All posts by Emmi Sirén

Vibrant, beautiful Ghent

My exchange destination is not so known place called Ghent. This city of Belgium is the second largest in Flanders community and ranking third in the whole Belgium after Brussels and Antwerp. I studied international business management during the autumn semester in this beautiful city full of history, stories, colorful streets, and delicacies.

Bikes are a huge thing in Ghent. They are everywhere. I have around three kilometers to the campus, so I rented one as well. Locals said that when you have a bike, you are “the king of the streets”. And that was surely it. There are specifically marked bike streets meaning that cars are not allowed to pass. Having a bike makes moving easy – you can pass the traffic jams, you do not have to wait buses or trams and you save money. It is also environmentally better option than a car. The central area is a low emission zone and restricted to cars – mainly taxes are driving there. Therefore, most of the students and inhabitants have their own or rented bikes. I really like the biking culture and got keen on my bike. Now that I had to return it, I felt kind of that something important is missing.

Ghent is truly a student city in Belgium. There are student activities almost every week and a bar street located near the campus. I spent my spare time as a typical exchange student – travelling, hanging out with other students, roaming around and of course by exploring the food and drink culture. The location is great. You can book a trip to Amsterdam, Paris or some other city just the night before at affordable prices.

When it comes to the studying itself and group works which we have a lot, Belgian students are not that motivated or hard working. The lack of motivation might be explained partly by the fact that they do not have to take entrance examination so everyone can attend school. Power distance and school environment are quite different than in Finland; disputes are not that welcomed, and breaks are shorter. Also, the eating habits are different as students are having chocolate bars, candies or waffles for lunch. The canteen is serving lunch only for couple hours with poor selection and the other campus only have a machine that offers sweets and some sandwiches. So, for me it was quite a surprise and made me to appreciate more the canteen in TAMK. I went home to eat during the gaps which was not a bad thing at all as I got fresh air and exercise.