Brussels holds some of my happiest moments. It’s a city where I experienced true independence for the first time. It’s a place where I made incredible friends, joined a magnificent family, practiced a new language, explored a foreign culture and above all else, learned myself. My six-month study abroad experience was based in Brussels, everything stemmed from this beautiful and brave city.
This is not a city Americans seek out, not even Europeans. It’s not a Paris, London, Barcelona or Amsterdam. This is not a touristy destination. It’s a city that is surprisingly delightful, yet live able.
As a student studying abroad, it was perfect. Since Americans did not flock to Brussels, the city and country, remained authentic. You had to learn the language and culture, unlike other popular European areas. I fell in love, real, consuming, complicated love with the food (Waffles! Frites!), beer (the best beer in the WORLD), culture (French, Dutch and German all rolled into one) and people. Since Brussels is the capital of the European Union, it was very diverse, which I adored.
I made some of my best friends in Belgium. I met my soul mate there, a woman I have travelled to over 15 cities with. My host family was from Spain and they changed my life. They showed me so much love and were literally my family when I was there. I shared real stories and experiences with my host family, which I will cherish forever. I still talk to my host parents every week. Just last year, my host mom came and stayed with me in my cramped NYC apartment for her first American adventure. She’s one of my biggest inspirations, if I can live life with just half of the zest, excitement, curiosity and joie de vivre that she does, I will be a happy woman.
When I heard about the absolute horror that fell upon a city that is a part of my being, I was a mess. I wanted to run over there and help. I wanted to be with my host parents.
Brussels will not be defined by this terrible act. Let the country be remembered as even more beautiful and brave. I will continue to cherish Belgium and everything the country gave me.