My name is Jacinta Sospedra and I have just come back from the best experience I have ever had. I’m in third year of the dual degree in Advertising & PR and Marketing, and a year ago I decided to go on an Erasmus+ (I really didn’t need to give it a second thought…).
When I read that Ghent was one of the options I did not even know how to locate the city on a map; a couple of searches in “Google images” were enough to make me fall in love with the place. My hunch was confirmed as soon as I stepped on the city for the first time, accompanied by my friends from Valencia, who did not want to skip the moment.
I spent five months studying “Communication Management” at Artevelde Hogeschool, and I would go back a thousand times. The program brought together twenty international students, all Erasmus+, and taught lessons in branding, public speaking, world culture, digital platforms and English, among other subjects.
“But are you going alone, like this, without knowing anyone?”, “To live in a flat with Belgians ?!” Yes, yes, that’s right. I arrived in Belgium with zero friends, my a not-so-good level of English and not a word of Dutch, which is never an impediment in this country, since everyone speaks English.
I BELIEVE IN THE PERSON I AM TODAY, NOT THE ONE WHO WENT UP ON THAT PLANE ON FEBRUARY 1st
And since I wanted to live the experience to its fullest, I decided to live with local people to broaden my cultural horizon and also to improve my English. There were five of us at home, one boy and four girls, including me. I’m very happy with that crazy decision that I made, after a couple of Facebook messages and a PowerPoint of the house I had received by email; because I had the opportunity to meet people who I will really miss.
Ghent was definitely “the place to be”. Each street makes you fall in love with the city and immerses you in a fairy tale that never seems to have an end. Its people, its architecture, its beer… because, let’s face it, it’s the best in the country. It was very cold in February, but all the people I met, both in class and outside of it, were so warm that made everything bearable.
Renting a bicycle for the whole semester was quite a thing, the bike is the real Belgian way of transport, and you can get anywhere in half the time. In addition, the offer of the rental company was a bargain, so no need to hesitate.
With the passing of the months we completely made ourselves into the environment, it soon became our home, and we did not even want to think about going home. The days flew by without becoming a routine although sometimes we did the same as the day before. When the sun went up we would meet in the Graslei channel to spend the afternoon together, we would have picnics in Citadel Park, or we would enjoy a swim in the wonderful lake of Blaameersen.
At nightfall, the famous street of pubs called “Overpoort” welcomed us with open doors, although if you would like to go a little further and not do “the usual”, as it was my case: DOK Kantine, Bar Bricolage or Kompass, they organized the most surprising events, in a singular atmosphere full of extravagant and friendly people that made you feel in a different wave to the rest of the city.
We had time to explore Brussels, as well as Antwerp, Brugge, Louvain, Dinant… And everything is so well connected and so close that it is impossible not to embark on an adventure every weekend.
Academically, the course was exceptional, each class had its interesting side, the teachers really lived the subject and were close and fun. I enjoyed every day and the projects we did were very aligned to my studies here at CEU Valencia.
Personally I think I have grown a lot. I have let go of a lot of prejudices, I have improvised with people from all over the world and I have made friends in a matter of minutes that have been part of my Erasmus+ experience until the end. I have learned to take care of myself, to live alone, to do my house and homework, and I think it has been an enormously enriching experience. Of course, not everything was easy, there were bad days, like at home, when you were aware that you were far away and that you needed to rely on your new environment to come up. It was never a problem.
I will keep all those feelings, the good and the bad ones, all those times that I lived being myself, with the desire to return to enjoy this city full of surprises and corners to discover, with its people, so special! And of course my friends, who have undoubtedly been the greatest gift of all.
I recommend this experience 100%. I will keep all those people who will never be with me in the same place or at the same time ever again. An experience that has become in the end something unique.