A walk around Antwerp - from the central station to the university campus
Evelina Gorbenko, MSc ‘Marketing Communications and Advertising in the Contemporary Business', will guide you through the local streets of the oldest city, show you around the Diamond Quarter and end the tour at the university campus.
I'm a 2nd year Master's student in the ‘Marketing Communications and Advertising in the Contemporary Business' programme. In the fall semester of 2020, perhaps one of the most exciting adventures of my life happened to me - living in another country. In the fall semester of the turbulent 2020, I came to Belgium to study at the University of Antwerp and I think I've had enough waffles for the rest of my life. Or have I?
The learning process
The teaching and assessment system seemed to me totally different from the ones at Higher School of Economics. Firstly, there is no such thing as a cumulative grade. The final grade is based on the result of the exam. Secondly, in order to "pass" you have to get not 3.5 out of 10, but 10 out of 20, and some professors may tighten the requirements and hand out tests, which should be passed at least for 80% in order to be allowed to take an exam. The new system seems daunting at first, but in fact it turns out to be very pleasant, because the key to success is to do a semester assignment well (it can be a case or an essay) and to prepare well for the exam. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to meet new people and travel.
The teaching staff at university are brilliant but they seem to be divided into two camps of theorists and practitioners. The professors-theorists are the authors of books, textbooks, research projects, so their assignment for students will be to write essays on the analysis of theoretical sources, which will help a lot in writing term papers or a thesis and develops critical thinking. The professors-practitioners are the owners of their own businesses or CEOs of large companies. They would often give real cases to solve, for example, in ‘Data Mining’ we had to create a model to predict which customers should be given a loan based on the real data of the largest bank in Belgium. In ‘Marketing Management’ we played an online game - a simulation of product creation, where we had to correctly assess the target market, calculate the costs of promoting and launching the brand and reach the revenue specified in the task.
I would highly recommend contacting students who already completed this programme (for example, through Facebook groups) and checking with them about assignment formats and grading prior to taking a course.
Due to restrictions, I didn't manage to travel all over Europe, but I visited all Benelux countries more than once. Both in the Netherlands and Belgium I tried to visit the least touristy places, because they are usually the coziest and most authentic: Ghent, Dinant, Bruges are my Belgian favourites; Utrecht, Groningen and Zwolle are Dutch ones, and in Luxemburg I recommend to visit the Valley of the Seven Castles.
1. Google information about scholarships you are eligible to apply for on the Belgian government website, partner university website, International Office of HSE University website.
2. Request in advance a ‘certificate of no criminal record’ from the Multifunctional center for the provision of public services - you need it for the visa if you are over 21. The issuance of this certificate will take a long time, because it takes the center 30 days to prepare it (actually it takes longer), and then it needs to be apostilled twice. All other documents can be prepared quicker.
3 If you have a desire to speak the language of the country, you can learn the conversational phrases or take a ‘Survival on arrival’ course offered by the university at the beginning of your studies. Just be aware that everyone in Belgium speaks excellent English. Although in a grocery shop you might need a help of a translator.
4. Make sure you rent a bike so that you can easily cycle around town, to the university, to the shops, and it's a great way to spend your days with the sunny weather every day until mid-December. The Dutch and Belgians even use bicycles for walks with friends – that must tell you something!
5. Get to know the locals: they'll take you to the best places and share with you lots of tips.
Studying in another country is a boundless experience, you will definitely get to know yourself better, meet people from a different culture, travel around the country as a local rather than a tourist and gain new knowledge. There is no chance you might not like it, and if you are still in doubt or have questions about studying in Antwerp, you can find me on Telegram @evelinagor.