With the crazy times of 2020, no one could foresee how things would go and how the 2020-2021 school year would look. But EIT InnoEnergy and KU Leuven regularly communicated, in email updates to our students the latest information. So, I felt reassured when I had to move to Leuven to follow my second year of studies of the Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems. Upon arrival, I realised that I was among the many international students who arrived in Leuven, during autumn, in a socially distant manner.
Many students, especially those from Europe, arrived early to mid-September in order to participate in the welcome activities before classes began. From those coming outside the EU/Schengen zone and other ‘red’ areas within Europe, as designated by the Belgian government, a mandatory two-week quarantine was required. Knowing this, many also arrived early to be out of quarantine by the time activities started. I arrived on 16 September and jumped right into the orientation activities. Having spent the first year of my Master’s study in Stockholm, a city I had come to love, I was not sure what to expect in Belgium. However, the logistics of the move were not so complicated, with numerous measures in place in both countries that made me feel at ease with relocating.
During this time, Pangaea, the international student association at KU Leuven, organised many welcome activities abiding to the regulations set by local authorities. During the day, they offered free coffee and a chance to mingle with current Belgian students; in the evening, there were opportunities to meet other international students and Pangaea members. They also organised a variety of outings in and around Leuven.
One of these included a free city tour, with both a student guide and a guide from the city government. I attended this one and learnt a lot about the history of Leuven as a university town. KU Leuven was founded in 1425, making it one of the oldest universities in the world! I also learned my way around Leuven and the history behind many buildings and landmarks.
Shortly after my arrival, I learnt that Leuven was named the European Capital of Innovation for 2020! This award, granted by the European Commission, provides the municipality with a sum of €1,000,000 under the Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. Leuven won this year for its unique innovation ecosystem, which contains institutions like my university, KU Leuven. It also points out the town’s ambitious carbon neutrality goals, various citizen engagement projects and collaborations, along with entrepreneurial incubators and hubs.
In addition to the reception for the international students, the university also arranged many welcome and information sessions. One was the “Living in Leuven” info session, mandatory for all incoming students; as the name suggests, this served as very helpful introductory information to living in Leuven. Another was the “Tips & Tricks: Studying at KU Leuven” info session, which offered basic information about the university and also, as the name suggests, tips and tricks for our studies.
As part of the welcome activities, a few Dutch Crash Courses were offered, too. I attended one of these and found, to my surprise, that Dutch is not that difficult after all! Or, as they would say in Dutch, “Nederlands is simpel”. I learned some basic vocabulary, how to introduce myself “Mijn naam is Emilia”, and some numbers. I left the session feeling equipped to live in Flanders! When classes began the week after, on 22 September, I felt like I already had a very good grasp on Leuven, as both a city and a university. The orientation activities provided me with lots of information and I was ready to begin the academic year. For all the incoming students next year, I would definitely recommend getting involved as much as possible for a quick transition to your new home university!
by Emilia Chojkiewicz, Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems student
Want to join like-minded individuals to develop the engineering and entrepreneurial skills needed to understand, design, implement and manage smart grids? Join our programme webinars to hear directly from our students about studying energy engineering with EIT InnoEnergy.
InnoTalks: Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems
Date: 17 November, 15.00 CET