Written by Rebecca White

Worrying about settling into a new place can be daunting. The thoughts of trying to make new friends, learning how to get around an unfamiliar place and understanding cultural differences were some of the issues I was concerned about moving to Antwerp, Belgium. However, these fears fade fast.

In my first week, the University of Antwerp organized so many events to help all the international students settle into the city and discover all the fun things going on around the place. During this week we got to meet other people studying abroad as well as what courses each of them is studying. One of the best days I remember was when the university organized a ‘day trip’ for the internationals. We went to play crazy golf which had a trampoline built into the middle of the course! It was such a random day that everybody kind of forgot about the worries in their head and had fun. In the same week before the University started back, an event was organized for all students called ‘StuDay’. This was one of my favorite events it was a free festival organized with so many different areas for so many things like make up, face paints, rock climbing, a ball pool, a chill area and even a small bungee jump area. This really helped every person settle into the new culture of Antwerp and get ready to start college with fewer worries in their head.

As I got more into the first semester all the fears began to fade faster. I started off to learn that my course was very small with only about 16 people altogether. I loved this from the beginning because it allowed the interaction with the students and professors to be more about discussions and debates rather than being taught something to memorize it. The teaching sessions were different to what I had already learned in Ireland but I loved the difference. The classes were more easy-going allowing students to ask questions regularly without feeling judged. My classes varied on a large scale from computer work to general debating, I think this contrast was such a good idea because we were developing both academically and personally. I think settling more into the course allowed me to feel more at home. I was growing more to realize that this was what I was passionate about which made me want to work harder at it. I was becoming more grateful for the opportunity I was being given. So at that point, the fears became even more distant because my mind was focusing more on the opportunity rather than the potential setbacks to living in a new place.

Soon came Christmas which was the first time I would return home after leaving to study abroad. Two weeks at home really put into perspective the freedom and independence I have studying in Antwerp. It made me realize how much I can do on my own without even being aware of it like the ability to cycle anywhere in the city within 30 minutes, eat waffles with friends, drink beers in the Belgian bars and even studying easily on my own schedule. Although I love my hometown my heart is in Antwerp it allows me to grow more as a person. I think anybody thinking of moving abroad should try to put aside the fears and realize the potential and opportunity which arises from taking that first step. After all, worries fade fast.