Naivety

It’s been a long, long time since I last posted. So much so that I have changed the description to “University blog” rather than “Weekly blog”; which nicely leads me on to this post’s theme… naivety! It has truly been a rollercoaster of emotions this past month, from leaving home again to channeling my inner Julia Roberts, in Eat Pray Love, and figuring out what I want to do in life; the stereotypical ‘finding yourself, on Erasmus’-moment. Allow to provide some context…

For those of you who know me well, or well enough to stalk my Facebook profile,  you’ll know that I am not the most decisive person – understatement of the century. So indecisive in fact, that I changed my college courses three times, wrote several personal statements for various university degrees (ranging from Nursing to Musical Theatre) and even switched university and degree programme after first year! As you can imagine then, it’s a major revelation when I do finally make up my mind. Over the years, I have whittled down my many ideal careers to just 5 – which is still a lot, believe me I know. And deciding which of these careers to go down and which Masters degree would help most has been super stressful. But whilst on Erasmus, I’ve had the opportunity to rekindle my passion for filming and media; I didn’t realise quite how much I’d missed it. I’ve always liked with the idea of going into Broadcast Journalism, particularly being a news presenter – it was one of my first degree choices in fact – and after spending time out filming and talking to friends I think I’m going to give it a go! – for now at least.

“This is the ITV News at ten, with Craig Meichan” – you can totally picture it right? Me. In a suit. Being even more dramatic than usual?!

Anyways, on to my adventure of the week… Carnivalllll! No, not the rainbow filled, Rio-esque parade you see in movies. Instead a huge, crazy street party with a load of drunken, dressed up Germans in Cologne – how could I say no?! The first step was to come up with a costume idea, now I did want to go as Peter Pan butttt that didn’t quite work out. So I did the next best thing… PRIMARK ONESIE! Warm, low maintenance and a crazy design perfect for carnival. Sadly they were all out of the onesie I wanted, a bright pink dragon, so instead I had to opt for the green dragon instead. The day started pretty early, 6:30am. Now most of you will know that I am not great with early mornings or mornings at all. In fact, just turning up is a struggle. But alas, I made it and in plenty of time too! – Which is genuinely shocking, I know. I think it got to about 2 hours into the journey when we all realised that trying to sleep was pretty useless, instead we decided to start drinking – oops. We arrived in Cologne, not nearly as drunk as we needed to be to deal with the German winter weather, and picked up some pretzels to keep us going. I have never seen such an epic, and simultaneously hilarious, sight in my life. The streets were filled with people, music and food and we were amongst thousands and thousands of people all dressed up and getting absolutely hammered. It was basically one gigantic street party/pub crawl!

We played this odd, German shot game too where you have to tap this mini liqueur bottle on your hand before putting the bottle cap on your nose and shot-ing it… I don’t even know. And spent the day dancing in club after club, street party after street party, having an absolute blast.  But the highlight of the day was running through Cologne airport, at half 10 at night, still in my dragon onesie on a quest to get Maccie’s nuggets and get back to the bus in 10 minutes – successfully, by the way, and the nuggets were the best things I have ever eaten. It was seriously one of the best experiences of my life and if you ever can… GO!

Oh but one piece of advice… never go shot for shot with a German, you will get very drunk, very quickly.

Hurricane Ophelia, you owe me £50!

So this week I returned home for an appointment and to see the family! I did plan on making the rounds but my tonsillitis came out fighting for a round two and kept me in bed for pretty much the whole time I was there. Anyway, let me tell you about my day, and journey back to Brussels, so far…

5:15am. I was rudely awoken by RuPaul’s ‘Cover Girl’ – just in case you thought I couldn’t get anymore flamboyant. Mum and I were ready for about 6am, only 10 minutes behind schedule, so we set off like something from Fast and Furious. Then the first issue comes, we have to stop for petrol. Mum spends about 5 minutes fighting with the petrol cap, trying to get it off, until an attendant eventually comes out to help and gets it off within 5 seconds. But alas! It gets worse. So we’re eventually on the road by 6:15am, mum panicking about directions and me trying to Google Map it; it was the blind leading the blind. Then we hit the aftermath of Storm/Hurricane Ophelia (whatever she is) in the form of M6 stop-start traffic. Absolute nightmare. I watched the clock, minute by minute, counting down until 7:20 and the time my gate was due to close. It got to 7:35 and we were still nowhere near Manchester. I made the executive decision to pay £50 for a flight later tonight and make a detour to Manchester City Centre – I mean, Starbucks is pricey enough, I’m definitely not paying airport prices for it! So I’m sat in Starbucks, with my soy latte, the epitome of hipster-wannabe-writer. I’m in for a longggg 7 hours.

– Spoiler alert, the next bit is a little soppy –

Leaving home was definitely tougher the second time round, and I think I speak for my family and friends too on this one. It was so nice just being back in England, the accent, knowing where everything is, using my card and not getting charged, just the familiarity of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brussels, despite all of the things that have gone wrong. I have a great set of friends, lots of places I still need to explore and a nice apartment – even if it doesn’t have a wardrobe… no, it still hasn’t arrived. But it’s called home for a reason and, for now, Brussels isn’t my home. That was a tough realisation and I was sort of confused by it. Should Brussels be home? Do the other Erasmus students consider it home? If not home, what is it? It’s almost like a half-home, with half of my life – family and old friends – back in the UK and the other half – new friends and education – in Brussels. Getting back to the point… it was tough saying goodbye this time. But as my mum always says “It isn’t a ‘goodbye’, it’s just a ‘see you later'”

With that in mind… see you later, England!

