'I like the practical aspect'

Solange in the Master of Biology: Biodiversity, Conservation and Restoration

I arrived here really late, more than two months into the semester due to problems with my visa. So I missed the orientation days and had actually no idea how things worked around here. All in all, not the best start but the staff and administration were really understanding and supportive about this problem.

I obtained a Bachelor's degree from the University of Douala but the master programme I was looking for was not available in my country. So I started looking abroad and friends actually suggested to have a look into Belgian institutions, since the education is good and the fees affordable. The first big surprise came however when I stepped out of the plane. In my country Belgium is known as a French speaking society.

You can imagine my surprise when I came here and it got obvious that this isn’t solely true! One could even call Belgium the Cameroon of Europe, since both countries are divided into two major societies separated by language.

I understand and speak basic Dutch. Although my studies are taught in English and you could certainly also make it without it, some knowledge of Dutch is really helpful. Especially since I am a self-sponsored student and have a student job at a retirement home.

Free Zoo-pass
I really like the practical aspect of my studies. Master students get a free pass to the zoo here in Antwerp and there are also frequent field trips for almost every course we are take. So we get to see the things practically and are given responsibilities.

The people I met so far were always nice and helpful, but of course there are things that are just different here. It really took me a while to get used to the fact that it’s not normal in Belgium to talk to just everybody. And that people get pretty confused if you just greet them randomly. 

Here people sit on the bus together silently, unthinkable in Cameroon! No matter whether you know them or not there is always a conversation. Also the food is different of course. I like fries but hate mashed potatoes, which are both very common dishes in Belgium. The need to chew makes all the difference. Because I live close to Ghent, I can’t say too much about Antwerp, but can absolutely recommend Ghent for a visit as just one of the many worth-a –visit-places around Antwerp which can easily be reached by train.