Hey hey hey! How is everyone doing?
So I thought about what I should say next regarding this wonderful experience that I am going through and I realised, reality has good and bad. I have been saying good so far, and maybe it’s time to get a little realistic.
There are some things I would like to be different about Gent, and maybe even put some of you off coming here, so I gotta give you some truth time and list the top 7 things that are downers of Gent.
1. It is expensive 😦
This is the biggest turn-off of Gent. Everything is expensive :(. Although the city is mainly comprised of students, it is as if it completely disregards that we don’t exactly have a lot of money and we only have so much to spend on things. Clothing shops are the usual not-so-cheap-price, supermarkets can be cheaper, forget about restaurants. The saddest part of it all are the cafes. The CAFEEEEES!!! Nothing is less than 5 euros in any hip cafe in town. The coffees are also expensive, always starting with 3 euros. The beers are cheaper here than in Glasgow, but not everything else (and a LOT stronger!). The laundry is seriously unnecessarily pricey; they charge you 4-4.5 Euros for one wash and the space is smaller than you would see it in Glasgow! The dryer is 1-1.5 Euros depending on how many minutes you would want to have it in for. Train tickets to get to the airport from Gent are a minimum of 11 euros one way for a student, and that’s because they charge you a diablo fee (this new fee they placed last year I believe. However, as a credit to their train service, it’s a maximum of 13 Euros to anywhere in Gent, so could be an issue because you could go places that are not that far for that price) The bus fare is a standard minimum 3 euros to wherever you need to go, and that’s one way. Sigh.
It sucks to live in an expensive place, However!
I am exaggerating a tad bit. It’s not like I can’t survive. And Glasgow isn’t the cheapest place to live either. The only difference between the two would be that Glasgow does accommodate for students a tad more, especially with the cafes (I am just too into cafes). Accommodation in Glasgow is more expensive as well, where student accommodation was 650 Pounds for Queen Margarets and 415 Euros here (so around 400-415 pounds, didn’t do the math cause i’m too lazy). Plus, travelling all around Europe from here is sooooooooooo cheap! You can literally catch a bus to Paris for 30 Euros return. That’s pretty cool!
2. The internet!!!!
Okay, this is genuinely a HUGE problem. It’s almost scandalous (Hey Arthur)! If you live in the student residence, you will only have an ethernet cable that connects to your laptop. So no internet on your phone, and no internet on your laptop unless you connect it to this wire. I mean… how can we work anywhere in the residence?! And what if we only had a phone that had no service? It is absolutely impractical!!! I have also mentioned earlier that we have a limit to how much internet we use. So if we exceed that limit, the internet gets slower, and if you exceed that, it can stop working altogether. The only thing that would work then would be the university websites. And so if you need to google something related to a paper you have to submit in the middle of the night you are screwed. Yaaaay. There is a common room that you can access in the residences that has wireless internet- eduroam <3. The only problem with that is that it can get very crowded, very loud, and closes at 11 PM. So if you need to work late at night in absolute silence, you may not have the common room as a possible solution. If you want to get a wifi router in your room, you do it at your own risk as it is strictly forbidden according to the rules, and if they catch you having one they will confiscate it :(. I have a couple of friends who have done that and it worked perfectly for them so far, but they have confiscated (or it was stolen, we aren’t really sure) the router we bought for the kitchen in our floor, which was so helpful until it was no longer with us…
Again, it’s not ALL bad…
This problem should be fixed by the time you decide to come here. They did tell us at the beginning of the year that they are going to make the internet wireless in the residences by next year, so we were just the unlucky ones. Also, this problem is non-existant in flats outside the university residences. Plus, you can just live at university or areas where eduroam is accesible. And also, a lot of the shops in Gent have internet of their own, so you can definitely manage.
3. Early closing times and Sundays
This can seriously be the most annoying thing on earth. Everything closes at around 6-6:30 in Gent. It gets quiet pretty fast actually! So all shops and stores are long closed by that time. Supermarkets close at 8 PM. Very, VERY impractical. Printing shops close the same time as the shops and stores, so around 6-6:30 PM. And Sundays, forget about it. Nothing is open, AT ALL. Printing shops are closed, shops are closed, supermarkets ARE CLOSED. LIBRARIEEEEES ARE CLOSED! All of them! They close early on weekdays and are not open on Sundays. I mean… How can you survive if you need to get something or study ON A SUNDAY!
Again, it really isn’t all bad..
