The time has come to end my adventure in Brussels. Today I re-read the journal entry I wrote on February 5th in which I outlined what I wanted to get out of the upcoming 6 months. My objectives were to get knowledge, an internship, a part-time job, friends and exercise.
I definitely gained knowledge and a lot of it. The hole there once was in my bank of legal information under the heading 'international law' is slowly beginning to fill. I found most of my courses very interesting but my favourite by far was international peace and security law. I can literally pick up the newspaper every day and apply what I learnt in that class to the stories that appear within.
Exercise-wise, I didn't join a gym, a squash club or a yoga studio as I might have liked, but signing up for the 1/2 marathon gave me the motivation I needed to get my butt out of the door on many a chilly day. The race went so well that I got a bit carried away by registering for the Montreal marathon in September. I'm afraid I have to report that my training has hit some bumps. I was advised to follow an 18-week training program - the only problem was, my race (at the time) was 10 weeks away. So I fast-forwarded to week 8 and my first run was 22km long! That was followed by 2 shorter runs and a 24km run the following week. That on top of the two hours I had walked to work and back every day had my body shouting STOP! So I did. I'm still waiting to feel back to normal and then I'll see where I stand. I may have to accept defeat this time...we shall see.
|Dinner in the African district Matonge - plaintain...yum|
My part-time job ended up working out remarkably well. I think it's the best job I will ever have. Cooking, baking and chilling with teenagers during the day, then chatting to their diplomat and lawyer parents in the evening? How am I going to top that? After I cooked the family a farewell feast (roasted tomato, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil quiche + grilled veggie salad and three choices of dessert: lemon loaf with berry coulis, pavlova and pasteis de nata) they gave me a lovely card and a very well chosen book to read on the plane. I must have done something right. I also became close with the two Filipino women working there. I was touched by the sacrifices they made in order to support their families. It left me wondering whether I would do the same.
|Setting the table for the diplomat's official residence dinner|
My internship at the Center for International law at l’Université libre de Bruxelles was very challenging. Research is not my passion - I love to learn but I way prefer working with people rather than a computer screen. Plus, it was difficult researching Canadian law in a foreign country with no one to bounce my ideas off of. I owe tremendous thanks to the librarians at l'Université de Montréal who patiently answered my never-ending pesky emails. I spent all day yesterday in my supervisor's office putting the final touches on my work. I am pleased to say it is now online! Check it out here out if you dare... (I wrote the whole 'Au Canada' part)
|My last time hosting Sunday supper club|
Re: friends; it's funny. I spent my first few months here wishing I could find a kindred-spirit and now that I'm ready to leave, I realize how many great people I have had the fortune of meeting these past 6 months. I loved that everyone came from such different backgrounds - it made our discussions so interesting. For the first time ever, none of my friends were students. On Saturday my housemates threw me a farewell party. They were so sweet. They decorated our living room with a Canada flag and wrote me a card signed by everyone. The following day I bid au revoir to the Sunday supper club crew who know me all too well - as a goodbye gift they got me two dark Green & Black’s chocolate bars :) My favourite.
|My farewell party in my house|
|House mates and friends|
Above all, my semester in Brussels has helped me cement a 4-year plan. This coming year I'll study the Common Law in English at l'Université de Montréal (which I am kind of dreading to be honest. I don't fancy going back to subjects like contract law, property law, etc. but I know it's knowledge that I need.) Then in August 2013 I'll start bar school and assuming I pass, I'd like to do my articling at the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva. Following that, my sights are set on a two-year bilingual Masters in International Law at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. All of this is far from certain, of course, but at least I know what to aim for.
All in all, I really enjoyed my stint in Brussels. It's a city with a lot to offer and is very well situated. As is my tradition, I'd like to end on the top 5 things I've come to love and love less about the city.
1. How Belgian men (adolescent ones included) give each other a kiss hello/goodbye. It is so endearing!
2. How the second I gracefully step on to a zebra crosswalk the cars immediately come to a halt. It's almost as if they don't want to run me over (which comes as quite a shock to a Montrealer)
3. Being in the center of the action. Often while I'm listening to the CBC news, they dispatch to a reporter in Brussels for the latest on a decision by the EU or the European Commission.
4. How there are statues everywhere! I count 7 on my walk to school - here's my fave
5. The bread. Most of you are aware that in Canada I have to go gluten-free. But for some reason, my tum can digest Belgian bread as long as I don't eat an entire baguette in one sitting (which is challenging when a) it is so delicious and b) you know it will be hard enough to use as a weapon the next day)
What I will not miss:
1. Cobble-stoned sidewalks. They looked quaint when I first arrived until I had to drag two suitcases across them for 30 minutes. I also never forgave them when they once snatched off the heel of one of my boots. Not cool.
2. For some reason Belgians don't believe in putting screens on windows. I could have done without all the insects that crawled their way into my room.
3. How you have to go to 5 grocery stores in order to find all the ingredients you need for a standard dinner party (I shouldn't have to go to an Asian specialty store to get Shitake mushrooms and tofu - come on people)
4. Doing my laundry at a laundromat. Enough said.
5. How you really have to watch where you step - much like in France, no one picks up after their dogs.
Until my next adventure, thanks for reading. I appreciated your comments and support throughout this experience.