In mid-February, I had the opportunity to travel to Brussels as part of the European Study Tour program that many Olin students take part in while abroad. From a Wednesday afternoon until Friday evening, with roughly 70 peers from various programs, I made my way through a whirlwind European Union educational experience. Between the lectures, tours, interviews, and group project work (a true Olin hallmark, if I do say so myself), I was still able to catch up with friends who I hadn’t seen since finals ended in December.
Miranda Lan is an Olin junior studying Organizational and Human Resources, Marketing, and Spanish. Miranda is spending the semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.
A group of us decided to take a spontaneous trip on Saturday to the nearby coastal city of Bruges – a quaint and scenic town with beautiful canals nestled in between centuries-old stone buildings.
We all had to depart to our respective study abroad cities later that evening, and I was torn on whether or not to go given such tight schedules. Finally, we decided to board the 6am train – it was an hour ride each way – so we could be in town for a sizable chunk of time. Although trying to function in the wee hours of the morning was quite the struggle, my group made it to the train, took a much-needed nap on the way there, and arrived in Bruges around 7:15am.
We walked out of the station before sunrise, easily the first tourists of the day, and began to wander into the city center. There were a dozen hurdles to overcome – the bitter cold, the navigation (or lack thereof), and nothing to do because the town was still asleep, just to name a few. That being said, I would get on that 6am train a thousand times over again because discovering a new city before sunrise is an experience everyone should have during their lifetime.
We leisurely wandered about for half an hour before finding a small café serving breakfast. After a proper meal and some coffee to warm us up, we headed back out into the cold and continued into the city.
My favorite part of the experience was the serenity – there were no large crowds, no traffic, and no selfie sticks at 7am. It was a level of peace and tranquility that I have never experienced– especially with such gorgeous, European architecture as a backdrop. Later in the morning, we took a canal tour, visited some churches, and, of course, ate some delicious Belgian chocolate. We didn’t have a defined itinerary and enjoyed our time peacefully making our way through the city and what it has to offer.
If anyone ever suggests taking a 6am train/plane/boat/car ride, I encourage you to seize the opportunity. It’s easy to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of studying abroad (or life at WashU, or even life in general), but nothing quite compares to the beauty and serenity of an early morning walk in a new place. Surround yourself with good friends, appreciate the moment, and, above all else, strive to create memories that will last you a lifetime.