Monday, June 27, 2016

Belgium brews and summer views

Hallo from Belgium! We arrived in Leuven about a week and a half ago, and things have been going well so far. Our first few days were spent running around Leuven doing some administrative things and settling into our studios at Wisteria, a KU Leuven dorm building near imec. Each of us has our own bathrooms and kitchens, which I’m grateful for, and the rooms came furnished and stocked with some basic cookware and utensils. Michael, Chris, Lakyn, and I all live next to each other on the ground floor, and Lydia is living the penthouse life on the first floor.

We stayed in Leuven for our first weekend since we wanted to get a better feel of the city. A member of Lydia’s lab, Eric, was nice enough to give us a bike tour of Leuven and we got to see Stadhuis (Town Hall), Groot Begijnhof (a monastery built in the 1200s), Botanical Garden Kruidtuin, and Oude Markt (Old Market, also known as the longest bar in the world!). I loved seeing all the old Gothic architecture and seeing how easy-going Belgians are. There are always people sitting outside cafes, sipping on cold beers and talking with friends.

By Monday, we had fallen into our summer work routine. At 8:30 am, we bike from Wisteria to imec and work for a few hours until lunch at 11:30 am with some of our other lab mates. Occasionally, we join a few of them for coffee at Java – the Brody CafĂ© of imec – and return to our desks a little before 1 pm. Our workdays usually comes to an end at 4 or 4:30 pm. However, I suspect our afternoons at imec will become longer as our projects progress and more experiments need to be performed.

Leuven is a fairly small city – it has the vibes of a nice college town – and the cheapest and most convenient way to get around is by bike. Oude Markt is a great place to hang out and have a cold beer (surprisingly, the legal drinking age is 16 here) with friends after work. In fact, Lakyn’s lab organizes weekly dinners at Oude Markt, which we all joined in on this past Tuesday.

During our second weekend, we took a day trip to Antwerp. Antwerp is an old city with a lot of history, and it was super cool to see the different style of architecture, art, and beer this city had in comparison to Leuven. Unfortunately, some of the museums and churches we wanted to see were closed for that day, so we spent most of our time outside admiring the beautiful building facades. I think our bad luck was made up for by the food: fries and Belgian waffles. So yum! We got back to Wisteria around 8 pm and after walking over 10 miles, we were beat.

Even though it feels like we just got here, the time seems to be flying by fast. Many more weekend trips are to come, and I’m excited to see where our travels take us. Until next time!

Stephanie Cai is a rising junior BME with a focus area in Instrumentation. At Hopkins, she is a member of the Wang lab, a leader for Encore Music Group, and on the board for Society of Women Engineers. 

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