Every semester, international students flood Troy University’s campus. This year there are six people at Troy University who are a part of the bilateral agreement between Troy and two universities of Belgium, Ghent University and Hogeschool Gent.
The students whose majors allow them to apply turn in their grades and motivational letters to the colleges in Belgium. On the basis of these, a few students are selected to complete 15 credit hours of their majors at Troy University.
This semester, some of the Belgian students attending Troy University are Bert Roman, a senior computer science major from Oudenaarde; Tor De Baerdemaeker, a senior business management major from Ghent; Maxime Vandemaele, a senior business administration major from Ghent; and Jeroen De Vries, a senior marketing and economics major from Ghent.
They speak about their experiences in Troy.
Why did you decide to come to Troy?
Roman: My main reason to come here was because I wanted to go abroad, and America was No. 1 on my list. I did not want to be in the same place doing the same old thing. I wanted to do something new.
De Baerdemaeker: I had already traveled to the States a couple of times before with my parents. Because I really liked the States, I came to Troy.
Vandemaele: It’s a good chance to practice English and evaluate myself. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I came here.
What is the best part of being in Troy?
Roman: Because Troy is a small place, everything is happening on campus. When people know you are a foreigner or you come from Europe, they are nice and are wanting to know you.
De Vries: Compared to Troy, we all lived in a pretty big city. It’s crowded, and we have to travel longer. But here, you just walk out of your dorm and there are grass, squirrels and trees, so it’s peaceful and quiet. That’s definitely something we don’t get back home.
What was something that was scary in the beginning?
Roman: As I came here on my own, it was scary because I could lose my way and go in any direction. Also, I was worried that if I couldn’t get along with people here, I would be really sad.
Vandemaele: Classes scared us in the beginning. They differ a lot and are taught in a different way.
In Belgium, we have only one final and maybe a small test during the semester, but here you have lots of midterms, assignments, discussions and quizzes. It’s in a way too much, but it’s another system, and I enjoy it and I’m glad that I could experience it.
What do you miss the most from Belgium?
Roman: I miss the food from Belgium. We sometimes make some dishes on our own and enjoy those when we miss the food.
De Baerdemaeker: I miss my girlfriend the most. I miss her so much, and I really love her.
Vandemaele: I am a soccer referee, so I really miss it because I can’t practice here. When I get back, I will put more effort and blow my whistle again. I also miss the food.
What is an interesting thing being an international student in Troy?
De Baerdemaeker: We all speak Dutch, and no one can understand what we are saying except us. That’s one of the best parts of knowing a different language.
Vandemaele: Skype-ing people back home is interesting. In the first few weeks, everything’s new and you have lots of things to talk about. When you are in the sixth or the seventh week, you have the same stories, like we went to the same dining hall, the same gym and the same classes. So, it feels like Skype-ing is the new obligation.
De Vries: I was amazed by all the free space here. There is a lot of greenery and you can drive for a very long time without seeing anything around.
What are some major differences between living in Belgium and living here?
Roman: In Belgium, I have to walk up to 30 minutes to get to my class, but here I hardly have to walk eight minutes. It’s a luxury life here. Our universities in Belgium are in cities and are spread out where we have to use public transportation to get from one class to another. So, a strange thing for me here is how Americans use a lot of cars. The weather is also weird. It’s November, and it’s still 20 degrees Celsius (68 F).
Vandemaele: The people here are different. They are more open than in Belgium. Everybody talks to each other and says, “Hi, how are you doing today?” but in Belgium we only say that to close people.
When we went to Montgomery or Birmingham, there was no one in the street and I felt like “Where is everybody?” So many people live here, but we don’t see anyone on the street.
De Vries: Outside of school, an interesting difference was the intensity of people practicing their religion. We also have a lot of Christian people, but here they are way more open about it and are able to talk to you way sooner about their religion.
What are the changes you’ve seen in yourself after you came here?
Roman: You change your insights. You are always doing the same things at home, but here you are doing something really different. You know new sides of yourself and learn new things.
De Baerdemaeker: I have gotten to rediscover myself stepping out of the comfort zone. When you don’t have your parents, girlfriend or friends, it is a good way to discover yourself.
De Vries: It’s breaking the cycle you are used to back at home, which are obligations like going to work, girlfriend and groceries. So, it’s like a little bit of freedom or like a little bit of holiday. Also, being here in a relationship is a good test of the relationship for all of us.
What is your best memory you’ve had in Troy so far?
Roman: Halloween was my favorite memory. We invited people for Halloween, and about 30 people, American and international, came dressed up. It was so cool to see so many people from so many places getting together to celebrate an American holiday.
De Baerdemaeker: I have a lot of good memories here, and if I have to pick one, it will be like my birthday. Everybody made a video wishing me happy birthday. I loved the effort they put it in. It really touched me. I also loved the Halloween party.
De Vries: The homecoming game was something I really enjoyed at Troy. During homecoming, the campus was really crowded and there was a vibe on campus. Something was always going on, and I could feel the energy of all of Troy coming together to support the team. I loved it.