“Last call for passengers of flight IB3206 to Brussels boarding at gate H18.”
That robotic voice and its message caught me by surprise, suddenly I realized that it was time to get on board. I grabbed my hand luggage and started walking, well more accurate, I started running to the boarding gate. Finally, I got there in time, lucky me. I’m always late and I’m starting to think that’s a Spanish thing.
I showed my passport and my boarding pass to the flight attendant and then kept walking. It’s funny to mention that one hour before, saying the final goodbyes to my family I started to cry so my glasses were foggy and I almost couldn’t see anything, so the airport attendant was kind of laughing at the situation, but to be honest I was too.
© George Clerk
As I was walking in the airplane, I remembered I forgot my hair drier at home, I don’t really remember how it happened but it happened so I would have to buy a new one when I got there, sad news. After the long walk to find my seat (it was 28A, so yes, pretty far away) sat down and I just felt relieved since it was already a big step to be on the plane. I just hoped that from now on everything would be fine. That my suitcase arrived in good conditions, or at least that it arrived to my destination and that when I got there, they would understand me because I’ve always been really ashamed of my English accent.
© Chanin Wardkhian
I’ll never forget that day, the 4th of September.
After my flight, I picked up my suitcase and I got on a taxi. He left me right in front of my residence entrance, as you already know (assuming you are from Belgium obviously, if not you would’ve been as surprised as me) the trip in taxi was so expensive, I wasn’t used to it so I was really surprised with the price of the route (it cost me 50€!) I didn’t expect it.
Anyways, once I got there, I found two cute girls sitting in front of the door, one of them was smoking. I asked how could I get in and as they answered I immediately knew they were Catalan, because my mother is from Catalonia and her accent was exactly the same as theirs. They were really nice to me because they were the ones to contact our supervisor to show me the place and they opened the door for me. Right now, their one of my best friends here but I’m not going to get ahead of myself.
Five minutes later, the supervisor came. “Hello, Ayla. Welcome to Van Orley” He said. I paused for a second because I almost couldn’t see his face due to the face mask but he looked really friendly. But then I introduced myself and asked timidly if he could help me with my suitcases. “Of course I can” he said, and as we were going upstairs, he explained me that the elevator had been broken for a few months but they were trying to fix it for this semester. So yes, we had to carry my luggage three floors upstairs. Devastating.
I was short of breath and my glasses had tarnished again when we got there, so I decided to take them off even if I didn’t see clearly. I was really curious to see my room because I didn’t remember how it looked like but I had to take them off because they were really annoying. Anouar (that’s his name, he told me while going up) showed me my room, the common areas, the kitchen, the living room and the terrace. When he finished explaining the basic rules, he gave me the key of my room and said “Goodbye, I hope I see you soon”. I thought that was so cute.
© brik.mykot.be (1) & (2)
The following thing I did is going to sound funny, but indeed you would’ve done the same. I recorded a room tour which obviously was to send it to my friends and family, the room was quite spacious and it had its charming feeling, even thought now that I’ve lived there for a few months is much more charming and cozy.
Just as I finished someone knocked on the door, I was startled because I didn’t expect anyone to knock on my door. When I opened, I saw a really smiley girl looking at me with a lot of enthusiasm, as I figured out who she was, she had already wrapped myself in her arms. She was my roommate Elena, we had never met before, I casually found her thanks to a WhatsApp group of people from all over Spain that were traveling to Brussels for Erasmus. We never met her in person so that’s why it was hard to figure out who she was at first sight. I was so happy to see her.
When she finally released me, I introduced myself and we started talking about the trip. She had arrived a week before me but because she came from Madrid, she had to do a mandatory quarantine. I guess you’re thinking she shouldn’t have hugged me, but that same day she got her PCR results and they were negative, so she was missing human contact and was as enthusiast as me to meet each other.
After a long talk, she went back to her room and I had to go and buy food because I was literally starving. I went to the Carrefour market that’s next to my residence and when I arrived back I unloaded all the things in my fridge and prepared in a small tray that they had left for me with my plate, one fork, one knife, etc, all the things that I had thought I wanted to eat for dinner ( rice and a fried egg, something simple).
© Ayla Borovoy Casas
That’s when I remembered! I was about to meet a lot of people in the kitchen and I wasn’t prepared. I put on my contact lenses and brushed my hair because I wanted to make a good first impression. Once I took enough courage, I left my room an went straight to the kitchen without thinking it twice.
As I entered, I saw two cute boys in one corner of the table and two beautiful girls in the other side. All of them greeted at once, and because I’m pretty shy I just said hello back to them. One of the guys noticed and came to me. His name was Pablo, he’s from Mexico, and just by hearing me say hello he noticed I was Spanish, so he approached me and said: “¿Hola, eres española?” He said. “Si, soy de Valencia, ¿me llamo Ayla y tú?” I answered. As young as he seemed he was 28 years old; he had been living in Brussels for more than five years already and he had already lived in Van Orley for three years so he was really good at socializing and meeting new people. Thank god. We ate dinner together, and once I finally cleaned the pot and pan I used to cook, I went back to my room because I was really tired from the flight.
Next day, I wanted to venture out, so I grabbed my camera and fanny bag and rushed out of my room. It was a really nice day; the weather was great and I was full of energy.
The Grand Place was my first destination, it’s the city’s most known place apart from the Atomium, street musicians where playing next to it so it made it even more beautiful my experience visiting it. I breezed past some tiny and narrow streets till I arrived there, as lost as I was, I really enjoyed that walk. Once I arrived, I didn’t know where to look with my camera, too many beautiful buildings, I didn’t know how to make them all fit in a beautiful picture to keep as a memory. So, I just took many as always and went to my next destination.
My next stop was Parc du Bruxelles, a beautiful and impressive park in the middle of the city, in front of the Palace, just breath-taking. “Can you take a picture of me?”. Suddenly I turn around and I see this shy girl asking me to take a picture of her in front of the palace. “For sure” I said. I took a picture of her with her phone, she was standing right across the palace, and the light and moment was perfect so I took a really nice picture of her, hoping she would think the same way as me.“Thank you, I really like it” She said. I just smiled at her, she understood that it wasn’t any problem for me to do it.
© Ayla Borovoy Casas
As I kept walking, I couldn’t stop thinking how lucky I was to be there, many of my friends got their Erasmus cancelled but I didn’t, is that luck? I don’t know. But who knew a few months before during the complete lockdown in Spain that I would finally go to Brussels?
Although Covid-19 had shaken many plans of mine he couldn’t stop this one from happening. I’m really grateful for that.