It’s hard to believe we are already ramping up towards our first semester exams. It is cliché, but it really does feel like it was yesterday that we were getting things underway.
After over a year of preparation from the initial application, visa process and housing, not to mention packing up a life back home and figuring out how all of the non-study aspects of this endeavour will work, it was a relief to step onto the plane and start this adventure.
Whether you’ve come from the other side of the world like I have, or just across the border, discussions amongst all of the IMFSE students have illustrated that we’ve all gone through a very similar set of logistics (admittedly some much more complex than others); and because of that it felt like we had known each other for a long time before classes even started.
I think that’s one of the big advantages to undertaking an international master’s like IMFSE. Not only are you challenged by the academic programs of three of the most well-respected universities in the world when it comes to fire, but you’re also challenged by the logistics of never staying in one place for more than a handful of months. As hard as these challenges will be at the time, they will provide a great opportunity for growth both professionally and personally.
My partner and I chose to arrive in Ghent a few weeks prior to class starting, partially to get ourselves situated but mostly to have a bit of a holiday first. It’s such a lovely city and was so enjoyable to aimlessly wander the old cobbled streets. I’d never really heard of Ghent until I considered applying for IMFSE (apart from the cycling history, but I’ll touch on that in a later post), and I find that amazing now that I’m here because it is a truly beautiful place. The history of this city is captivating and elements of its past are still strongly seen today.The architecture is quite different to my hometown (I guess that comes with being a city which is more than thousand years older) but the people here seem so laid back, and that’s saying something coming from an Australian.
I may be almost 17,000 km from where I grew up, but this place is definitely starting to feel like home. And I don’t think that’s due to this ice cream store I found in town because I can’t say that those items look very Australian at all.The first 8 weeks have flown by and exams will be on us before we know it. Look forward to sharing some more of our thoughts and experiences with you all over the coming year.
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!