There are some places that remain open longer than you’d expect! All fast food places are open till the late AM. There is one printing shop open till 9PM! It’s on the way to the center from the student accommodation, called Copy Cash (it’s also the cheapest printing shop I know in Gent! Only 3 cents per page (provided that you have a flash drive and not use the internet cause that costs a euro). Clubs and bars are open till after 3AM quite often, which is the limit in Glasgow for most nightclubs. There are some supermarkets open on Sundays, but they are a bit further away from the residence and that is why I complain. I know. Lazy ass. So don’t listen to me! You can manage to live off these silly early closing hours and Sundays!
4. There is no airport in Gent
I mean, this should not really be a negative because it isn’t a big deal. But there are two annoying issues regarding this point:
a. If you have many bags, it will be a huge hassle. I came to Gent with three bags, and I still do not know how I managed to survive. It really was not okay. You only have a train station in Gent as it is a cute little city, and so you either need to take a bus or you walk to where you need to go from there. Walking from the Station to the student residences takes about 20 minutes. Coming with several heavy bags will not be comfortable or smooth. Taking the bus is less of a hastle, but will be for a few minutes. This brings me to my second sub-point
b. It will cost you to get to Gent. As there is no airport, you definitely have to take some form of transportation to get here. There are two airports in Brussels, the capital of Belgium: Brussels Zaventem Airport and Brussels Charleroi. If you arrive from Brussels Zaventem, you can take the train, and that would cost you around 11-15 Euros one way. If you arrive from Brussels Charleroi, it will cost you 13-15 euros to get to Gent by bus. Not free, as you can see. And if you decide to catch the bus after you arrive in Gent, that will be an additional 3 euros. So overall that would be around 18 euros to get to where you need to be in Gent. If you decide to give in and take a taxi from Brussels to Gent, that will cost you a minimum of 60 euros. Desperate times would call for desperate measures, but they are costly desperate measures.
These are not very nice points, but if you pack light and need to go anywhere from Belgium, it will be quite a cheap trip that you forget these little annoying things!
5. The weather.. </3
I mean, I have been studying in Glasgow for the past two years so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to have unexpected weather, but it would have been nice to get away from that and go somewhere sunny almost all the time! Gent can get a little random, where it would rain one minute and then get sunny the other. Again, very similar to Glasgow weather, except it can get quite coooooooold in the winter, and because it isn’t as hilly as our beloved Glasgi it can get so chilly that you do not want to do anything but hide somewhere where it’s warm (then again, i’m not from Scotland and am not used to the cold anyway).
It is now May and today it is particularly grey, cold, and rainy! And this past Saturday it was a genuinely warm (you can even say Summer like!) day. It was absolutely wonderful. So….yeah. You leave one weather uncertain city to live in yet another weather uncertain city. Woooohhooo.
Again, this doesn’t even count as a negative..
I really should not complain about this, because it is very very nice when it is sunny here, and it definitely gets sunnier than Glasgow does, regardless of its bi-polarness. And plus, it’s only the beginning of May, it’ll probably be heavenly by June. So by the time exams are over, it will certainly be heavenly!
6. The campuses are scattered all over the city
I did not personally suffer from this problem, as the law campus is in one place and the courses are usually always in the law campus. However, if you are an architecture student, or a bio/chemist, you are not so lucky. You might have a class that is in one part of the city, and the next class in a completely different part of the city. With a bike, it would take you more than 20 minutes, so forget about walking if you want to make it to your class on time. That is a bit of a shame, and there isn’t much positivity I can add to that, except to maybe take classes that are within the same campus, or classes that don’t take place immediately after each other, to allow yourself some time to make it. You might be able to find out the timings and locations of your classes before you start, they usually provide you with a document filled with all that information.
7. (Some) Belgians can be not so nice/helpful
Again, this is not something I experienced personally, and I think Belgians are nice generally, buuuuuut…you know. You can come across people that are inconsiderate. This was mostly the case in group projects, where a lot of my friends here told me that Belgians tend to ignore the fact that there are non-dutch speakers and that a group project needs to be done with everyone. So they just go on speaking in Dutch with no care in the world. They also tend to be more to themselves than non-Belgians. I mean, Erasmus students are all in the same boat so they naturally tend to be more social around everyone, whereas Belgians are safe and comfortable in their own space, so they tend to keep to themselves.
Again, it’s not as bad…
I haven’t been in a situation where the Belgians in my group projects have been mean or inconsiderate. And not all people are the same. So it is just on luck.
I think that should be enough bad things I have come to notice in Gent. BUT, like I said, it isn’t actually that bad, so pleeeease come here! You’ll really enjoy it. Plus, what’s an experience without some rough and tough?
I’m sorry i’m posting this four months after my last post…especially with everyone already knowing where they are going. I’m useless. I have no other excuse. Hehe
Until next time!
Amina Husain | Email: 2117991H@student.gla.ac.uk | Facebook: Amina Husain | Instagram: ameena.abd | Twitter: @AWildAmeena