"The best year of my life"
Manuel Gamarra (Spain)
It’s very difficult to express in words everything I have experienced since I arrived in the completely unknown city of Kortrijk. It is also impossible for me to remember all the friends from different countries and cultures that I have met throughout the academic year (many of them are not in the picture), including the locals from Belgium and the Spanish, since I didn’t know almost any of them before coming here. Strangers who became acquaintances; acquaintances who became friends; friends who became family. Uncountable stories and anecdotes, many of them that cannot be told. Erasmus, the best year of my life. And I think that my tears during the last party with everyone are good proof of it.
"My Erasmus adventure taught me the value of opening my mind to new experiences and people that, otherwise, I couldn’t have met staying in my hometown."
Carlos Lázaro (Spain)
I had the great opportunity of living abroad for one year and I can’t do anything but thank Belgium for such an amazing and incredible experience. When I arrived in September, I couldn’t have imagined how my life would be ten months later.
Belgium gave me the chance to meet a lot of people from different countries, which meant meeting a lot of different cultures, perspectives, ways of being and putting all of them together. By doing this, I could know, understand and love these cultures as if they were my own. But I could also share my own culture, values and customs and feel so proud of them.
My Erasmus adventure taught me the value of opening my mind to new experiences and people that, otherwise, I couldn’t have met staying in my hometown. But, it wasn’t only through others that I learned valuable lessons. I also spent time getting to know more about myself, which allowed me to grow as an individual.
Thanks to Belgium, I bring back to my home memories, moments, experiences, trips, parties, lessons… that made me richer than before. But, if I have to pick something out above all in my Erasmus, it is the people who, after one year, I can consider as my family.
"Up until the beginning of my third-year at Furman University, I had never ventured outside the United States."
Matthew Martin (USA)
It was in one of my very first days in Belgium that one innocent, pixelated emoticon welcomed my arrival with a wave of confusion, shock, and shame. At that very moment, I realized that I had encountered my very first test of being in a foreign country and now it was time to decide whether I should run from this crisis or tackle it head-on. Before I can explain what happened next though, I first need to tell you how I got here.
Up until the beginning of my third-year at Furman University, I had never ventured outside the United States. In fact, I spent most of my life in the Southeastern portion of the US–– rarely away from my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. When I discovered I would be spending almost five months in Kortrijk, Belgium, I was definitely excited for the adventure but also nervous–– worrying about if I would find genuine friends, if people would understand my accent, if people would speak my language, if I would run out of money, and if my world back home would change too much while studying abroad.
In spite of these fears, I stayed optimistic and entered Belgium excited for the life I would create for myself in Kortrijk. In the first week, I made friends! While I didn’t realize this then, these friends over the next few months would soon become my international family. We would explore the Belgian coast together, have picnics in French gardens, discover new music in the summer festivals of Kortrijk, and even travel through Greece and Italy for a couple weeks. But before all of that, we spent the first week touring Bruges and Ghent; and then, on our day in Ghent, it happened.
I was excited to share my adventures of discovering Gravensteen Castle and tasting Belgian chocolate for the first time, so I uploaded a few Instagram photos and didn’t think much of it. A few minutes later, the sharp ping of a text notification revealed the horrible mistake I had committed: I had used the German flag instead of the Belgian flag in my caption. Now, in reality, this mistake was not catastrophic by any means, but it represented a greater issue: that issue being just how limited my understanding was of international identities and foreign cultures.
I knew if I wanted to have any success in learning about intercultural communication this semester, I would have to be intentional in my conversations with friends, I’d have to be bold and take risks in how I spent my free time, I’d have to be comfortable being wrong and learning from my mistakes, and I’d have to study up!
And that’s exactly what I did. Over the next few weeks I studied coursework ranging from Basic Dutch to Copywriting, from Consumer Behavior to Public Affairs, and from Crisis Communication to Sales Communication. While these classes were certainly a departure from the mathematics that I focused on in my first two years of university, these courses as a whole challenged and informed my understanding of the relationship between communication and culture, For instance, Sales Communication forced me to rethink how we discuss items we believe are worth buying, while Copywriting made me see how even a single word in a slogan––or an emoticon, for that matter–– can completely change the statement’s message.
After and between classes, I chatted with friends from India about the counterintuitive differences of our non-verbal communication; for instance, a side-to-side head wobble in India is the equivalent of the American head nod. Meanwhile, I practiced my Spanish with friends from Mexico and Spain throughout the week and saw that other languages were just as nuanced as my own language.
