The Carnaval of the ALA Program
The Spring 2012 ALA students have been tearing up Brussels for one full month and have a lot to show for their well-spent time. When you study abroad in Brussels, one of the first questions you need to master in responding to en français is “Why Brussels?” Local ULB students and Belgians alike are always interested in understanding how and why foreigners decide to come to Brussels for study abroad. The students this semester are definitely making sure there’s no doubt about it that they’re in Brussels to dig deep into the culture of the francophone world outside of France and to make their mark proving it.
In just one month the ALA students have already attended a francophone Belgian play and had a chance to participate in a private Q and A with the director of the spectacle, “Sabotage Amoureux” by Amélie Nothomb. They’ve also become involved with the community by helping out with refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Roma migrants and explored the historical connection between Art Nouveau and Brussels by visiting the house and workshop of architect Victor Horta.
Plus, they’ve gone knee-deep in very Belgian interpretations of Carnaval. As a group they experienced the Carnaval of Malmédy, a small francophone town in Wallonia, where the celebrations consist of jovial parrot-esque men capturing you with long pincers. To escape and have confetti thrown on you, you must ask for forgiveness from the parrot man! They also participated in the UNESCO recognized Carnaval of Binche – a centuries old celebration that involves a lot of orange throwing and even more confetti.
They’ve already started to fall in love with the charms of Belgium and are looking forward to their next few months here. Some things are definite, like scenic bike rides through the Bruges countryside, a chance to sit in on a trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and a visit to a European institution. But who knows what other quirky surprises Belgium has in store for them? Only time will tell…