Heeeey again! Or should I say Hoi! Ik ben Amina. Hoe gaat het met jou? (Basically asked how your day is going, hehe)
So now that I have briefly told you about Ghent and all its wonders, it’s time to go in depth and really understand the life you may lead here. I thought of dividing all you need to know in three sections: Accommodation, Academics, and Social Life. I’ll be talking about each section in three different posts, so make sure you check them out! (Only if you want to, no pressure)
LET US BEGIN!
Section 1: Accommodation
So getting here was a challenge to say the least, and that is mainly why I say, DO NOT BRING MORE THAN YOU NEED TO! And DO NOT BE OUTNUMBERED BY YOUR BAGS! I had to handle two suitcases along with a cabin bag and it was torture. But I survived. Thank goodness. ANYWAYS! Managed to get to the accommodation with the help of my Erasmus Student Network (ESN) buddy. Getting an ESN buddy is very very helpful, and I recommend it on arrival as they can offer to give you a ride to where you live! It’s very easy, just go to the ESN Ghent website and select the ‘Buddy Program’ on their home page! I’ll make it easier for you and attach the link right here: http://www.esngent.org/buddy-program. Once you sign up for the program, they will find a buddy and assign him/her to you and you can work from there! My buddy drove me to the accommodation AND carried one of my bags, so basically saved my life. I must say though, the train station is not that far away from the accommodation i’m in(about 15-20 minute walk), but when you first get there, you definitely need help and it mostly revolves around a car.
I live in the University accommodation, which has a monthly rent of 415 Euros this year. The rate increases every year, but it’s considerably cheaper than the rent I paid back in Glasgow (almost half the price!). You can get accommodation that is cheaper than the University one for about 300-390 Euros, but I highly recommend you come to Ghent well in advance to do so or else you will end up with accommodation more expensive or even homeless until something lucky comes along. I managed to check in very easily as the people working at reception were very helpful and they spoke English which is very important (I’ll mention more on the language later in this post). I received the keys, badge and accommodation invoice for the month of September as well as a check-in handout to ensure that the room I’ll be staying in is in good form (had to return this form maximum a week after arrival).
There are 4 different homes available to Exchange/PhD students at the University Accommodation (which is called site Kantienberg): Home Groningen (Voetweg 64 & Stalhof 43), Home Uppsala (Stalhof 47), Home Göttingen (Stalhof 49) and Home Canterbury (Stalhof 51). You do not know where you will end up until you arrive in Ghent (you do choose where you prefer to be when you’re applying for accommodation though). There are 5-6 levels for every home, and I was assigned to live in Home Uppsala on the 6th floor.
The rooms are quite decent, and there is a huge space for you to have people around. You are not supposed to have people stay the night though, but the residence is so big I don’t see how they will know…(Insert creepy up to no good laugh here). You have a fridge in your room, which is always nice because you know that no one will ‘accidentally’ take your food. Slight problem though, there is no freezer, not even in the kitchen. So no frozen food throughout your stay :(. There’s also no oven and it’s not allowed to have one, but you can always secretly buy a second-hand one and make as much food as you want. Just hide it well in your room hehe (i’ve got a friend who’s doing that and she’s the world’s best cook and I just love her because she spoils everyone with her goodies). There are shared cleaning and cooking facilities for everyone in each floor, and a few shared vacuums for the whole residence (I know, not even close to being enough). The vacuum cleaners are located in the reception which is in House Vermeylen, and you need to return it as soon as you are finished due to the limited number that they have.
There is a very important aspect about the rooms that I have to talk about though, and that is the internet. Hopefully by the time you go on exchange to Ghent this will change, but as of now they only have an ethernet connection where you plug a wire into your computer to have access to the internet. I know. Wooooah. You are not supposed to have a router in your room and it’s mentioned in the rules of the accommodation, but to be honest I’m really considering one because it is very frustrating (I know several people who have one in their rooms in the accommodation). You not only have to connect your laptop with a wire, but you have limited internet usage; 5 GB worth of uploading and 25 GB worth of downloading. That means you can’t skype for more than half an hour if you do it on a regular basis (it’ll last you a few days tops) and you can watch one movie before your data usage is up. Once you have used all your data, you will not be able to use the internet except for University stuff, so all the University sites will be working fine, but no facebook, youtube, etc. (I mean it will be reeeeeeeaaaallly slow. So not gonna work.) You will also not be able to use eduroam (they have it here too!) once you use up your data until the end of the month. On the plus side! You have access to the common/recreational rooms that have the eduroam wifi (there is one at level 1 of the residences and another one at Home Vermylen-main home/reception) and it will be limitless so you can do whatever you want, but it closes at 11 PM, so keep that in mind.
FURTHER INTERNET CHEATS & TIPS: I forgot to mention this but was reminded by a wonderful person who was studying in Ghent before me! (THANK YOU Linda Powell!) There is a way to get unlimited internet! (Maybe not for everything like Netflix or Skype but it shall do!) You will have access to a software called Athena. This will allow you access the internet without actually using up the data you are entitled to every month. You can use it as much as you want to and it can actually save your life!
There are soooo many different bars and pubs next to the University Accommodation, mainly in a street called Overpoort. Literally 2 minutes and you’re there, which is very convenient. You have got various different (and very cheap) restaurants that sell kebabs, french fries and such. There’s a dominos that sells pizzas for about 3-5 Euros which is absolutely insane. There’s a supermarket and a gym that’s a minute away as well. They really know how to spoil us students. Hehe. There are a couple of stores that will also be useful such as a printing shop, computer repair shop, stationary shop, dry cleaning and so forth. I mean, what else can you ask for?
Hmmmm…what else do I need to cover? OH YEAH! Dry cleaning is a little bit expensive here… Around 5 euros for a wash + dry service. Weirdly and unnecessarily expensive, especially because the space they provide for washing is not so big compared to the washing machines I came across in Glasgow.
A big thing I should also mention is to try and have as much change as you possibly can at all times. Even cash. I say this especially when you want to buy groceries as a lot of the places do not accept Visa or MasterCard, only Maestro, which means you would need to open a bank account here to use more of a card means of payment. I opened a bank account here because I never, EVER, have cash.
I think I have now completely covered all that you neeeeeeed to accommodate your mind! Get it? Accommodate? I really should stop trying to be funny because i’m genuinely just not.
Until next time!
Amina Husain | Email: 2117991H@student.gla.ac.uk | Facebook: Amina Husain | Instagram: ameena.abd | Twitter: @AWildAmeena