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Exchange to KU Leuven – by James Rischbieth

It is difficult to explain how much exchange can change your life and your perspective of the world. The experience itself is without doubt the best 6 months I have ever had. The number of new people I met and new experiences I encountered have left me with many great memories and a number of friends who will no doubt be friends for life. The people you get to know, both locals and other exchange students, are without doubt the highlight of the exchange. I now have good friends (and free accommodation) all around Europe and the World. It is difficult to explain the bonds you create in 6 months but you genuinely build up a pseudo family.

I remember hearing from friends how great their exchange was and always taking it with a pinch of salt. However I now understand. You immerse yourself in a new culture, a new town and a new way of life and that has a profound effect on you as a person. Personally my horizons have broadened greatly and the thought of working or studying post-grad overseas is now a clearer possibility.

I studied Law in Leuven, a small town in the Flemish part of Belgium. I can’t recommend the town or the University highly enough to people looking for somewhere to study. The University, KU Leuven, is world renowned and the classes and professors were fantastic. Leuven itself is a perfect student city. Almost half the population is made up of students so the nightlife is non-stop and the restaurants and shops really cater towards students. Leuven has the longest continuous bar in the world with 50 odd bars surrounding the main square, “Oude Markt”. The town is spectacular and very old. It’s characterised by a number of impressive buildings which for the most part make up the University.

The student networks, both local and international, in Leuven are really strong and there is a huge emphasis on student life with events and parties being held virtually every night. Being Belgium there is a real emphasis on eating well and drinking great beer.

One of the best parts of an Exchange in Europe is the ability to travel cheaply to a multitude of different countries with minimal effort. Leuven is right in the centre of Western Europe. It is really well serviced by International trains and is very close to two major transport hubs, being only 20 minutes by train from Brussels Airport and 30 minutes from Brussels itself.

It may sound a little clichéd but exchange will change your life and you will come back as a different person. Your horizons will broaden and you will see the world and other cultures and countries in a new light. If you’re thinking about it, just stop thinking and do it. I promise you will not regret your decision.

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