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Europe

Waffles, Chocolate, Frites and Business in Brussels

Grand Place in Downtown Brussels

Grand Place in Downtown Brussels

The last month has been a blur. An exciting, amazing, incredible blur – but a blur nonetheless. I’ve been living in Europe since January 12th and have loved every minute of my time here. Everything has been magical – from eating Belgian waffles on my walk to class in the morning, to visiting World War II foxholes in Bastogne, to spending a weekend in the city of lights.

Sometimes I forget that the life I’m living right now isn’t normal. As I walked along the Seine this past weekend, I had to remind myself that the giant structure I was staring at was actually the Eiffel Tower; I’ve seen it hundreds of times before, but this time I was in Paris, looking at the real thing.

Carly in Front of Eiffel Tower

Carly in Front of Eiffel Tower

It was an incredible moment that I’ve been dreaming of ever since I read about Madeline’s trip to the emergency room to have her appendix removed and watched Mary Kate and Ashley eat escargot in Passport to Paris. It’s not every day you visit Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Musée du Louvre, and Pont des Arts before the sun goes down. I can’t believe how lucky I am to finally be living my dream, however cliched that may be.

Enough about Paris, though – Brussels is my European home. Brussel/Bruxelles/Brussels has an undisputed Washington, D.C. vibe – a local described both cities to me as “government with a bit of funk.” Government buildings populate downtown, but once you venture into the surrounding neighborhoods you find a vibrant artistic community and nightlife scene.

Carly  and Other GW Students in CIEE Brussels Program

Carly and Other GW Students in CIEE Brussels Program

Brussels is also described as a “melting pot of different cultures,” a phrase commonly associated with both the United States and Washington, D.C. Brussels is described as such because, as the capital of the EU, it is home to a large population of international expats. I can attest to this, as one of my housemates is an Italian banker who’s been an expat in many different countries around the world.

I think I haven’t experienced severe culture shock yet because my environment is fairly similar to home; I ride the metro, speak English frequently (“Bonjour, ça va? Uhh..umm..parlez-vous anglais?” is how most of my conversations start), and make myself cous cous and vegetables for dinner. Not too much has changed, except for the fact that I’m living in an attic, it rains almost every day, I travel to different countries on the weekends, and I go to school with 300 people I’ve never met before. (Who am I kidding, everything has changed.)

Belgian Frites

Belgian Frites

In May, Europe will feel like a far-away fantasy world, and my experiences will be distant, dream-like memories. My goal from now until then is to live the study abroad experience to the best of my ability – traveling, connecting with locals, practicing my french, and making the most of every moment. Oh, and eating my weight in waffles, chocolate, and frites.

Carly (Caroline) Walsh is a GWSB Junior studying Marketing.  She is currently abroad on GW’s Business, Communications, and Culture Program in Brussels with CIEE.  Click here to read more about it.  

Follow @GWSBabroad on twitter!

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