Over a month in and I’M STILL ALIVE! Yes, I have somewhat adapted to the fact that everyone drives on the right here and so I can cross the road without being nearly hit by a car. But we’ll see what will happen when I come back home for Christmas but anyway, let’s get on with this blog post.
This post is all about the differences I have noticed between my home university in the UK (University of Kent – UKC) and my host university here in Belgium (Université Libre de Bruxelles – ULB). Honestly speaking, I have only just adjusted to the uni-life here plus, my French-speaking is improving (which I am slyly gassed about).
Now, please bear in mind that the differences that I’m going to talk about may not be the same for you and your experiences if you are on a year/term abroad or if you wish to do so. It all depends on loads of factors including your choice of university, the course that you take and whether it differs from the one from your home uni, for example: at Kent I do Politics and International Relations while here at Brussels I have to do Political Science, since IR is not available for undergraduates. So…
First thing’s first:
I never thought I’d say this but I actually miss going to lectures at my home university: the fact that they’re only an hour long, the fact they’re recorded… Now at my host university lectures are just not the same.
Here, lectures tend to be two hours long (something that you may find normal, but for me, I’m literally struggling) and if you want to record lectures, you have to do it yourself. I believe this is the case for universities here in Belgium (and in France if I am not mistaken). So if you are thinking about studying here, then I do recommend that you purchase a voice recorder or just dedicate some of your phone storage to recording lectures. You may find it easier to record the lectures and re-listen to them if you have not comfortable with taking quick notes in a new language.
At ULB, I don’t have any seminars as my course does not provide them and so with this in mind, I understand why the two-hour lectures are useful. However, I do miss having seminars because I find that they help to improve various skills including communication through debating on different topics and actually, you do gain a better understanding on whatever topic your lecture was on.
That being said, I guess one of the main advantages of having two-hour non-record lectures here is that I’m actually forced to concentrate on improving my listening skills in a language that is not my mother-tongue, which is a skill that I will find to be very useful in whatever I decide to do in the future.
The second huge difference between UKC and ULB is the library and their opening hours. Back at UKC, the library is open for 24hours every day, meaning that I can literally do an all-nighter at the library. Personally, I find that I do so much more work at the library there than I do studying from home.
Unfortunately here at ULB, it’s not the same: from Monday to Friday the libraries (they have like three libraries in the Solbosch campus) are usually opened from 8AM to 8PM, on Saturdays 10AM to 5PM, and on Sunday’s they’re closed. So I can’t do all-nighters there if I wanted to and plus, I live quite far from the uni meaning that my last bus is like at 10.30PM. So if you are thinking about studying in Belgium and you’re also a night owl who studies better at night then this is a slight disadvantage.
But I must say this disadvantage is in some way, turning into an advantage for me: I am becoming more self-disciplined with studying at home and I’m managing to get more work done at home then I would have previously done back in the UK. So I guess, its not all bad.
In terms of the number of modules I do each term, I’m finding that I’m doing more modules here (6 modules) then I did at Kent (max 4 modules each term). That’s because of the Academic credit system: I have to take an equivalent of 120 credits for my year here in Brussels, which is 60ECTS (30 in both terms).
For those of you who are not sure what ECTS is, here’s a definition for you:
The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is a student-centred system designed to acknowledge courses and programmes of Erasmus students while they study abroad. This system is either replaced or complemented by the different national standards within the EU member states. (Definition from: https://www.mastersportal.com/articles/388/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-european-credit-system-ects.html)
Now here at ULB, most modules in political science tend to be 5ECTS, meaning that I have to take six modules per term to make up for 60ECTS (equivalent to 120 credits at Kent). On the other hand at Kent, I would have usually taken like four modules worth 15 credits to make up 60 credits in a term (equivalent to 30ECTS). Therefore between the two universities, the workload at Kent was more doable for me. Also, another plus at Kent was that I was able to and mostly did choose modules that where either 100 per cent coursework based or modules that had for example 60 per cent coursework and 40 per cent exam. (BTW coursework is literally my best friend)
But here, literally all of my modules have exams some of which I have to do in January, which isn’t the same at UKC in terms of my course. To be honest I only have to pass this year so it is (in a way) not that deep and something that I just have to firm.
Omg, so when it comes to comparing the sports memberships between UKC and ULB, here at ULB it is so much cheaper than Kent. Like SOOOO much cheaper.
Literally, the price for sports membership at Kent is just as painful (if not more) then the hyperinflation of Freddo’s chocolate in the shops nowadays. Like its super expensive: Gold membership is like £245 for the year and Silver membership is only like £30 cheaper than the Gold. Now for someone who is not that committed to going to the gym, I’m not looking to pay that sort of money, so I never have, and I doubt that I ever will.
On the other side of the English Channel, here at ULB sports membership for the whole year is only 50€ (equiv. £44.10) and if you’re an Erasmus student its only something like 35€ (equiv. £30.87). FOR THE YEAR! Like to be honest with you, I haven’t bought my membership yet but I think I might do soon, I just have to look for classes that I will be willing to participate in you know? Plus, I don’t know what the gym is like…I guess I have to look into that as well. But overall, I’d rather pay 35€ than £245 for a year’s worth of gym membership.
So there you have it, some few differences between a UK university and a Belgian university. If you are thinking about doing a year/term abroad, just remember that there will be loads of differences between your home university and your host university. At first, it may give you a bit of a headache but in the end, it definitely will help you develop new skills when it comes to entering and adapting to new environments.
Are you also on your year/term abroad? If so what differences have you found with your host university? Have you find them easy/hard/ok to adapt to? Let me know, I’d love to hear some of your experiences as well. P.S. Thank you for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it!
Hugs and Kisses,