By Ann-Sophie Vermeersch
It is the second time in three months that I am packing my bags, leaving for an adventure, and taking a leap of faith. After my finals, I am going to visit a few cities in the U.S. before returning to Belgium in January. When I was packing my bags in September to come here, all I thought was ‘well, if it doesn’t work out, I will be back in three months. That is not so long.’ However, now that I am preparing to leave Boston, I can’t say when I will be back. And if I do return, it will never be the same.
I won’t come back as a student at Northeastern, but as a tourist. I have to say goodbye to people I might never see again, because even if I come back, they may not be here. The Airbnb where I stayed is going to be rented out as an apartment in the future. So, as you can imagine, this is a very strange period for me. Even though I only lived here for three months, this city has turned into a place I love very much. I never expected that to happen, especially not in the first three weeks of my stay here. At that moment, I was holding on to things I was accustomed to in Belgium. However, when I let go of my expectations of how things should be according to what I was used to and began to open my eyes to the system and culture I was becoming a part of, I started to grow fond of it.
Coming to Boston has taught me so much. I describe it to people as an intellectual, cultural, social, psychological, and even physical enrichment. The psychological changes I already described in the previous paragraph. When it comes to the intellectual level, I told you in a previous blog post how I started to adapt to the “class participation” culture. Besides that, I have gained some very useful insights into how to conduct public policy since the professors don’t just teach you knowledge, they also develop your skills as a policymaker. I lost count of how many policy memos I wrote. I also figured out what I would like to do next and got the chance to explore my fields of interest, which turn out to be security, water management and citizen participation. So, a big thank you to all my professors and classmates who contributed to this “Aha-Erlebnis.”
Regarding the cultural aspect, I pointed out in my “flashback blog entry” how I found many things very different here from back home: going to the supermarket, taking the train, the food you eat, the things you do after hours, and how people treat each other. Even though I never considered myself to be timid in Belgium, I feel we are more “polite” to one another. Americans say what they think, whether they like your hair or you are talking too loud on your phone—they will just tell you as it is. So even though this directness took some getting used to, I have made some amazing friends here that made time fly. Finally, I also experienced a physical enrichment by taking yoga classes at Northeastern. I will definitely continue to do yoga when I return to Belgium.
I promised in my previous post I would only be a softie at Thanksgiving, but here I am again with my clichés. I would like to thank everyone who was a part of my adventure in Boston—professors, classmates, friends, people from the university, those of you who read my blog posts, and people from Belgium who supported me in my adventure. You all played a big role in something that will be one of the best experiences of my life!
So, if anyone is ever in Belgium, please reach out to me. I would like to return the favor!
Ann-Sophie Vermeersch is a graduate student in the Master of Public Policy. However, you won’t see her around during the spring semester. She is here as an exchange student, and she'll return to Belgium after the final exams. In Belgium, she obtained a Master’s Degree in History, and she is in the process of obtaining a Master’s in Public Policy, which she is deepening at Northeastern. She's interested in how policy deals with climate change and crises. Within those areas, she is particularly keen on finding out how citizens can be involved in the policy process. In her free time, she likes to go for a run, read some books, or have a drink and meet new people. Ann-Sophie can be reached at email@example.com, or via Facebook.