I’ve always wanted to travel the world, see different countries and meet different people. Toronto has provided me that because it is so cosmopolitan and so culturally rich. However, as much as I love Toronto and its people, I felt like I needed to escape the busy city for a while in order to have an adventure and find myself by discovering my limits and my strengths. Therefore, I will tell you my student exchange program experience in Europe, more specifically in Brussels.
Before I even applied for a student exchange program, I did a lot of research on where I wanted to go, what I wanted to study and what a country would teach me. I’ve always liked Brussels because as a Belgian-Canadian, my mom used to go there for university and when I was very little I used to live there. However, after I chose Brussels for my host institution, I still felt that pain in my stomach, the one you usually have before a big exam or big piano concert, because I was very nervous. In spite of this, you might call it faith or serendipity, or even just coincidence I watched the French movie L’auberge espagnole (Link to the trailer L’auberge Espagnole) . (For all the not frenchies reading this blog, it means the Spanish youth hostel).
The movie is about Xavier, a young French student who decides to go on an exchange (or Erasmus like they say in Europe) in Spain in order to perfect his Spanish and get a great job in Paris. At the beginning, Xavier is a bit fearful in an unfamiliar city and starts looking nervously for a room in Barcelona. He finally finds a place with other students; a Spanish girl, a British girl, a German guy, an Italian guy, a Danish guy and also later a Belgian girl. The first time, Xavier meets this group, although a bit disorganized, messy and full of qui pro quo, he feels immediately that he belongs there. Consequently, he calls it L’auberge espagnole because according to his dictionary “une auberge espagnole” is a place where we find what we share (“on y trouve ce qu’on y apporte”). Barcelona is also the place he learns a lot about himself, and he explains that even the bad situations should not be considered negative, but rather funny stories that will be told over and over again in the future. After watching this movie, I really felt like it gave me courage not only not to be afraid of the unexpected in my exchange program, but also to embrace it and find myself.
Kisses from Brussels,