A daily schedule at Hanover can often seem pretty overwhelming: wake up, work out, attend class, eat lunch, attend more class, go to a meeting, finish a bit of homework, go to two club meetings, eat dinner (if time), and finally, stay up for the rest of the night finishing homework. With classes, daily homework, and miscellaneous responsibilities, it can be almost impossible to find time to just relax and have some really, really lazy days.
In Leuven, time slows down. Rather than attending one class three times a week, we only attend that class once a week, for about two hours. And, depending on scheduling, your daily schedule may include only two hours of class everyday, with homework that isn’t due for another week. Thus, here in Leuven, I’ve found myself with quite a bit of glorious free time. My daily schedule is no longer fueled by how much work I can get done in as little time as possible. Instead, the free time I have encourages me to not only take my time on the homework I’ve been given, but it also allows me to pursue all of my other interests.
Just as walking slows down the pace of life here for me, so does my school schedule. If I finish my class for the day in the morning, I now am free to sit down in my kitchen and spend a few hours getting to know the diverse group of people I live with. For instance, last night in Junior House (my residence house) hosted a Family Dinner, where each resident made an appetizer, main course, or dessert. Because we have students from all over the world (Palestine, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, China, US, etc.), we had a variety of dishes spanning from Japanese Pancakes to Scotcharoos (a dessert which originated in Iowa).
The free time we’re given also seems to encourage a system of self-learning. Rather than sitting in class all day having a professor teach you about the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson, your free time allows you to have the time to read what Emerson or Thoreau said in their original texts. Or, if you’re an Math major, but you’re extremely interested in computer science, you have the time to teach yourself, if you’re so inclined. I finally have free time to sit down and read. FOR FUN! (Yes, I apologize for my nerdy English Major problems, but seriously. It’s been great.)
Although Hanover’s schedule keeps me on track and focused on my school work, I absolutely love the schooling system in Leuven where the mindset is less focused on small assignments and attendance or participation points. It reminds me once more that school is about what I am actually learning and how it impacts our world, rather than focusing on whether or not I am succeeding. And I can’t wait to see if this mindset continues when I return to Hanover!