on the roof, with small shrubs and a scattering of flower beds. My favorite part was the old mill used to send provisions to the monks from the town below the Abbey! After our trip to Mont-Saint-Michel, we went back to San Malo to spend our night laying on the beach waiting to watch the sunset. For dinner, we ate fries and ice cream in the sand and spent some time petting Igor, the dog in a shoe store. We sat on the sun, breathing in the crisp ocean air. Every night, the tide gets low enough that there is a small island that used to be a monastery turned prison that we walked to once the tide receded. From there, we watched the sun fall into the ocean. This night was probably my favorite of the trip so far. It was so beautiful to watch the sunset on the coast of France on an island that can only be walked to at certain times of the day when the tide is right.

                                                         Mont-Saint-Michel from afar                                                                  

The Abbey

With Lexie and Kathleen on Mont-Saint-Michel

My French love, Igor

           Here I am with some of my classmates walking the path from the beach to the island off the coast once the water receded enough!

I can walk on water!

Enjoying the beach in San Malo

The amazing French sunset- a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

On our last day in France, the group headed out to Normandy. Before we got to Normandy, we stopped in Bayeux to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry, which was longer than I had anticipated, depicts the battle between William the Conqueror and Harold II. The tapestry was used to educate the illiterate public about this important battle, with each section numbered to depict a new scene. The amount of detail made the tapestry incredibly impressive, along with the few earth tone colors that were used. After our brief time in Bayeux, we found ourselves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. On June 6, 1944, Allied soldiers came to the French coast to liberate the French from the Nazi regime. We walked through the museum, learning some of the history behind the invasion. We saw the cemetery, with hundreds and hundreds of crosses and Stars of David all perfect rows almost as if they were soldiers standing at attention. Being in Normandy was haunting: it is a graveyard after all. Naturally, I walked to the beach to see where the Allied forces entered France and I was surprised; Normandy beach is gorgeous. It was hard for me to imagine this serene beach was once a battle ground, a place of death, destruction, and horror. It was difficult to imagine this being a place of war and the final resting place for so many. So many emotions flooded over me during my time at Omaha Beach After a harrowing day at Normandy, we made it back to Belgium that night.

The cemetery and Omaha Beach

St. Malo and Normandy were wonderful places to visit and France was a great first trip! Hopefully every one of my trips will be as exciting as this one!

With the girls and the sunset!