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Tiffany Byers

Reflections On My First Week in the "Capital of Europe"

by Tiffany Byers | Sep 18, 2018

I left my family and friends behind in the U.S. on Saturday Aug. 18. The hardest part was initially leaving them that day in the Fort Wayne airport. (I think I would have been fine if I didn't look up and see my father cry.)

By the time the tears stopped, I was almost to Chicago. This was the last time I was sad, as I realized that I was only going to be away for four months. Four months of figuring things out completely on my own, four months of learning new things, four months of seeing amazing things that I never thought would be possible in my life.

The flight from Chicago to Brussels was long and groggy. I ended up sitting next to an older Syrian woman who was with me on my first flight as well! We talked a bit about our lives and families. She was heading back to Damascus, Syria after visiting her daughter in Fort Wayne. I found it helpful to learn what was happening in Syria directly from someone who was experiencing it.

I arrived in Brussels on Aug. 19 at 8 a.m., with about thirty minutes of sleep. My resident director from BCA, Frank Billngsley, was there to greet me. It was nice to see a familiar face. He got me set up to head to my homestay house in Tervuren, Belgium.

I hopped in the ride he got for me and attempted to talk to the driver. It was a bit challenging since he only spoke French. Before I knew it, twenty minutes had passed and I was home. I told the driver, "merci," and headed to the house. I got there the same time that Mechthild, my host, and Mason, my housemate, did.

We all started talking and I was quick to realize that it felt like I knew them all far more than the few days that we had been together. Emily, my other housemate, had this same reflection. I think that talking to all of them prior to our semester helped us get along quite more than if we "started fresh."

The week was full of many adventures and I wish that I could retain all of the things that Mechthild told us about Belgium and history in general.

We visited the Brussels flower carpet, Emilio's pizza (a must if you stay with Mechthild), Fiesta Latina and then Leuven in search of the best afternoon snack in Belgium- pancakes with ice cream and chocolate sauce. We may have gotten lost a few times but we were determined as we reminded ourselves that we were determined women who were going to "make it happen." 

I have also made many new friends here. Some, from the U.S. but others from Spain, Estonia, Belgium and Australia!

It's been a learning experience. I've gotten lost trying to figure out things here but I have made it work. Being here is the normal for a few months and I have learned to accept that.  It is what makes the transition into life here easy. Thanks to Mechthild, Mason and Emily my experiences here have been great so far and I am looking forward to many more.


Tiffany Byers '19 is a public relations & peace studies double major. She spends her time on campus working in the Funderburg Library and in the Office of Strategic Communications. Tiffany is studying abroad in Brussels, Belgium during the fall 2018 semester at Vesalius College.