I am back in the UK for now, having finished lectures, exams, packing and saying à bientôt to flatmates (they are my friends too!) and friends. The year abroad has been fantastic and I have thankfully had a chance to eat, speak and experience various things I have never done before. Much more recently, I have enjoyed going to the ‘pub’ in Belgium and watching the France c Uruguay football match with a few of my flatmates, which by the way was – phénomenal, phénomenal, phénomenal. While my year abroad may be over, this blog page will continue to run as it has done before my year abroad and will do afterward. Thank you to everyone who continuously reads it, prays for me and others, and contacts me to find out how I am. I am so grateful for you! You have been just as much as part of this year abroad as I have! This blog post will just recapitulate some of the activities I’ve gotten up, and why the title is rather puzzling.
The Belgium Education system
I have already written a blog post which touches a little bit on the Belgian University education system. It is impossible to comment on everything about the system, but nonetheless, I think it is important to comment on the lecturer-student relationship.
It is very common in Belgium for lecturers not to reply to their emails, or offer up their time outside of lectures. Unluckily for me, some of my emails have not been replied to and consultations for exams are strictly between student and lecturer or a designated friend and lecturers, which means generally speaking if you cannot make these hours or have anyone to go for you, it is impossible to get the assistance you need. Luckily for me, some lecturers do have pity on Erasmus students, and will offer their time outside of consultation hours.
My exams this semester have been much like my exams in the first semester; I had five exams: three written, one QCM and one speaking exam. Since it is the first time I have had a speaking, I would like to reflect a little bit about this form of examination.
According to one of my flatmates, speaking exams are very common in Europe, and the reasoning dates back to the Roman Empire where they had to convince their audience in order to get what they wanted. The aim of speaking exams is to sound as convincing as possible while conveying a concept or idea and simultaneously making it your own. Moreover, most of the time students dress smartly for their speaking exam, in a hope to emulate their teacher or exude more intelligence while speaking. Either way, I have been told it is the better move to make rather than not making an effort at all, dresswise. My speaking exam was on Religion, droit et sociétés en Europe. I had to discuss civil divorces and compare them with religious ones. It is often difficult to get a civil divorce because in a number of religions they are not recognized. The objective was thus to analyze the chronological order of divorces subjectively. It went well, and I really was not that nervous about my exam perhaps because I have had scarier speaking exams than this one, and the teacher was largely relaxed- thank God!
I have said my ‘see ya later’s/ see you soon’s’ to a number of my friends and flatmates. I prefer to say this rather than goodbye because to me it infers seeing people again in the future. I thought it would be tough for me to say an informal goodbye to people, but surprisingly I did not cry or was not too sad about it. I think this is positive! The toughest part of friendships, I think for a lot of people, is not the idea of being social and spending time with one another. The real challenge to long-lasting friendships is when there is an element of long-distance thrown into the works and often causes the ending of many friendships.
In a hope to close this gap a little, I have taken the home addresses of some of my friends and church members in order to write them letters. Firstly, I love receiving letters and I think I can learn to like letter writing too. I like the idea of not needing to urgently reply to a letter, as you would have to with a text. I think more thought can go into letters too, and they can be treasured for longer. Finally, it will be a good way to keep up with my French written skills.
While my intention was never to stay with my church in Belgium, as I was to go to Hope City Brussels, I think God has directed my steps into a family. A place where I feel welcomed, where I am challenged and can celebrate my skills and talents. My church is small but over my stay, I have learnt so much about the members and church – french style! I was so nervous at the beginning of my year abroad to pray out loud in French, and I really struggled to understand a French bible study. Thanks to GBU, SFC, my church and my own personal Quiet times, I have learned how to pray in church, pray at SFC and GBU and through Jesus praying for us, affect lives. I have also learned the Lord’s Prayer in French!
This is why saying goodbye to members of the church has been difficult, whether it be seeing off my German friend who has been with me at church from the start, seeing off a church gem who has been like a father for me, a woman of God interceding for me while I had exams or another mother figure who wants to invite me home one day. I could not be more thankful for everyone who has cared to get to know me, said I played the flute amazingly even though I made a thousand errors, prayed for me, given me a lift, called me or texted me. I can never forget this band of people and the times we have shared!
Equally, SFC and GBU have been supportive, whether it be throwing a go-away party for me, or seeing me around and asking and encouraging me about exams. I know I will continue to join SFC small group Bible studies when I get the chance!
My flatmates have already asked me when I will come back, one of them suggesting September (but I will be at University!), and another asked me if I would come over for a meal and get together – of course I would! A lot of my friends from SFC jokingly said that I should fail some of my exams and come back to Belgium to retake them. They must be rather conflicted now they’ve said this.
The reality of studying is that it does not always go the way you planned. Studying abroad makes it more complicated! While I don’t necessarily feel my exams went badly, I failed two modules. I have passed my year abroad as I have taken more modules than necessary but at risk of having two ‘fails’ on my transcript, I will be retaking these exams.
I thank God for my exam results! The Bible says that in all things we must give thanks: 1 Thessalonians 5:18. There is likely a reason I will be heading back to Belgium, although I am confused, conflicted and do not understand why at present. This is not to say that the result does not affect other summer plans – it does and it’s expensive to make the trip to and fro! If I had it my way, I would not be going back to retake these exams. Having said this, I am willing to see how this can help shape my perspective and learn from my mistakes. Failures are not the end of the world… cue the failure quotes.
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.
If you have found out results for exams or University classifications – well done on your achievements! If you have failed, rest easy *breaks out into song in my head*! You will have a second chance to better yourself!
So, I will be heading back (God willing) to Belgium in August/September. Please pray for my summer plans and projects, studying for retakes and preparing to return to University in September.
Thanks for reading this blog, until next time!