Study Abroad in Canterbury - Week 11

December 3, 2019 | 2:30 PM
Luis Carbajal '20, Psychology (Pre-Occupational Therapy) Major

The past two and half months have been the greatest experience of my life; however, we are officially saying goodbye to this chapter in our lives with just one short week left in our term, and it is a bittersweet feeling. I’m happy with the group of MacMurray students who have joined me to embark on this journey – they’ve made the experience much more memorable! I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy adjusting at first, but, eventually, we became more comfortable as time progressed – whether it was learning the public transportation system or figuring out which local establishments are most popular!

Since being in England, I feel like I’ve grown as an individual and learned much about myself I probably wouldn’t have observed back in America. There have also been many opportunities that presented new experiences while being here. For example, learning my way around town and only getting lost once or recovering from a week-long trip in Ibiza. I’ve also had the privilege of traveling to numerous countries while being here, including England, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Traveling to these places has taught me so much about the world and people by exposing me to different cultural backgrounds.

This past week, our Sites and Sights module discussed “The Bruges Connection” between England and Flanders, and we took a field trip to Bruges, Belgium for the day. It’s been my most favorite place to travel to while abroad. It is a beautiful city and photos do not do it justice. Bruges is known for its chocolate, waffles, fries and beer, so I had to go out and try it all, and I did so in that exact order!

One thing we learned in class was how the city flourished in the Middle Ages because it was a major trade center in Europe, often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” It was called this because of the many canals that stretched throughout the city. Being able to roam free most of the day, I chose to visit their Christmas market (Markt), another thing Bruges is known for around this time of year. The stands are set up so nicely and thousands of tourists were out, along with the Christmas lights. It was truly a sight to see! While there, I also had the opportunity to visit the St. Saviour’s Cathedral, which is one of the few buildings in Bruges that has survived hundreds of years without damage.

I decided to stay in Bruges for the night with friends of mine and we went to the “Brugge Beer Museum.” At this museum, we learned the history of beer production in Bruges, sampled ingredients and tasted brews of varied styles. There was also a tour for kids that told the story of the “Bruges Bear.” This story is about forbidden love and bravery. While the French King strongly opposed the relationship of his daughter, Judith, and Baldwin, the first Count of Flanders, the two fled to France to start a life together. Upon their journey, they encountered a bear in the forests of Bruges, but Baldwin, known for his fearlessness, killed the bear with his spear. That animal later became the official bearer of the city’s coat of arms, and this logo carries on with gratitude for Baldwin and his heroic acts.

With just under two weeks to go, this three-month “adventure” abroad will be coming to an end which is unreal because it feels as if we arrived yesterday. Before coming to Canterbury, there were many doubts and fears of the experience, and I questioned if I should go. But, ever since arriving, it has been more than I could have ever imagined. There is so much I’m going to miss about this place, and I’m very glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and made the decision to spend the semester here. I would like to thank Dr. Shayhad Ghoncheh for sitting down with me and discussing how amazing this experience would be along with all of the opportunities it would offer; I don’t think I would’ve come if it weren’t for him. I also appreciate Dr. Joe Squillace for all that he has done to make this journey happen. He’s made this experience for the nine of us the best, and we all thank him for that. I will cherish the friends I’ve made here and the things I’ve been able to experience forever.


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