Upon arriving in my exchange city, Ghent in the Flanders region of Belgium, I was immediately enchanted by its medieval and stunningly beautiful town centre which includes four gothic churches and a castle. Although not a large town, having a population of only 250,000, it comes to life during the start of the semester as 80,000 students return to study. The city is the perfect size of being big enough to remain exciting and have everything you could ask for, but small enough that you do not feel lost in a big city.
I sourced our accommodation through Airbnb, a less traditional method, and have been living with another Australian exchange student, around a 10min walk from the university and city centre. Initially we were apprehensive to not apply for student housing in case majority of students were living there and we might miss out on socialising activities. However, this has not been the case with a huge portion of other students also living in private accommodation. I would recommend investigating whether AirBnB is a suitable option for you; it has several benefits like an extended stay discount that was over 40% of the cost and having cleaners.
Although initially daunting meeting other students has been comfortable if you put yourself out there and don’t say no to any events that are organised by the University and student societies. I have recently begun playing on the rugby team and have been asked to help coach which has been a great experience sharing a sport that I am passionate about with people from cultures where it is not as popular.
What I have found most surprising is the relative lack of culture shock I have experienced, although sometimes not speaking Dutch can be challenging all the locals to speak English well and are very friendly, while all the university students are happy to talk in English to you. We have enrolled in a Dutch course, and they appreciate the effort you make, I feel this is important to do. Besides the language barrier most things are pretty similar, and the town has a very laid back relaxed atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable.
The subjects I have taken are relatively similar to what we do back home, and this is due to some restrictions Gent University has for taking inter-faculty courses. Another thing to note is the difference in time-tabling that is used, wherein classes run once a week, and there are not multiple sessions to choose from so a bit of flexibility is lacking.
Bachelor of Accounting
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au