I’ve been in Leuven only 5 days now, but it feels like a lot longer…in a good way. I’ve been walking in the city each every day and learning my way around city center and slowly learning how to pronounce the name of the streets like Bondgenotenlaan and Vesaliusstraat.
My mission the first few days has been my housing for the year. You see my school, Vlerick, is only a grad school and doesn’t have student housing. But the Katholieke University (KU is the oldest Catholic Univ in the world) is also in Leuven and has temporary accommodations available. My temp housing is about a 15-20 minute walk away from city center (which is a nice walk except when it’s raining). I’m safe and warm here but I need to find a place to live for the year. I arrived in Leuven on Saturday and started my great search on Monday … after I got a local phone – a necessity when calling prospective landlords.
The International Student Housing office at KU provides assistance in finding a place to live (well they have computers to search the web and phones to use) but they also have people that will read your Dutch lease and help you with Leuven law. So it’s helpful, but what has also been extremely helpful is my classmates and my own 2 feet. I got a lot of great advice from classmates that arrived before me, I also walked around with another classmate that was also hunting and it was really the walking and calling numbers listed on TE HUUR (for rent) signs. And in the end I called a rental agent and found a studio within 2 hours – I move in on Monday. I’m glad I started by looking on my own, when I went with the agent I had a general idea of what’s available and prices. It was less than what I wanted in a studio and a bit more than what I wanted to spend but I heard all the good places with good prices were taken way back in June. So I’m happy with what I have, it’ll work for the year. Once I move in I’ll post pics of my place, because I know you just can’t wait!
Finding housing was really important. Why you ask – well it’s the final step for the visa. My USA passport only gets me 90 days as a tourist so to stay for the year I need a student visa. The Belgium gov’t requires many things to get this visa – from my tax return, bank records & pay stubs to FBI record to a medical certificate. So I sent all these docs to the Embassy in NYC and I eventually got my visa back …except it’s only good until Nov 15, 2010! I was so concerned, but it turns out that this is just provisional and I need to finish the process after I actually arrive in Leuven. Now the process is go to city hall no more than a few days before move-in and register with them (they need a copy of my lease and to be safe I’ll bring all my docs from school). Then the city sends a police officer to my address to make sure I live there. Really.
So it’s now Thursday and I move on Monday. I don’t want to shop for things for my studio because I don’t want to buy more I need to move from here to there. And it’s raining outside – again. Maybe instead of shopping for household items I’ll shop for a rain coat. I think I’m going to need more than the 1 I brought. ;-)