Brian & Ann's European Experience

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

American Studies in Brussels

After a long absence, I find myself contributing my two (euro)cents to the Belgian educational system once again. It was almost literally two cents, because the entire program cost only about 500 euros, which is "peanuts" compared to the heaps of cash I had to dig out for my American undergrad degree.

The students at the Center for American Studies in Brussels are an interesting bunch. There are about 50 of us, half of them are fellow Flemish, half are students from all around the world. Although most of us have very concrete plans for our Masters degree in American Studies, others just feel like they needed to learn more about their "enemy". Some just didn't really know what else to do with their precious young lives...I am sure that this global mix of people will produce interesting perspectives on everything Americana.

Although the first semester courses seem manageable, my little backpack is always bulging with books and other student paraphernalia. I am always very grateful when Brian comes to pick me up at the Dordrecht train station and graciously releases me from this heavy burden (the backpack just looks so much better on him, I always look like I'm on a back-breaking backpacking tour through Europe).

But so far so good. I have been very studious and have kept up with my reading. I even started thinking about a thesis topic and have done some research for a presentation on women voters that is due at the end of October. All this prep work would be a little easier if students could actually check out books from the library, but instead we find ourselves married to the copy machine that spits out free copies of every bit of useful information that we can put our hands on. Hopefully, the center has a nice supply of toner.

The only thing that is not going so smoothly is the train that takes me from Dordrecht to Brussels and back. In one week time there were 2 accidents which delayed me for hours and took a toll on my tolerance for stress. The first time two trains collided with each other, the second time around a van was caught under a train. This all happened in the same town, Essen, which I now consider a health risk.
Last Thursday it took me 3,5 hours to get to Brussels...I am trying to ban this event from my memory...

That's all for now. Stay tuned for more.