“Never before in my life had I met anyone who had gone on exchange to another country, yet alone another continent. I only ever imagined it as something I would hear about on television. The fact of me leaving my home, my country, for the FIRST time never came to me until the moment I stepped onto the plane. I was a whirlpool full of emotions: nervous, anxious, and excited!”
A former student of Belgium Campus, John Paulsen, went on an Exchange program (transition fellowship) in Belgium last year.
John did an internship at the financial institution BNP Paribas Fortis in Brussels. At the age of 23, John didn’t have much working experience, so this was really an eye opening experience for him into the working world. He had a lot of different tasks and one of them was working in COBOL programs.
Besides his internship, John also went to UCLL (University College Leuven Limburg). He attended once a week the course Application Development for Enterprise, which aided his work done during his traineeship.
As it was Johns’ first trip to Belgium (and to Europe), he took advantage of this amazing opportunity to see some nice places in Belgium: Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges (the Belgian version of Venice in Italy). Because everything is so close in Europe, you can easily drive from one country to another. So the decision to go to Paris and Amsterdam was an easy choice.
To do an exchange program, is a way to see the world with a different view. It makes you more open-minded and independent. It speaks for itself that you will see (cultural) differences between the 2 countries. As for John, the biggest difference between South Africa and Belgium, is the really easy transport system with accurate time predictions.
Thanks to Belgium Campus, the ITBLP programme and the transition fellowship bursary from the Flemish Government, John had this amazing time in Belgium and learned so many things about the world and especially about himself:
"I was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is a GOOD thing! It FORCES you to adapt. I am no longer as anxious about meeting new people; I have developed a decent set of interpersonal skills as a result of being forced out of my comfort zone.”
“Greater awareness of my own cultural identity and to not be so ignorant of my heritage. People from different countries and backgrounds are interested to find out more about where I am from. That opened my eyes a bit that I need to make an effort to get to know as much as possible about my diverse South Africa.”
“Able to think of things from a much broader perspective. Now that I have been introduced to Europe, my horizons of thinking have been broadened. I would term myself as being more enlightened as a whole.“