Luke in Belgium

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I departed Malta near the end of June. I spent four days in Luxembourg before starting my internship. I arrived in Brussels by train from Luxembourg and the journey took about three and a half hours. The thing I noted the most was how green the countryside was. A far cry from Malta. When I arrived in Brussels I was greeted by Robin Govaerts, the representative and leader of the Brussels IAESTE committee. He drove me to my lodging (which was in Etterbeek district) and showed me around the University where I was supposed to work. I also met my boss and he explained a little to me what I was going to do starting next Monday.

Afterwards I met up with the other trainees in Brussels and we went out to a party in a park. In the beginning there were four trainees in Brussels, me, Peter from America, Jared from Ireland, and Sergio from Portugal. They were all awesome guys.

Then on Saturday me and Jared went to Summer Festival in Antwerp. There were a lot of great DJ’s and an awesome atmosphere. We didn’t have much time to visit Antwerp since the festival was on the outskirts and we arrived there quite late in the afternoon.

On Monday I started work at the VUB, which is the flemish speaking Free University of Brussels. It is called ‘Free’ since back when the first Universities in Belgium were founded they were usually sponsored by the church or the state so you had to have certain connections or study certain subjects to attend. Free universities were sponsored by private parties so anyone could attend and study whatever you wanted.

My job at the VUB was making a website to display graphs of analysed data from Wind Turbines. I was working with BruWind, which is a research institute working in tandem with BelWind, a Belgian wind energy company and whose turbines we were getting the data from.

After work, me and the other guys usually went out for a drink at any of the many bars there are in Brussels. There was no need to go to the center as the bars in the Etterbeek were quite good. However if you wanted to go clubbing you had to go to the center as that’s where the best ones where. There were also some nice restaurants, including an Indian and Italian just a few metres away from my apartment. Each Thursday we would also go down to Place de Luxembourg which is a square near the EU parliament where there would be a lot of students and interns who worked there and at several big companies who had their office nearby. The gathering was an impromptu thing but there would always be a lot of cool people there.

My apartment was in the student lodging usually used by the students studying at the VUB. However during the summer not many are there and it is mostly empty. It was a small room, but it had a fridge and freezer and microwave, which along with the cooker in the communal kitchen was enough for my needs.

During the third week, some of the other IAESTE students from the other cities in Belgium and even some from Germany came to visit in Brussels and we had a Brussels weekend with a pub crawl and barbecue. We also went to see the Atomium. We also went down to the city centre of which I do have some pictures.

The next Tuesday (21st July) was Belgian National Day and we went to see the military parade and the king. I actually managed to get a couple of photos as well. It was very hot but it also well organized as there were stations where you could get free water in bags, so no one went thirsty.

A couple of weeks after we also went on a canal tour and visited the cathedral where the kings and queens of Belgium are buried. After that we took a lift to the top of the cathedral and had an amazing view over the city. One thing that struck is how many areas of greenery there are in Brussels.

I also went on a day trip to Luxembourg with two other students from Lueven. Since I had already spent some time there before I was able to show them around. We only visited the city but there was a lot to do since there was a music festival and other cultural activities going on when we visited.

Our last big event was when we to Aachen in Germany for the weekend. We had party on Friday as soon as we arrived then we had a game around the city Saturday morning (as best as we could, since most of us were dead tired and still a bit hungover). Then in the evening we had an amazing party in a castle. We met a lot of people in Aachen from a lot of the IAESTE LC’s in Germany. They were very nice and it was pretty well organized.

For the last month we didn’t do much unfortunately because both Peter and Sergio left and the others had a lot of work to finish off and so we were very tired each day. We went for a couple of drinks but it wasn’t as energetic as the first month.

Speaking of work, I learned a lot about how to set up an application server and link it together. I felt that all of the tasks were within my abilities even though I had never done some of them, I took it as opportunity to learn. After all in the computing industry things change very rapidly and so one must be adaptable and willing to learn. My boss was so pleased with my work that he wanted me to extend my internship by two weeks which I did.

All in all I felt my internship was a very fulfilling experience where I learned a lot, both relating to work and otherwise. It’s always great to visit other countries and meet different people and come in contact with different cultures. If I had the chance to do so I would definitely do another internship and I would recommend it to all of my friends.