Did someone say boat trip?!

I can’t believe I’ve almost left it two weeks without posting!! In my defence, life in a capital city can be veerrryyyy fast-paced, dahhhhling!

Anyways, I write to you curled up on my sofa-bed – #StudentLife – with a cup of ginger tea and an IKEA lemon candle beside me… sounds perfect, right? WRONG! I naïvely thought that moving to a different country would mean that I would escape the dreaded Freshers’ Flu. Turns out, it’s actually worse here! So here I am, surrounded by pills and potions, and this strange throat spray the little, old pharmacy lady made me buy. But onto the my main stories of the week!

So it’s around 7:45pm, I’m running late for an evening out – as usual -and my gorgeousss bestie, Marie Carstens, is waiting for me by the door. So, feeling the pressure from Marie’s very matriarchal glare, I quickly gather my things and head out of the house looking rather disheveled. We have a few drinks, the night finishes, everyone heads home and Marie and I stop to grab the essential ‘End of the Night Kebab’. We arrive back at my apartment, kebabs at the ready, and I am immediately filled with dread… I’ve left my keys inside my apartment.
You should have seen us. I transformed into this camp, and slightly tipsy, wannabe version of James Bond, and Marie was my glamourous Bond Girl – well, as glamourous as you can be with kebab in hand. One hour and many bobby-pins and loyalty cards later, my landlord sends out a locksmith. This guy came with A SHEET OF PLASTIC, opens my door in less than 20 seconds and then has the nerve. The audacity. To charge me ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY EUROS! So, after successfully breaking into my own apartment, I sat there. On my bed. Dramatically crying to myself whilst tucking into my cold kebab. Well, I certainly won’t be forgetting my keys again, I can tell you that.

In other news, we paid a visit to gorgeous city that is Bruges 😀 Yayyyy!

I still find it amazing that this crazyyyy little country never ceases to amaze me! Visiting Bruges was literally like falling into a Harry Potter-esque novel. It had winding streets and kooky boutiques, cobblestones and medieval buildings, it even had it’s own mini canal system! It’s like Belgian Venice for history buffs. As we left the train station we used our tourist intuition and walked toward the biggest building we could see. We passed through the super quirky, and seemingly uninhabited, suburban part of the city and found ourselves stood in front of this towering cathedral on the doorstep of the city. And, as we headed towards the shop, we saw it… A MINI BOAT RIDE DOWN THE CANAL! The best €8 I’ve ever spent. We saw it all on that little boat, amazing architecture, stunning views of nature, the best places to buy beer and, even better, GIANT SWANS! – I’m not kidding. They were huge; the Queen would be insanely jealous. After regaining our land legs we decided to visit all the places we’d spotted on our boat trip. We took selfies with the swans, had a photoshoot by the lake and, of course, had to sample the famed Belgian waffles and fries! – Because screw gluten-intolerance! After an afternoon of exploring quirky shops, gorging on chocolate and having a quaint game of cards at a little park by the lake, it was time to head home and wish bonsoir to Bruges!

With every adventure I have in this colourful and lively country, I find myself growing more and more attached. I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave! I can’t wait for my next trip 😀

The Wardrobe

So I’ve lived in Brussels for roughly 3 weeks now. Nobody said it was going to be easy – quite the opposite actually – but thats what I wanted. A challenge. With that being said, waiting 3 weeks for a wardrobe to arrive was not the challenge I wanted! Especially not with over 30kg of luggage 😀

Let me set the scene. So I’m sat in a bar, after a hard day trying my best to recall the French I learned in year 7, when I get a phone call from a Belgian number I’ve never seen before. I had the typical British/Peter Kay moment, you know, “Who’s this calling at this time?!” “Answer it and find out!”. Well I did answer. And then I found myself in a game of ‘How many times can we say hello before it gets awkward?’ with a Belgian builder who barely spoke a word of English! I think we said several variations of ‘hello’ around 17 times before I finally, and in a rather sassy manner, demanded to know who was calling and why. After around 5 minutes of deciphering a combination of French and English I came to realise that my landlord, after 2 weeks, was finally going to send someone to bring and build my wardrobe and that they would be there between 1 and 3 the next day (typical builder, why can they never give an accurate time?). So that night, rather than attend a party with my friends, I sat at home, watched a movie and stayed sober (thrilling…).

As it turns out, it was pretty naïve of me to believe that the builder could actually make it for 1pm, and I could have gone out, as he turned up at 2 minutes to 3 *eyeroll*. He calls me from the street out front and we play the ‘hello’ game once more before I realise it’s him and that he’s outside. We go back up to my apartment and he walks in and looks very confused. “Where is the wardrobe?” I ask. Cursing to himself in French was definitely not the response I expected. He walks back out, I follow, he dials a number on his phone and then passes it to me. It was my landlord. Apparently the builders had forgotten to pick up and bring my wardrobe. Now I’m no expert but if you’re asked to build something, I’m fairly certain you’re supposed to bring the thing you’re going to build?

