The Semester Wrap-Up

Not so long ago, I arrived to Gent to start my 2 year-long Master program. By the time I had warmed up, the semester had already started intensely, and now it’s over. So, I feel it’s time to sum up!

Arriving to Gent, I only knew I could expect a beautiful city, some nice beers, chocolate, and an enormous concentration of students. The rest was completely unknown, just waiting for me to discover it all.

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The first thing that really impressed me about IMFSE is the variety of nationalities attending it. In our Gent group, we had students from basically every corner of the Earth (Malaysia, Taiwan, Oman, Belgium, Serbia, Costa Rica, Brazil and El Salvador). Seeing how people can have completely different points of view on the very same topics due to the different cultural backgrounds is just something truly fascinating. Moreover, hearing about the customs, culture and the lifestyle in general of many countries is indeed extremely valuable. On top of that, the ability to learn so many interesting things from these wonderful people is something that definitely left the biggest impression on me during the first semester.

I talked to my colleagues a lot about how they found living in Belgium, what did they expect from IMFSE, what left the biggest impression on them, and so on; and there were some interesting answers!

My colleague Khai, from Malaysia, enjoyed the freedom and openness in Belgium. He saw Belgians as very welcoming to foreigners as he didn’t have problems making new friends there. I would have to say that my experience is quite similar, and that I totally agree with him.

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The one thing we all agreed on is how close we became in such a short time. I can’t help the feeling that with some of the colleagues I feel like I’ve known them for ages. That is something invaluable.

Furthermore, Alejandra from El Salvador and I faced living without our parents for the first time. It’s quite challenging and interesting suddenly having the responsibility of taking care about a variety of everyday tasks. Thanks to our parents, we weren’t even aware of most of them.

And finally, the program itself. It was definitely not easy. Completing 6 courses in less than 3 months was a real challenge, but the program turned out to be very beneficial, and hopefully we will be happy after the exam results announcements :). It was really interesting how people with different academic backgrounds struggled with different subjects, but the nicest part was the cooperation among us, the students, giving a helping hand to each other, each in their strongest subjects.

The end of the semester was particularly beautiful, because it ended with the charmingly cozy Gent Christmas market, well-known for its delicious food, beautiful people, and an admirable Ferris wheel!

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A chance to see London

Unfortunately, unlike my friends, I need a visa almost to all countries in the world. Sweden is not an exception, and I cannot enter it without a residence permit card. As the nearest Swedish embassy is in London, I needed to go there to submit my biometrics. But, I am not complaining in this case since that was a great chance to visit the capital of Great Britain.

As I took the train, the first place I visited after I had arrived was the famous Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station. Even though there was a huge line, as a Harry Potter fan, I stood till the end, and you can see my happy face from the photo below.

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I went there only for 2 days, so I had a mission to see the top attractions of London in such short amount of time. I decided to see the symbol of London-Elizabeth tower or simply Big Ben-first, and on my way there I bumped into 2 kazakh girls who came to enjoy this beautiful city too. What a small world we live in…

After visiting the Swedish embassy, I headed to 221B Baker street, where a museum of Sherlock Holmes is located now. Even though the museum was not as good as I had expected, I could not miss it, since I am Sherlocked, as some of you might too. Then, I went to Russel square, a small garden near the British museum. You might think why I decided to go there,as it does not seem to be a must see place in London. However, for me it was, because during my undergraduate we were given a project to develop a design of underground car park underneath Russel square. You may wonder why garden square in London was selected for a project to the students in Kazakhstan, country in Central Asia. I have no idea too, but at that time I thought that if I ever go to London, I will definitely visit that place. I found out later that one scene from the first episode of Sherlock was shot in Russel square too.

Coming from a small town with population of just over 140,000, London amazed me with its grand size, busyness, and a large number of tourists. It should not be surprising though, as it is one of the world’s leading tourism destinations: in 2015, a record number of 31.5 million people visited the Britain’s capital city.

London looked even more beautiful at the time of my visit with all twinkling Chritmas lights and decorations.It may sound a bit cheesy, but I was very happy to visit London, as it was one of the things to do on my wish list. I truly was, and I am really thankful to IMFSE programme for giving an unique opportunity to turn our dreams into reality.