Needless to say, the past couple of days have been crazy. With a fair share of sorrow, nerves, excitement, and exhaustion I have arrived in Leuven, Belgium along with twenty other students from Loyola University. After a seven-hour flight—on which very few of us got any sleep—we met up with Dr. Forni at the Brussels airport. Dr. Forni has already been in Belgium for a year. She is an English professor from Loyola chosen to be the director of the Loyola students living in Leuven. The Directorship involves a two-year term in Leuven and a one-year sabbatical afterwards. After she met us at the airport we all loaded our luggage into a moving truck and boarded a Leuven-bound bus.
It was about a twenty-minute ride from Brussels to Leuven and we arrived here around ten in the morning. After a quick meeting involving the first week’s duties we had lunch and then headed off to the University of Leuven admissions building to register as students and obtain our student IDs. The walk to the building was amazing. We walked through the Oulde Market and the center of Leuven where there were countless bars and restaurants with expansive outdoor seating. We passed by the cathedral and town hall, which is the most beautiful building we’ve seen yet.
Once we returned from registration and a very brief tour of the immediate areas around our Huis, some took naps to recover from severe jetlag while I met the first of my two roommates, Jan. Jan is a Slovakian student studying in Leuven for the fall semester. He is taking a theology graduate course and speaks English rather well—although he argues otherwise.
Next, we went to Dr. Forni’s house for a pizza dinner. There, we met her husband Wes and their two sons Jack (six) and Jesse (5). The house was adorable. It is part of a small village that has been kept externally intact since the Middle Ages. (Loyola has a forty-year lease on both the director’s house and the Nachbar Huis where we are staying. After dinner we decided to go and have a few drinks and see some more of the town.
While out we tasted a few of the hundreds of beers that Belgium has to offer. Beers like Duvel, Stella Artois, Grimbergen Donker, Karmelite Tripel, and Wessmalle had a much better taste but two, three and sometimes four times the alcohol content of American beers! Obviously we kept our drink limit low. It was a great night with plenty of outdoor seating and we were able to just enjoy the cool night air and take in the scenery of the Oulde Market square, while still having trouble believing we were actually there.
We got started this morning around ten thirty with a practical tour of Leuven, including directions to places like the bus stop, train station, pharmacy, doctor’s office, and a final and lengthier trip to the grocery store (for the most part everything was a little more expensive than at home with the only exceptions being produce and wine). After stocking up on the essentials like pasta, pasta, and pasta. We were able to see some parts of the K.U. campus like the gymnasium, which was in fact headquarters for the Nazis during World War II when they occupied Belgium!
After the practical tour we headed back to our rooms and got some lunch (a discount banana for me—happy to say I still don’t know why it was discount) before a university-led historical tour. We saw places like the Cathedral, town hall, the library, the Museum of Modern Art, a few beautiful parks, and some of the vast K.U. campus. After a few hours of walking we ended at the university’s international office where our choice of cold and refreshing Stella Artois and Hoegaarden awaited—apparently it is never too early in Belgium!
Tonight it has settled down as everyone contacts family, finishes unpacking, or catches up on some much needed sleep. I had the first of what looks to be many many bowls of pasta and am content to rest the night away. After all, we rent our bikes tomorrow so I better rest my legs!