I grew up in a home, in which we always had guests and my mom always told our family and friends to feel at home; mi casa es su casa. I always liked to have a home full of people and laughter echoing throughout the house. Therefore, when I decided to study abroad in Europe for 1 year, I told my friends not hesitate to visit me in Brussels. However before I could invite people in my home, I needed to find a flat. I believe this is one of the hardest things you have to do abroad.
The University of Brussels told me that exchange students could not live on res. for the academic year, but gave me a lot of websites that I could visit. Thus, in Toronto I looked at a lot of websites and tried to contact a lot of people. Also, I looked at a few Facebook groups and contacted my friends in Brussels in order to find something. I found it very difficult to find and contact people from Toronto not only because of the 6 hours time difference, but also because there was only a phone number and no email. Also, I could not make an appointment for the following week when I would arrive in Europe because the apartments would no longer be available.
The other problem I faced, was the kind of apartment I wanted to have. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have a studio or rent a room with other people, or even rent a room in somebody’s house. To make things a little bit easier, I decided to see anything I would get an appointment.
I arrived in Brussels pleased that I had a few appointments to see rooms. I printed a small map from google maps because I didn’t have a map from Brussels and thought with it I could navigate easily through the city. But, unfortunately for me and my orientation skills, I was completely and utterly unprepared. I got used to the horizontal and vertical street configuration in Canada, but in Brussels these don’t exist, the city is filled with small streets, roads and paths and there is very little organization. The sun burning, my heart sinking, my mind racing and being confused, I was lost (“Au secours!”). Thank goodness however, Brussels has very friendly habitants and has a lot of tourists, therefore I asked for direction and I was able to know approximately where I was and where to go.
Brussels flats are very different from Toronto’s, most of them don’t have a washing machine inside the apartment or even in the building. However, Brussels is filled with small shops with washing machines and dryers, called “wasserette”. Also, one of the small studios I saw, although quite livable, was very peculiar. It had two rooms, one room was the kitchen and the other was the bedroom. There was no separate room for the bathroom, therefore the shower was in the kitchen and the toilet was outside in the garden. Yes, you read it correctly outside.
After a few days of stress, a lot of worries and continuing to search the Internet, my friend messaged me on Facebook and offered me a room in her apartment because one of her roommates was leaving (phew, merci Facebook).
Now that I have a room, if you are near Brussels you are more than welcome to visit me,