For 5 months, I experienced something completely different to what I expected: more travel and new knowledge, but not ordinary studies. I went with my friend to the small city of Tournai (70,000 inhabitants), which is located right on the border with France. Tournai was the first capital of the Franks, and the cathedral in this city, is larger than Notre Dame in Paris!
I was accompanied by Valeria, which made our stay a lot more pleasant: and we did almost everything together – from arranging all kinds of formalities, to deciding what to eat for dinner.
We lived with Caroline, a sculptor, whose house was full of art. She took us to the local swimming pool, to the forest, to the sea, to exhibitions, and she even took me to the doctor, when I was suffering from angina. Often, her family or other artists came to her, and then we took part in these meetings. Language proved to be difficult for a long time. Our hostess, and my favourite professors, could not speak English, so I had to try a different idea – yes, I learned French! After four months, I was almost able to “talk with connoisseurs of art at exhibitions”.
At school, the teachers were friendly, and without distance. “The lecturer is simply a friend who helps”, and this thought was confirmed by my favourite graphic design professor, who always brought us tablets or chocolate eggs. I think he chose them in terms of their packaging, and as we tasted the chocolate, we analysed its appearance.
Tournai is a city quite small, nice, and cozy, and everyone knows each other here. At weekends, there are organised games and carnivals. However, during my stay, I missed Warsaw. It is not as great and big as many cities in Western Europe, but here I have an active life, amongst beloved people, and that’s why it is beautiful to me.
I am very grateful for everything I experienced: not only did I experience the teaching process, but also during the stay in Belgium, I embraced the friendship of people. Amazingly, someone who does not know you, accepts you into their apartment, as if you were their child. During my stay, I travelled, and saw other countries and cities – I understood that there are still many unsolved problems in the world. In Belgium, I realised that the most important thing was to have my home and family.
Daryna Antonenko, 2019.