As an international student, you are in contact with new and exciting things almost every day. You meet people from all over the world, and you fall in love with traveling and discovering random facts about other cultures different from yours. You get to learn phrases in languages you didn’t even know they existed. However, there’s something almost unspoken about becoming an international student: The difficulty of starting your new life abroad. Therefore, this blog is about things you should keep in mind if you’re moving to Ghent for the first time.
First, you want to know that Ghent is in Belgium, which is divided in three main regions: Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels. There’re two main languages in Belgium: french and dutch, but there’s a small german-speaking community as well. In Ghent, people speak “flemish” which is basically dutch but with a bit different pronunciation and some other words here and there. In Brussels, theoretically people speak French and dutch (that’s why you’ll notice all signs are in both languages in the street and public transport) however in practice, I’ve notice most people rely on French to communicate, so this is a good place to practice or to start learning. I highly suggest you start using duolingo to learn the basics on dutch. In my case, I found useful to learn the numbers to move in the public transportation and to buy food in the supermarket.
Second, university housing is convenient to stay for only one semester as it can be challenging to find a place to live if you’re looking for private accommodation. If you’re going for the second option, you’ll have to decide fast which are your requirements. It’s easier to find a place to stay if you are ok with sharing a kitchen and a bathroom than a totally private studio. I’ve found that prices range from 350 to 600 euros, so it also depends on your budget. Anyways, if you’re choosing private accommodation, make sure to ask about domicile as you’ll need it to register for a residence permit.
Third, about moving around. If you’re used to using bikes you’ll be happy as Ghent is a biking city. The best option to get a bike is to rent it directly from the university as it is relatively cheap and they’re in good conditions; however, I’ve heard it can be tricky to bike around Ghent as there are many buses, cars and tram lines so you must be extra careful. If biking is not your thing, you can acquire a 3 month-card that allows you to move in public transport. You can buy this card outside the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station in front of the bus stop.
Last (and really important) don’t feel ashamed of contacting any of the IMFSE students that have already lived in Ghent! we’re really open to any question and willing to help anytime 😀
Good luck and enjoy your new journey!