Sunday, 5 March 2017

Visiting Leuven & Brussels | POLITICO EU Studies Fair


For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know I studied in Leuven, Belgium for my third year of University. I moved back to Edinburgh in September 2016 and whilst deciding where to study my masters degree, I came across the POLITICO EU Studies fair set to commence in Brussels in February 2017. Of course, I couldn't miss out on an opportunity to visit Belgium again, so last month, I combined a trip to catch up with friends in Leuven and attend the EU Studies fair in Brussels.

Martelarenplein, Leuven

On Thursday the 9th of February, I flew to Brussels and as soon as I arrived in Leuven, I checked into my airbnb on Mechelsestraat. The street is one of my favourites in Leuven and I was really excited to stay there as it's located right in the city centre. I met my friend, Pablo, and we had dinner at his place with some other friends, then headed out to the Capital bar and a variety of the clubs/pubs in Oude Markt that evening.

Grote Markt, Leuven

Throughout documenting my year abroad in Leuven, I received a lot of emails from students who had more questions about the city. Sandra, a law student from Vienna, emailed me about the accommodation I was staying in and we kept in touch. As I decided to visit Leuven, she very kindly took me out for lunch. We went to Notre Dame Quasimodo on Naamsestraat, then we took a detour through Mechelsestraat and the Klein Begijnhof before ending up at the Vaartkom area of Leuven (where Waterview - my old residence, and Sandra's new residence is based). Sandra was really lovely and we agreed to stay in touch in the future.

Vaartkom, Leuven

As I parted ways with Sandra, I met Loïc, a close Belgian friend at my old local cafe, Opek, for a drink. Afterwards, I met some friends on the Oude Markt for a drink and we went back to Pablo's place to cook the haggis I brought over from Scotland.. 

As I was a bit restricted on what I could take with me in my hand luggage to Belgium, I could only take tinned haggis, which we opted to fry. Although the texture was completely off... I think it went down as a success, which was a surprise, as it's always a bit awkward explaining the contents of haggis (google if you are unfamiliar!). We went to another friend's place for pre-drinks later that evening then attended the International Party in Fuifzaal Albatros.  Throughout my year in Leuven, I never really liked Albatros as a club venue and only ended up staying for a couple of hours. As expected, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) society had changed its board members from when I lived in Leuven, and although the city seemed exactly as I left it, the organised international party vibe didn't quite feel the same for me...

photo credit: POLITICO (http://www.politico.eu/event/eu-studies-fair-2017/)

On Saturday morning, I got on a train from Leuven to Brussels North to attend the POLITICO EU studies fair. During the day, they hosted an exhibition with stalls from various European Universities in the Crowne Plaza le Palace. They also had bookable appointments with a careers/CV adviser and although I didn't use this service, it seemed very informative and it was fully booked when I attended.

I spoke to representatives from the University of Kent, Vesalius University Brussels, Sciences Po Paris, IBEI Barcelona and Universiteit Leiden. I received a lot of useful advice about the application process and about the course programmes. I also found out more about courses in British institutions I didn't realise existed. I have managed to rule out quite a few Universities since visiting the fair, but I'm still not 100% sure of my subject direction (purely a personal matter, I found the EU studies fair exceptionally helpful otherwise!).

To find out which exhibitors were present and for more information about the POLITICO EU Studies fair, click HERE.

Grand Place, Brussels

After the studies fair, Pablo and I walked to the Grand Place for a look around and I was reunited with my favourite Belgian dish, vol au vent, in Le Roy D'Espagne.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels 

Afterwards, we took a walk through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, to the Mont Des Arts and headed back to Leuven later that afternoon. Brussels is definitely my happy place in the world and I'll always be taken aback by its beauty no matter how many times I visit. 

Mont des Arts, Brussels

Back in Leuven, we went to a friend's place for pre-drinks and headed onto the Oude Markt for my final night in Leuven. The night consisted of a lot of drinking (despite feeling very fragile after a 3 day binge!) and partying until 7am, where we expected to finish the night in the Seven Oaks, but stumbled into a slightly bizarre techno rave in Rumba instead.

Waterview Residence, Leuven

On my final day in Leuven, I decided to go to my old residence to visit some of my ex-flatmates. When I arrived, my Brazilian flatmate, Plinio, introduced me to some residents who I had been in contact with through my blog. The residence is exactly as I left it and I'm glad my old unit is more sociable and interactive this year, I spotted a few games tables and a sofa which wasn't there when I moved out!

After a lovely catch up at Waterview, I headed to meet Pablo again for a final farewell and burger at Ellis on Muntstraat before heading back to Edinburgh via Zaventem airport.

Grote Markt, Leuven

I arrived back in Edinburgh late Sunday evening absolutely exhausted from a hectic, but enjoyable, weekend in Belgium. I miss living in Belgium and often think about the good times I had, especially in Leuven. I will definitely continue visiting and hopefully I will be able to pursue further studies/employment there one day as the country will always have a special place in my heart.
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