Alumna gives experience abroad

Lauren Coughlin

Troy University has some amazing resources that are largely untapped by its students — most notably, its many study abroad opportunities.
Though I have graduated, I want to reflect on my time studying abroad in Belgium through one such program at Hogeschool Ghent.
Through partnerships with other schools that send their students to Alabama, Troy students can study abroad for the same tuition price they would pay in the states, including scholarship and financial aid packages.
I absolutely loved my time in Ghent. Even though I was a political science and social science major, I took mostly business classes that could then be transferred as economics or politics credit.
Generally, language classes will be more challenging than you’re used to, but most classes do not require homework or the dreaded group project.
You attend lectures and focus only on final projects and exams, which will mean many European courses will prove challenging for students with poor time management skills but particularly refreshing for independent learners.
Life in Belgium was challenging, refreshing and more exciting than I dreamed.
I was incredibly fit because I had to travel everywhere on a borrowed bicycle with no brakes. I ate and drank some of the most delicious things ever. I found new ways to meet people and travel at every winding, cobbled turn.
Personally, I consider making local friends most important. I joined a Belgian student club and became a part of the crazy Flemish student culture, but there were also many opportunities to meet students from all over Europe while spending a semester abroad.
I had access to a large network of Europeans that had studied at Troy and were as happy to help me get settled as they would be to help anyone else from Troy.
By choosing Belgium, you choose a location that is more expensive than Spain but cheaper than Sweden, both of which are also Troy Abroad programs.
In Ghent, you are a half-hour train ride from the seat of the European Union, Brussels, and incredibly close to most of the other major cities of Western Europe.
Belgium has three official languages, which will inspire you to hit the books and practice in the many cafes and bars that welcome students seeking to broaden their horizons.
I should also mention that Dutch is easy for English speakers to learn.
Ghent is also a gorgeous city with breathtaking cathedrals, charming squares and even a castle. History fans might recognize it as the birthplace of Emperor Charles V, while art and film buffs will recognize the city’s crown jewel, “The Adoration of the Lamb” painted by the Van Eyk brothers, at the altar of St. Bavos Cathedral.
No matter where you study, a semester abroad will make you a better person by winning you lasting friendships, growing your professional network, teaching you new skills and languages, and giving you a fresh perspective.
You will become a savvier traveler and will improve your resume. You might test the bounds of a current relationship with distance or have an exciting foreign romance.

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