Belgian exchange: March 2022
Our trip to Belgium began very early on the morning of March 7, 2022. Still sleepy but full of expectations and enthusiasm, we gathered at Gimnazija Vič. The first leg of the journey was by van which took us to Trieste for our first flight. The first flight was a connecting flight to Rome where we switched planes for our third and longest leg of the journey, our flight to Belgium. After landing, we took a train to its capital, Brussels. We were very impressed with Brussels. We went sightseeing, and visited the European parliament and Brussels Cathedral. Of course we couldn’t resist the traditional Belgian waffles which looked so tempting in the windows of shops or buying the first souvenirs which were plentiful. Our next stop was Maldegem, a small town of 20,000 people to the north of Brussels, where we found lodgings and where our host school was located. Even on the bus, we were mesmerized by the large fields and small cottages, and the warm welcoming feeling was even greater in Maldegem itself. Upon arrival we immediately checked into the hostel as it was already time for dinner. The hostel was pleasant in itself, the rooms were nice and spacious and the dinner was delicious as well. After dinner, before sleep, we hung out in the games room where we got to meet the students from Spain.
On day two a visit to Maldegem school was scheduled. The students showed us around and told us a little something about the school and their everyday life. After the snack which was carefully prepared by the school, we took a bus to Bruges, known as the Venice of the North and famous for its long canals, navigable by boats. We took a tour around the city where we could admire brick houses and facades, a type of architecture characteristic also of the whole region of Flanders. The boat trip through the canals was an absolute must, as it granted us an even nicer view around the city. The boat driver told us some of the city’s history and its interesting features. Of course, we again could not resist waffles and Belgian French fries before returning to Maldegem. After dinner we met with the students from Poland and played games with the Spanish group of students and discovered some of their culture.
On day three we went for a bike tour which took us all the way to the Netherlands. We made short stops and the guides talked us through what we saw. We simply followed water that is, rivers. We learned that Belgium does not have much hydro-energetic potential due to its low relief. Despite this, we could not help but admire these lowlands. The bike tour came to its end and we returned to Maldegem. We were presented the projects in which the Maldegem school takes part either by their teachers or some visiting university lecturers. After that, our friends organised some fun activities. Even dinner was prepared and served by them as part of their cooking class. What followed was a short quiz about Belgium, Maldegem, and Flanders.
We headed for Ostend on day four. We were warmly welcomed to the maritime school. They showed us around and we were also invited to visit their boat. We were demonstrated the protocol of emergency disembarkation. The bravest of us joined in. We learned a lot about the history of this school and its evolution. Today, this school is home to many children who either come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds or are faced with challenging family situations. After lunch we went treasure hunting on the beach – we hunted for trash and learned about the importance and the correct way of sorting waste. In the evening, we were invited for a traditional Belgian meal in a restaurant in Maldegem where we were joined by our hosts and their teachers as well as other students from Spain, Poland, and Belgium.
We spent our last day in Ghent which is known as a student city thanks to its numerous universities and colleges. We visited one of them where we could see a totally mechanical telescope and participated in a quiz about the environment and air pollution. We had lunch and hung around with students from other visiting high schools. What followed was a short walk around Ghent and off we went to head back home. We took the same Brussels-Rome-Trieste flight and and then drove to Ljubljana where we all returned safe and sound.Our heartfelt thanks go to our chemistry teacher, Ms Mozer for her excellent organisation of the trip and for being a wonderful tour guide and mentor, as well as to Mr Marinič for being an equally wonderful companion on this trip.