Exams, Goodbyes… and more exams? #14

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.

Speaking exam

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!

Goodbyes

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.

Exam results

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.

Johnny Cash

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. 

Oprah Winfrey 

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!

 

Advertisements

My Kot birthday*, Mother’s day and BLOCUS (2) #13

Hey there are all! I thought I would take some time before another busy week of studying to keep you updated on what has been going on and what is currently going on here in Belgium. This is likely to be the last blog post until after exams.

Kot birthday party 

One of the really cool and fun things we do here in the Kot is to celebrate each other’s birthdays. We have officially celebrated about 15 – 17 birthdays throughout the year, and sometimes without the birthday individual knowing anything about it. So on Thursday 10th May, my flatmates surprised me with an early birthday party*, along with another flatmate. The funny thing is, I knew it was coming because there were only a handful of birthdays left to celebrate and it was the last week of lectures before blocus. Nevertheless, I am really contente avec tous les mots attentionnés written in my card, for spending time with them, and also for my gifts.

We were all eating food together in the kitchen and I just felt everybody was acting super weird around me. Suddenly, one of my flatmates comes down with candles atop tortilla wraps (don’t ask!) (that night my flatmates were eating wraps, they really weren’t actually eating anything because there were no wraps yet haha!), singing joyeux anniversaire.

The night was donned with a slumber party in the living room,  all of us in pyjamas and Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, although I could not make it through the second film. We ate cake and had a pillow fight, it was dingue! 

Petites réflexions 

Before I came on this year abroad, I was incredibly worried about living with nine other people. I was told there were only three toilets and three showers, and I was freaking out! In reality, I have neither had to wait to use the toilet nor the shower. It’s true that living with so many flatmates can be challenging, there are multiple different personalities living under one roof,  a variety of values and morals, and of course interests. It hasn’t always been easy to integrate into the life of the kot seeing as I am rather an introverted person, and there have been times where I have refused to participate in activities but there really is no judgement, and I am quickly encouraged to join in on the next activity. Mon français vachement improved during my time here, although of course I still make mistakes every day and I am still considered the etrangère (Shoutout to The Stranger by Albert Camus, simply because of the title). I have still not had a dream in french, so I don’t know what this says about my french abilities.

As I near the end of my stay here in Belgium (and I know because I have already received a couple of emails letting me know this, thanks a lot!), I am treasuring conversations with my flatmates at half 11 at night about hair struggles, laughing out loud for no reason with another, speaking to another flatmate about the world cup (and how according to one flatmate, France is likely to win) (TOUCHWOOD! For his sake), or playing board games and debating some polemic subjects with another. It can sometimes be challenging to continue to speak french when most of your flatmates have gone home in order to study, and you too are studying. I have found that going to the library, while it may not appear to be very social, is more social than staying home all day. I have had opportunities to interact with people. And above all, hear french speakers and listen in on their conversations *rubs palms*.  I have also found going to Zumba to be rather enjoyable and a good way to hear french being spoken.

La fête des mères

Mother’s day or la fête des mères here in Belgium was 13th May, unlike in the UK,  where we solemnize it in march.

I spent the day in church where the youth had to take the service. I read psalm 139 because I felt it spoke profoundly about God’s creation, the promises that God has for us and of course about mothers!

I played my flute that day, a piece called Parce qu’il vit which translates in English as ‘Because He lives‘.

Slight detour…

I had my last flute lesson a couple of weeks ago and my teacher and I played ‘He’s a pirate‘ which features in Pirates of the Carribean together. I have also been learning Badinerie by Bach among other pieces. Speed still continues to be an issue for me, and I am using my trusted metronome to keep in time with the speed.

No longer having flute lessons has put things into perspective. In less than a month, I will be leaving Belgium for other adventures! I am expectant to see what God has in store for me.

…and we’re back!

The sermon at Church was about honouring your parents and it got me thinking about the relationship I have with my parents, but also the relationship I have with other people, and what ways I honour them.  I am learning that honouring is about respect, and as I recently read in 1 Corinthians 10:24. It is not about seeking your own good, but the good of others.

Blocus (2)

So this is blocus… and what have you done?! Another day over, a new day of studying just begun. Hahaha, I’m laughing while writing that. Side note – how are we already in June?! :O

Blocus as mentioned in a post precedent to this one, is a time where students study just before upcoming exams. In the previous post, I mentioned that blocus was ‘cramming’. I think it depends on who you are to be honest. Upon careful reflection, I would like to renege this opinion about blocus. Blocus is…. study leave. It literally is just that, it is two weeks (for me three) of no lectures and study time. You’ll often hear as you walk around, bon blocus, eh courage uhn with a wave of a fist. What solidarity among students on campus, I love it!

I have four exams and will officially finish on 22nd June with my first oral exam in Belgium on religion in Europe. Exciting times ahead!

For all of you with exams, courage!  C’est la dernière ligne droite! For those of you who have finished, congratulations, you did it, you made it, now go enjoy yourself!

 

Please pray for 

My four exams, especially the speaking exam

My last few weeks in Belgium and the people I spend it with

My church here in Belgium as I part

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Church en français, more lectures, mass and la bise #4

Last week was my first time in a Protestant Baptist church and it was similar and yet so different to my church in my hometown. It should be borne in mind that I am actually not Baptist but the city I’m currently in does not have too much to offer in terms of Protestant churches – in fact, Catholics rule the roost, quite literally (you’ll see why further down). Nevertheless, everyone at the Baptist Church was incredibly welcoming right from the start. We started with intercession which was completely in French and I just prayed in English (I’m getting used to the structure of praying in French and I know some of the keywords), however, I do try and pray and give God thanks in French when I can. It often takes more effort but it’s beautiful to know that despite what language you speak we all have one God who we can praise and extol in different ways.

