Again, long overdue for an update as to where I am and what I’m doing. I’ve hesitated posting because I feel its only fair to post when things are new and exciting. And while my recent location change is exciting, my activities are more of a build up to this fall. So now let me explain.
I am currently living in Leuven, Belgium. It is a great little city about twenty minutes from Brussels. It holds one of the oldest universities in the world, the KU Leuven. The university dominates and is spread throughout the city, really creating a student vibe that I haven’t seen before (granted I’ve never lived in a real university town anywhere.) So for some of you it may seem strange that I have found myself in Europe, for others who have given up on predicting where I will be next, it may seem slightly expected. To make a long story (really a pretty long story) short, I am here to study and to be with my girlfriend, who is Belgian and studying here as well. We first met in Argentina while on Youth Exchange (thanks Rotary) and had kept in touch since then. After both of us spending this past year hopping on planes to jump continents multiple times to see each other, we decided we should be in the same city. She is finishing a second degree near Leuven and I was in a place in my life were a masters is what was lacking to move to the next level. After deciding not to continue working in Kenya, I found a great Management School in Leuven, (The Vlerick Leuven Gent School of Management.) It is the autonomous management/business school of the KU Leuven and the University of Gent. I will be doing a one year Masters in General Management on the Leuven Campus. In order to be accepted in to the school I had to complete a full day entrance exam, and after almost being able to take one Nairobi, it ended up being that I would have to come out to Belgium. And here I am.
I spent the first few weeks studying for the exam, which apparently I passed with flying colors (although I was almost certain everything would fall through and I wouldn’t get in!) And since then have been talking Dutch classes three times a week, playing roller hockey with a local team and working on a number of small projects. It is a great time for me to focus on the language, because I know that once I begin at Vlerick I’ll no longer be able to study Dutch, but it is a language I want to learn if I am going to spend a significant amount of time here. I am also able to catch up with a lot that I’ve been putting off for a while.
I have to return to the States mid May in order to get my Student Visa (which unfortunately you can only get from your home country) and then will return around mid July. The last thing I will do in Europe is attend the second assessment round to become a Shelter Box Response Team Member. I successfully passed the first round earlier this year, which consisted of an application and interview with a number of Shelter Box SRT’s. Unfortunately due to my travel plans I wont be able to due the second phase in the US, but there is one offered in May in Grenoble, France. Whether its for better or worse, my visa expires a few days before the assessment, but I will be able to leave the Schengen Region for a week and then I will get those days as extra days I can stay in Europe (and therefore complete the assessment in France.)
This second phase will test our physical ability. They want to see if we can handle the physical and emotional stress that comes with being a Shelter Box Response Team Member. I am excited both for the test and to be able to move on to the third round. If all goes well I would go on my first deployment after I complete my Masters (because obviously during my study I won’t have time to leave.)
For those of you who are curious, I am really enjoying Belgium. I think it is a fascinating country, it blows me away that it is so overlooked, although I think this is partly the Belgians fault. I hear a lot about the negatives here (the weather sucks, no one learns the language, there aren’t any hills, there’s nothing different or exciting….) but there is such much to be proud of and inspired by. Belgium has a super complicated and interesting political structure, a mind blowing amount of linguistic tension and a people that are some of the most practical, attentive and intelligent that I have ever met. It is also true that I am talking about Flanders and the Flemish (the northern half) having not yet been to the south, Wallonia. But that is also interesting, that within such a small country there are such different cultures, language and ways of life. Many places around the world have immense linguistic and culture diversity, but few places have the diversity, tension and challenges that come with it, yet simultaneously succeed in preserving the diversity while also projecting an incredible influence on the world (and not really telling anyone about it!) Look closely at anything and you will find that a Belgian was involved, trust me, try it out.
I imagine and hope I will keep you updated in the next few weeks. And if there is anything in particular you would like me to write about, feel free to comment and let me know!