When we weren’t busy studying, our little international family spent the weekends acting as tourists in our new home country of Belgium, exploring cities and towns near and far: such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Namur, Ostend, Dinant, De Panne, De Haan, Oudenarde, and––of course–– Kortrijk. Other nights we shared food, exchanged recipes and made dinner together; we organized game nights; we sang songs from each other’s countries; we stayed up late at night, talking about what we missed from home, what made us excited to get up each day, and what we hoped for our futures; and we enjoyed every day we had together.
If I were to go back, I’m happy to say that I would do things exactly the same. I would travel the same way, study the same way, and cherish the same friendships. I’d even make the exact same mistakes, because even the small mistakes are still managing to teach me big lessons :)
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Matthew Martin (USA)
"Students were very welcoming and supportive"
Kira Altomari (USA)
While I was initially nervous about studying abroad, Howest staff, faculty, and students were very welcoming and supportive. This has truly been a life changing experience helping me to become a more well-rounded person and increase my intercultural competencies. It should be one of the first that you see.
"Erasmus: a once in a lifetime experience. "
Claudia Labate (Italy)
Last semester I had the honor to go to Belgium as an Erasmus student. I had already been abroad to study, but this…this was something else. An experience that cannot be replaced by anything, and that I would re-live in the exact same way I already did.
I got to meet such wonderful and beautiful people from all over the world, we shared our points of views and cultures, we cooked for each other our typical dishes and celebrated festivities that someone wouldn’t normally celebrate in his/her own country. I was learning new things each day, not just from the courses that Howest offered us, but also from the people that I was meeting every day.
For me this Erasmus has been also an opportunity to see a girl that I met in Berlin the previous year, and indeed she ended up being the buddy that Howest assigned to me. It was so good to see her after such a long time and we became very good friends through the buddy programme. We kept in touch throughout the semester, we went to parties together, we biked together to university and grabbed coffees in the weekends. We shared memories that I will cherish forever and I hope we will manage to see each other in a not so distant future.
But in general, I have memories with each and every person that I have met in Belgium, from the other Erasmus students to the local ones. Each one of them gave and taught me something that I will remember forever, and I am sure I will get to see them again at some point in life, somewhere in the world, because once you have been an Erasmus student, your souls will be forever connected to each other.
The classes were challenging and different from the type of classes we get in Italy. The city was completely different from where I was born and raised, but it is a cozy city that has everything a student needs. Thanks to this experience I have learned new things about the world but also about myself, how I deal with certain situations and how much alcohol I can handle, since the beer is really cheap! But jokes aside, I truly found myself in Kortrijk. My true self.
So thank you to the Erasmus+ Programme. Thank you to the coordinators and teachers at Howest and at my home University for helping us and making all of this possible. Thanks to all the other Erasmus students for sharing such an amazing experience with me, and for making it such a unique one at that. Thanks to the local students and my buddy for bearing with me and for answering all of my -sometimes stupid- questions about Belgium. And, finally, thank you to my “second family”, that has been with me in the best and worst moments of this experience. I am proud to call you my Erasmus Family.
Thank you Belgium.
"The friends we made while being in Belgium will stay the best thing that happened to us on Erasmus!"
Marina Nikolic & Danilo Kovacevic (Serbia)
This semester was something amazing. We've met a lot of people and learned a lot of things about different cultures, not only Belgian. Friends we have met here are from all over the world (Europe, South and North America and Asia) and we are sure that someday we will meet each other again.
We can only thank Erasmus+ programme for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Discovering Belgian cities and enjoying fries, beer and chocolate was a true Belgian experience. Cycling through Kortrijk, drinking coffee at DeDingen and having our classes all together at the Square in Kortrijk made our stay even more memorable.
The friends we made while being in Belgium will stay the best thing that happened to us on Erasmus! We are proud to know so many good people from all around the world!
"Erasmus means much more than studying abroad!"
Jorge Cruzado Sánchez (Spain)
When you look at this picture, you can see up to 6 different nationalities. Erasmus means much more than studying abroad. It is opening yourself to the world, to ideas you never thought about before. Cultures that you thought didn't match, now they match perfectly. Ideas you would never put together, now you learn from each other. Thank you Erasmus & Howest. I feel rich now.
"The best time of my life was at Howest."
Sumedha Sharma (India)
It was something I always wanted to experience going international and meeting a big Erasmus family that made me learn about different cultures and exposed me to different learning methods.