Praise and worship were really enjoyable, there were a lot of songs I recognised because there were English equivalents. The lyrics were put up in French, however, I wasn’t sitting in the best seat to see them very clearly so I just ended up singing in English and murmuring other parts in French (I’ll get there eventually ;)).

The sermon was encouraging, the gist of it was not to worry about anything because God will never abandon us. For the most part, I was able to follow the sermon, but I do get lost in translation. Hearing sermons in French, making notes in French and singing in French is definitely helping me to improve my French especially in this context so I am very grateful for this, however, I don’t have a French Bible which would make following Bible reading a lot easier, so if anyone has recommendations let me know!  Overall, the service was nice and there were snacks after service – can’t go wrong with food!

As mentioned above, there are not many Protestant churches around, I spoke to someone from church today who told me there were only four in the city I am in, so it might mean travelling outside the city to go to church!

My lectures are in full swing now, I’ve had a taste of quite a few different subject areas, class sizes and lecturers and know the ones I’m going to take forward and the ones I’ll drop  – it’s like an add-drop system here, something I’m acquainted with! Over here you have to buy the syllabus for every module you take as well as the recommended textbook for the course (and just like you’re thinking, they’re not cheap!). I guess I don’t mind too much because I’ve chosen these modules so I should enjoy them. What I don’t however enjoy is waking up early for a lecture that starts at 08h30 for the class to be cancelled upon arrival (I’m hoping this was a one-off because it’s actually so much effort to wake up early). What has helped with waking up early, however, is going for a run around the lake with my flatmates. I ran 2km, which is more than I’ve ever run, I think!

Last Wednesday was my first ever experience of mass! I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this but all my flatmates are Catholic so mass is pretty common here as well as gathering during the week to sing and pray. Mass is a very structured event both in the songs, the prayers and the communion. I must say I definitely felt awkward because I didn’t know what to do with myself, to be honest. It was very different to anything I’ve ever known but I did enjoy singing some of the songs and seeing my flatmates there who all asked me how I found it afterwards (knowing I’m the only protestant!). After mass, all the students gathered in le bois (my flatmate told me it’s a bois because it’s smaller than a forest!) for a barbecue in the dark and some games which for our Kap included an obstacle course with a lit bougie. It was quite dangerous actually but nobody was harmed, so all is well.

The Belgians, and the French alike, always introduce, say hi/bye with la bise. For those of you who do not know what la bise is, it’s a kiss on the cheek. IN REALITY, however, it’s not even that. It’s just brushing your cheek against someone else’s and kissing your lips. I am still not accustomed to it and always put out my hand to introduce myself because that is what I am used to. Physical contact with someone is incredibly strange and as much as the phrase ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ comes to mind, I’m still getting used to this part of Belgian life. For this reason, I’ve had some awkward encounters with males and females, but mainly males! I hope it gets easier!

French language classes start tomorrow, I’m really looking forward to it.

P.S, the cottage pie turned out well but I put too much pile pile in it and some Belgians are very sensitive to heat!

Hebrews 13:8

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes as a gift from God, not from ceremonial rules about eating certain foods – a method which, by the way, hasn’t helped those who have tried it.’

Phillippians 4:6

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Prayer points

  • Please pray that I am able to balance Kap life with my studies.
  • Please pray I can continue understanding what is said both in Church and out and I find a CU like group/ church group.

 

 

And the praise is Yours

This post has one objective, it is to praise God and extol His holy name.

It is currently T minus 9 mins to 12 midnight (this post will probably go up sometime after that) and I wanted to write this post because the Lord has done so much for me regarding my personal and professional life. I would not personally consider myself to consistently read my Bible or always pray, although I aim to do both more times than not (that is every day – both morning and evening).

When I first started University, my faith in God was not very grounded. I used to go to Church because my parents did and my relationship with God was mainly vicariously through them. After flying the nest however and joining a church where I go to University, I have gotten stuck into the life of the Church – not simply being a spectator but actively participating in building the kingdom of God.

In all honesty, being away from my family makes me realise that my relationship with God does existent because when I am not with my family, to me I am with God and Him and I have the opportunity to be with one another. In essence, I feel like when I am by myself, I can have quiet time with myself and God all the time. The same cannot be said when I come back home however and the issue I have come to realise is my overreliance on my family’s faith rather than my own.

This is silly because God has done so much for me when I have been attentive to him, where I have served and when I have given. God’s blessings are immeasurable. All the blessings that have come my way are because of Him. Therefore all the glory and praise are His. He is the rock on which I stand, my joy and comfort.

Two sermons ago my Pastor mentioned the fact that as a church we should feel a heaviness or disappointment when someone who was unable to witness the love of God passes away. She is right in that from what I have experienced of the love and grace of God, I could not imagine my life any other way. In fact, I often speak to the Holy Spirit when I am walking out in public and there is nobody else I could ever speak to the way I do or trust the way I do the Holy Spirit.

Though I do sometimes forget to read my Bible or pray, I am always praising God and worshiping through song. Not a day goes by when I will not listen to or sing Christian music. I love Jesus and no power of hell or scheme of man will pluck me from His hand.

Please let me know about your experiences finding God for yourself, let me know if you do not know Him or whether you are still finding Him.