Mar 23

Insights from Abroad: A Week in Belgium

Students in Management 303: Experience Business Abroad complete a semester-long joint project with students from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Over UNCG’s spring break, Bryan School students travel to Belgium where they stay with students or host families while visiting businesses and exploring a new culture. A few weeks after this visit, the students from Belgium travel to the US and reverse the experience.

Seniors India Johnson and Yalaina Brown shared some details from their March 2018 trip.

How did you feel about the opportunity to travel to Belgium?

I was very anxious yet extremely excited. I didn’t know what to expect from this trip, but I knew that I wanted to jump in with both feet. This would be my first time traveling outside of the United States, and I was excited to immerse myself in a completely different culture while collaborating with Belgian students. Although I was somewhat fearful of the language barrier, I knew it would be a great way for me to challenge myself. – India

What were some of the highlights of the trip?

From the guildhalls to countless cathedrals, Belgium’s unique designs proved why it is home to some of the best landmarks. My favorite was the University Library and Bell Tower in Leuven. It held so much character with very intricate detail which reflected appreciation to the citizens of the United States, who donated funds to rebuild the library after it was destroyed in World War I. From the American Eagle placed at the top of the tower to the 12 stars around the grand clock, there were several indications showing the close relationship Belgium has with the United States. – India

What are some of the differences you noticed between Belgium and the US?

While the two countries hold such a strong relationship, there are noticeable differences between Belgium and the United States. Unlike students in the U.S., Belgium students pay a lot less for higher education due to taxpayers absorbing much of that cost. Here in the United States things are a lot more complex when it comes to these issues. It made me appreciate economic differences and reminded me that not all countries operate in the same manner.  – India

Most students spend an hour commuting to school and heavily depend on public transportation. Most people living in Belgium rely on public transportation, which included trains and buses. The majority of trains can transport you exactly to your destination with little walking. I was amazed at how many trains operated within a 15-20 min increment. – Yalaina

 What was your host experience like?

The most amazing part about my trip was my living experience with my host. Two of us from the Bryan School stayed with a Belgian student and her parents. Each night we sat around the table and enjoyed delicious food prepared by her parents. Although her parents didn’t speak much English, we had the time to learn a little bit of French over dinner. – Yalaina

What tips do you have for other student travelers?

Pack light! The best thing you can do is lessen the amount of stuff you bring. You will find yourself more flexible and comfortable. Check the weather and re-purpose some garments during your trip. It’s best if you reach out to your host or students that previously traveled and ask what they suggest to pack. – India and Yalaina

Be open minded. Try new foods, start meaningful conversations, do something you have never done before. If you’ve been wanting to study abroad, but you have experienced uncertainty, just go for it! Your experience will be worthwhile and it will be something you will remember forever. – India

What have you taken away from this experience?

The course was extremely valuable to my growth as a business student. It is important that we understand how to communicate with people from other countries because it shapes us to become proactive leaders. If anyone wants to thrive in a global economy it is imperative to have that hands-on experience because you learn that the world is much larger than you think.  – India

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About our student reporters:

Yalaina Brown is a senior Business Administration major with a concentration in marketing and a minor in retail and consumer studies. She is a fashion blogger and wardrobe stylist, working towards a commercial stylist position.

India Johnson is a senior in the Bryan School of Business and Economics.