My name is Alex Hutchinson and I will be sharing my experiences in Belgium with you for the next ten weeks! I am a senior studying economics at Portland State University. In Brussels I am attending a school called Vesalius. I am very excited to give you all a chance to experience the culture of a country that might be unknown to you. You may be wondering why I would choose an relatively unknown little place like Brussels to spend four months. When I was 14 I was lucky enough to visit Europe with my family. Of the seven countries I visited Belgium really stuck out to me. It has antiquated cobblestoned streets and gorgeous old buildings, paired with a rich European history dating back to the Etruscans in the 7th century BC. I’ll give you a quick introduction to Belgium and then tell you what I will be doing during my time here.
The city in which I live, Brussels, is the capital of the country of Belgium. It is city of vastly varying religions, languages, and cultures, all of which combine to create what is considered Belgian culture. Belgium is considered to be trilingual. The northern region, called Flanders, speaks Flemish (the Belgian version of Dutch). The southern region is called Wallonia and its residents speak French. The tiny southern tip of Belgian is a German speaking area. Belgium is a relatively new country. It was established as its own country in 1830. The political system is quite different than that in the United States. While the political leader in the US is president Obama, in Belgium there is a Prime Minister who is the head of politics, as well as a king who considered the head of state. What this means, is that the king is more in place as a figurehead and that he has no real political power.
Belgium is famous for a number of different things. Can you think of any?
I’m sure most of you eat waffles for breakfast occasionally. In most restaurants the fancy waffles ordered with fruit or chocolate chips and whipped cream are called Belgian waffles. In Belgium waffles are consumed as a snack or a dessert rather than a breakfast food. Belgium is also well known for its delicious chocolate (which I will bring back for our final celebration!), its fancy beer, as well as mussels (moules in French). Another interesting food Belgium takes pride in is what we call french fries in the United States. French fries weren’t actually developed by the French at all, rather the Belgians. Belgians get quite upset if you ask for french fries. They prefer the term frites. It is typical to walk down the street in Belgium and see a number of friteries. Frites are commonly served in a paper cone, with the customer’s choice of sauce and a small plastic fork. Most friteries offer over 10 sauces to choose from, including ketchup, mayonnaise, cocktail sauce, and my favorite: andalouse. Overall, the food here is quite delicious! Some things vary greatly from the United States, while others are similar. I have yet to try anything new that I didn’t enjoy, however I still have three more months!
The program I am enrolled in consists of students from all over the United States, even a few from Portland! Everyone I’ve met so far is outgoing and friendly. I’ve made a lot of friendships that I hope will last long into the future. If there is anything I know I will always remember about this trip it is the great people I’ve met so far and will continue to meet. With my program I am lucky enough to travel to countries other than Belgium frequently. So far I have visited Germany, Holland, and Luxembourg. In the next few weeks I will visit France, Hungary, Italy and hopefully Switzerland or Spain!
As I said before, I am honored to share my new adventures with you! It is my goal to teach you something about Belgium and Europe through our interactions during my time here. In the end I aim to inspire you to study abroad if you ever get the chance. Portland is an amazing city, but there is so much of the world to see and experience! For the next post I would like to know what topics you are specifically interested in. What do you all enjoy? What previous knowledge do you have of Belgium and Europe in general? Where would be your ideal vacation destination in Europe? I look forward to hearing from you and sharing the next 10 weeks of my life with you!