How to Make the Most of ENGR 1920

Jared Renz , Engineering a Craft Brewery: Belgium'22

Prior to leaving for your Engineering a Craft Brewery: Belgium study-abroad program, you may feel overwhelmed by the packed schedule awaiting you, which is perfectly normal. I can assure you that each scheduled tour is unique and engaging, and plenty of free time is available in the evenings. I do recommend a couple tips for managing the lofty expectations of your itinerary and making the most out of your study-abroad in Europe.

The study-abroad experience truly begins about two months prior to leaving for Belgium. To make the absolute most out of such a limited time abroad, preparation will be your best friend. Before you receive the trip itinerary, start studying the culture of Belgium as a whole and the intricacies of each main city you will visit. Utilize the resources provided by your trip advisors, including the Culture Smart! Belgium book. It is astounding how the details captured in the pages accurately depict and help explain the situations you encounter. For instance, a group of us went to dinner before the start of the study-abroad. Rather than being mad at having to wait an hour for a check, we understood that the expectations of eating out in Belgium. The meal is secondary to the social interaction, and waiters will not interrupt conversations. It is customary to spend an hour after dinner with a beer, socializing with friends before asking for a check.

Language, being an extension of culture, is also important to study. While 38% of the country and everyone on the scheduled tours can speak English fluently, the primary language in the Flanders region of northern Belgium is Flemish, a dialect of Dutch. For those two months prior to leaving, I highly recommend spending around twenty minutes a day learning Dutch on Duolingo or another linguistic service. This study, along with a brief review of basic colloquialisms, will open the door to your interactions outside of guided tours.

Throughout the study-abroad trip, you will become closer friends with those around you. Feel free to stick with your group when going out after guided tours, but do not be afraid to interact with locals outside of the brewery tours. The most permanent memories derive from these chance encounters with bartenders, students, and international travelers. As always, it is important to be respectful and mindful of Belgian customs. On the same note, capitalize on your free time by gawking at massive churches, traversing waterways via boat, and visiting interesting bars across Belgium. The atmospheres of each are unlike anywhere else in the world. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences are abundantly available, such as trying all of the Trappist ales in an underground Belgian tavern or seeing the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the Sint-Baafskathedral. The professors and guides, who have been to Belgium multiple times in the past, helped us with recommendations.