"Howest provided us with a unique Erasmus experience! We had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world - people who are not friends but family to us now. "
Hristiana Dimitrova (Scotland) & Oriane Paralté (France)
Also, their 'Buddy' programme ensures you have Belgian student to help you settle down quickly and make friends as soon as you arrive. The university is modern and classes are small so teachers are also coaches and mentors and are very helpful and professional. Howest provided us with new learning practices and methods - it was great to get more practical and hands-on experience.
Howest was the best choice for Erasmus experience and offered us much more than we expected - this is why we both chose to stay for 2 semesters!
"During your exchange semester at Howest, first, you start discovering people, and then you start discovering yourself again."
Hüdai Karabulut (Turkey)
During your exchange semester at Howest, first, you start discovering people, and then you start discovering yourself again.
"Howest is an excellent university, and the people working there are amazing! Indeed, by remaining human, they develop people!"
Sylvaine Chan-Tave (France)
Howest is an excellent university, and the people working there are amazing! Indeed, by remaining human, they develop people!
"Every moment was precious and valuable for me. When I return to South Korea, I will really miss Howest and Belgium."
Kim Hui Jin (South Korea)
Every moment was precious and valuable for me. When I return to South Korea, I will really miss Howest and Belgium.
"Erasmus is the best opportunity you can use while being a student. The international environment makes you realize that in every situation, the people that surround you matter the most. You make so many unforgettable friendships and memories that you wil"
Akvilé Noreikaité (Lithuania)
Erasmus is the best opportunity you can use while being a student. The international environment makes you realize that in every situation, the people that surround you matter the most. You make so many unforgettable friendships and memories that you will remember for the rest of your life. Howest was a part of that too - all the teachers and the international office were always very friendly and helpful.
"To study abroad, is by far, the most educational and enlightening experience of my academic life."
Filipa Garrocho (Portugal)
By doing Erasmus in Belgium I got the chance to experience in first-hand the feeling of living in a different country, with different routines, schedules, habits, language and to learn with and be part of a different health system. This was a great opportunity to compare the Belgium health system with the Portuguese one, to learn with the best parts of it, to see new ways of doing the same nursing techniques, other methods of work and to live in a richer nursing reality, with more material conditions. It allowed me to see how the economy of a country reflects itself on the health system reality and in the population’s houses and life’s circumstances.
Now working at ...
Lisbon Nursing School
"Thanks to this – in Flanders - unique advanced bachelor in the study of Bioinformatics, qualitative staff members now enter the labour market and they perfectly fit in this niche."
Pieter De Bleser
Biological experiments become more and more large-scale and the need for streamlined analyses increases. There is a transition from gene-central to genome-wide studies with implications for an advanced use of computer and statistics. Whereas large-scale experiments become cheaper and faster, the analysis of the results becomes ever more labour-intensive.
A possibility to close the gap between bioinformatics and traditional biology and biomedical research is the availability of ‘bioinformatics scientists’.
Howest plays an important pioneering role in this field. Thanks to this unique advanced bachelor in Flanders in Bioinformatics, qualitative staff members now enter the labour market and perfectly fit in this niche. We are convinced these people will contribute to scientific research in Flanders!
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expert Bio-informatica, VIB-UGent
"The student is perfectly coached in small groups."
The Bioinformatics training is a unique training for people who want to approach sciences and laboratory work in a different way. Thanks to the increasing use of informatics, the field of bioinformatics comes more and more to the forefront. The student is perfectly coached in small groups. This way, a unique atmosphere is created and students learn a lot in a relaxed way.
In the beginning, many students might be discouraged by the informatics part of the training, but thanks to the good composition of the course package many pieces of the puzzle slowly form one integrated unit.
Wist je dat ...
Jasper graduated in 2010.
Now working at ...
Bioinformatic scientist at Centrum voor Medische Genetica
"In de praktijkgerichte opleiding Journalistiek leerde ik zelfstandig werken."
Jochen Coorevits (en)
In de praktijkgerichte opleiding Journalistiek leerde ik zelfstandig werken. Dat komt in mijn huidige job als sportjournalist dagelijks van pas. Na mijn stage bij de sportredactie van Het Nieuwsblad begon ik er als freelancer. Ik ben er de vaste man die Club Brugge opvolgt. Daarnaast breng ik verslag uit over voetbal- en wielerwedstrijden.
Now working at ...
sportjournalist bij Het Nieuwsblad