So here I am, a week later, still waiting for this wardrobe to magically appear. #PrayForCraig’sWardrobe

Life Hack 101

Those of you back home know that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist at times. Be it my hair, skincare routine, bedroom or even organising my phone apps! But above all, IRONING MY CLOTHES!!! And let me tell you, I have never had a more stressful experience than scouring the tourist-filled streets of Brussels looking for an iron! THREE hours. Three hours I spent trying to find, not only a store that had them, but a store where they didn’t cost a mere €60. *Spoiler alert, none of the three stores I managed to find had what I needed.No, instead I had to order one online, which also meant four days with no iron and a tonne of creased shirts… help! Then the eureka moment came. “I may not have an iron but I do have a saucepan!”. So for the next four days I had to heat a pan to act as my makeshift iron. Even more surprising… it worked! If that isn’t the definition of student life I don’t know what is. But enough about my ironing habits, back to Brussels!

So there I was, my first week. My first lesson. My first time meeting my new lecturers and classmates and of course, as you could probably predict, I ended up taking a wrong turn on my way to uni and getting lost (why does this always happen to me?!). So after eventually finding my way I walk in – the ONLY Brit, the one responsible for redeeming our reputation after Brexit – late and to a full theatre already a good few slides into the lecture. Good one Craig.

But following that I’ve had an awesome first week. We’ve only seen a snippet of what Brussels has to offer and I have already fallen head over heels for this gorgeous city. From stunning architecture, mouthwatering waffles & fries and 1000 types of beer to weird and wonderful puppet shows, street performers and even a long-standing tradition of dressing up a statue of a peeing boy – yes, you read that right – Brussels is absolutely crazy… and I love it!

With my initial nerves completely squashed, an endless supply of coffee and an amazing group of friends from around the globe, I feel so ready to start this new chapter of my life. So stay tuned, and get super jealous as a Dane, Hungarian, Russian, Finn, Korean, Spaniard, Hong-Konger, Dutch, some crazy Germans and me take on an adventure of a lifetime!

Bonjour from Brussels!

What’s life without a little drama?

 

Bonjour from Brussels 😀

That’s it. I made it. And in one piece, no less… but not without my fair share of drama!

I naïvely thought that this was going to be a stress-free and easy journey. I was most definitely wrong. The first half was great – besides a woman falling asleep on my shoulder pretty much the whole flight. I read a good few chapters of my book, I didn’t get travel sick on the coach and I even found a gluten-free breakfast option – livingggg. Getting off the coach at Brussels Midi (wherever that is) and being stranded there is different story completely.

I. Have. NEVER walked in so many circles as I did today, I think I must’ve walked the length of that train station at least 40-times over before deciding to venture out on my own; which, as it turns out, was a really bad idea. To save my 4G I decided not to use my google maps and just follow a screenshot instead. I mean, I sort of knew where I was going (I had no idea where I was going). It took me 45 minutes of walking uphill with over 25kg of luggage to finally admit defeat. Yes, I was royally lost. Cue Jessica Kieran, my knight in digital armour!

Immediately Jess jumped to my rescue, acting as a little sat-nav in my ear, all the way from the UK! Turns out I was at the complete other side of Brussels, about a mile and half away from where I needed to be; I had been walking in the complete wrong direction. Long story short, with Jess’ help, I found my way to IHECS (woo!) but my drama didn’t end there.

Whilst walking to my new apartment I got lost at least another 3 times. Aimlessly walking around the streets of Brussels, looking very flustered, mumbling to myself and booting my cases for getting stuck on anything and everything. Eventually I find my way there to see no landlord waiting for me, no open door or sign to tell me where to go, not even an email or a phone call 😀 Turns out I got my dates wrong and came a day early. HA, FUN. I then had to trek to pretty much every cheap looking hostel/hotel in the area eventually settling on the Max Hotel. I know… I was worried too, but a private en-suite for €40, I wasn’t complaining. As it turns out the hotel was/is lovely! The receptionist was chatting to me about my travels and must’ve asked me, about 70 times, to write a good Tripadvisor review when he discovered I’m here studying journalism & PR.

By the time I’d settled into my room and popped out to quickly buy some more comfortable shoes it was 7pm and I’d been surviving on 3-hours sleep and a bucket load of coffee. I needed food and a nap. So now here I am, lay in bed, regretting napping for so long, but well fed at least! It’s gonna be a longggg night! On the bright side, the city is absolutely gorgeous and I have most definitely fallen in love.

Bonne nuit, mes amis!

And so it begins…

With less than 12 hours to go, until I jet off on my big adventure, I’m channeling my inner Elle Woods! And whilst I’m super excited to explore this amazing, new city, I’m still a little nervous – scared even – and sad that I’m going to miss out on so much at uni and home. But I’m not gonna let that stop me!

 

From Blackpool to Brussels! Here I comeeee! 😀