Ghent: Europe’s hidden treasure

Beer is love. Beer is life. Beer is breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m currently studying in Belgium, in the beautiful city of Ghent. Filled with thousands of students, and heaps of great cafes and bars, Ghent is really known as a progressive student city chocked full of culture and arts. The students work really hard, and party even harder. Even though you’ll find that you’re probably taking on more subjects here than you would back in Aus, don’t let that deter you from studying here, trying a variety of different subjects and having the adventure of a lifetime. Belgian people are extremely friendly and everyone here speaks English.

Ghent is wonderfully picturesque:

It snowed in my first week of arrival
It snowed in my first week of arrival
Literally the view from my window
The view from my bedroom window
Tuesday arvo strolls along the canal
Tuesday arvo strolls along the canal
Gravensteen castle just casually in the middle of the city centre
Gravensteen castle just casually smack bang in the middle of the city centre

Crazy Belgian beer culture: All of the bars have hundreds of different kinds of beers to choose from, be sure to try a new one each time! Also, 5-11% beers are standard here. Brace yourself.

Riding a bike everywhere: I really do mean everywhere. Whether it’s to the supermarket, or to the city nightclub, cycling will be your no. 1 mode of transport as a local. It’s just a 5-10 minute bike ride from the Ghent University student dorms to the city centre, and although Ghent isn’t a large city, having a bike will make exploring it and discovering its secrets that much better.

Travelling: Belgium is really central to Europe, making weekend trips a total breeze. In just two months, I’ve already visited all three of Belgium’s other major cities: Brussels (the capital city), Antwerp and Bruges. Plus daytrips to France (Paris and Lille) and to the Netherlands (Amsterdam). Mind you, France is just a one hour train ride away.

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I never want to leave

I won’t even get into how amazing the chocolate, the waffles and the fries (hot chips) are in Belgium. You’ll have to discover it all for yourself!

Get in my belly
Get in my belly

Emma Vu-Doan
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Having a waffle of a time in Belgium

Hello from Belgium, the land of waffles, chips and most importantly beer! 

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I am currently studying in Ghent University in Belgium. Ghent is a bit of unchartered territory for fellow Aussies. The first few fellow Erasmus students I met (exchange for Europeans) had never met an Australian before. At first this was a bit daunting; would I be left surrounded by strange Europeans for 6 months? However I soon came to realise this has made my exchange experience all the more exciting and enriching.

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Ghent is a ‘city’ in Belgium, with 270 000 Belgium, which to me feels very small (I can bike ride nearly everywhere in 15 minutes). The best part is that 40 000 of the population are students living in Ghent, ensuring a lively vibe throughout the city with there always being something fun to do and someone to do it with whether its drinking next to the canal in the (so far oh so infrequent) sun or trying the different jazz bars and clubs around the city.

Ghent was built in 650AD, so as you can imagine it is veerrryyyy old which is what gives it its charm. Don’t be fooled though, this doesn’t make the city boring: you can’t walk two steps here without stumbling on a bar filled with students drinking at all hours of the day, or fry stands with so many sauces you couldn’t possibly try them all in 6 months.

I live in the uni-housing buildings which was the perfect choice because it means I’m with all the other exchange students and is right next to ‘overpoort’ – a street of semi seedy clubs packed every night of the week with internationals and locals a like partying into the wee hours of the morning. I wont say it houses the most classy establishments, think Kings Cross in Belgium… but can always be counted upon for a fun night out! The group ESN organises many events for exchange students, including international dinner nights, parties every week and trips to local towns and cities.

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Belgium is the perfect place to go if you want to see lots of Europe, and if you are worried about living somewhere where you don’t know the local language. Everyone here speaks English and are more than happy to switch languages depending on where you are from (they speak minimum 4 languages each its scary!). Situated in the north-center of Europe it is very easy to go pretty much anywhere. First of all, other cities in Belgium are a 1 hour train ride away tops. I’ve already been to Bruges multiple times and Antwerp. Getting to neighbouring countries is just as easy, I’ve been to Amsterdam and Paris and am about to go on a trip to Germany and Poland.One of the perks of going somewhere with no other Australians is all the friends you make live throughout Europe and are always offering up there home to crash at (I have plans to stay with friends in Istanbul, Ljubljana, Budapest, Katowice…).

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Last but not least is of course the classes. Ghent University is a highly ranked institution in Europe, and the classes are all really interesting. The only problem is that to make up the 24 credit points you need 30ECTS which can end up being a lot.. I had to enrol in 8 subjects to ensure I had enough!

Anywhere you choose to go to on exchange I can guarantee you will have a great time, whether its meeting people from all over the world, travelling to places you never thought you would see or learning new skills (like how to cook!). Also check out Belgium if you’re in Europe, you won’t be disappointed!

Phoebe Crow

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