ARRIVAL IN ANTWERP:
So having been in Antwerp for nearly a month now, here is my first report on things have gone down so far.
Firstly, in terms of getting here it was really convenient (Lufthansa operates the cheapest and shortest flights) as I flew in to Brussels central and then caught the train from the station to Antwerp central which is within easy walking distance to the main campus.
I am staying in an international house with about fifteen people from quite literally all over the world which is really entertaining and makes meeting new people really easy. The street I stay on (Langewinkel straat) is also centrally located and I recommend staying on or near this street as it is really close to most of the academic buildings.
The orientation days here are also worth attending as you get all the relevant information and most of it is quite helpful, but even if you don’t attend, it is really easy to find your way around in Antwerp and because there is about a total of 220 exchange students, the University seems quite geared up to accommodate and cater for international students. As far as language is concerned, northern Belgium is Flemish speaking but just about every Belgium speaks English really well.
All in all it took little time settling and there are functions/parties happening just about every night so there are loads of opportunities to meet some new peeps. Antwerp is a beautiful city which serves an abundance of different varieties of beer (But more on that in the next update). Till next time.
So this is a summary of the academic side to life here in Antwerp. I have four subjects that all focus on the workings of the European Union. Although the institutional aspect of the EU is quite daunting having not really been exposed to it before, one catches on quite quickly what how it all works and operates. The classes are only filled with exchange students (about 45 la students) and classes are all presented in English. For most subjects there is no such thing as a semester test or predicate mark. You are normally required to hand in an assignment which counts about 25% of your overall mark and then you have an exam.
All the exams are very policy based and generally require one to have a good practical understanding of the issues discussed. Questions are very seldom theory based which makes it more interesting to study, but can lead one into a false sense of security because the exams are usually open book.
The classes are presented once a week and although attendance is compulsory, you can miss and catch up classes quite easily. But importantly there is no such thing as attendance registers or class marks etc.
The exam period is spread over the entire Jan and the schedule is only released late in the semester which makes it a bit inconvenient when trying to plan your December holiday etc and your flight back home.
The one seriously annoying aspect is the text book situation. There are no second hand book shops and the text books are expensive, necessary, very bulky and not really relevant for purposes back home. Otherwise the exams have been good, if you attended class or know what went on in class and put a little bit of effort in there should be no problems with passing the exams (although I am still waiting for my results).
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA:
So I landed in South Africa yesterday after having one of the greatest experiences one could have. For anyone considering doing an exchange program… Do it. Europe is a wonderful place to travel and the exchange program in Antwerp (although I’m sure the same is true for most universities) is a great place to meet a lot of international students. While it is always a little bit nerving going overseas to a completely new city for five months, Antwerp University makes one feel at home very quickly. There are loads of opportunities to meet new people and considering there are about 200 exchange students from all over, everyone is in the same position as yourself.
Having had the opportunity of visiting seven different countries and loads of cities from Amsterdam and Paris to Prague and Budapest, I can confirm that there is lots if time to travel and if you look out for cheap flight, you can do it very affordable as well.
I already dealt with some academic aspects in my previous update and after receiving the results which came out soon after the last exam, all went well and very few people who attended class and did some work failed anything. Most students did quite well it seems.
Now it’s off to JHB to start my articles. Which brings me to my last practical pointer, my last exam was only on the 19th of January and therefore you need to make sure that if you planning on doing articles at a particular firm, that they will be accommodating. Many other universities in Europe finish exams in December. Just something to take note of. Also, if anyone is planning on going to Antwerp, I have all the textbooks so get in touch. You are also welcome to get hold of me if you have any other questions.