Foreign Exchange Student Reflects on Her New Life as a UA Student

Alix De Longueville, 18, is an international student from Belgium. She is enrolled at Ursuline for the spring semester as a junior. She has already graduated from high school and is taking a gap year before entering college next fall.

What is your full name? Does it have any significance to your family? 

My full name is Alix Kristin Erica De Longueville. Kristin is the name of my godmother. Eric is the name of my godfather, but my parents put Erica because I am a girl.

Where were you born?

I was born in Nivelles and I have lived there since I was born. Nivelles is in the French-speaking part of Belgium. It is south of Brussels, 25 minutes by car.

Editor’s note: Belgium is divided into three regions: the Flemish Region (Dutch-speaking), the Brussels-Capital Region (where Brussels, the capital, is located), and the Walloon Region (French-speaking).

Describe your family.  

I am 100% Belgian! Half of my family is from the Flemish part and the other half from the French-speaking part of Belgium. I have two sisters and one brother. My little sister is sixteen and my older sister and brother are 27. They are twins and live on their own now. So I live with my little sister and my parents. I have one dog. She is a border collie. Her name is Cachou and she is eight years old.

What is your favorite place at home like?

My favorite place is a Thai restaurant. I always go there with my friends. The food is really good! And after having dinner, we usually go to a café to have a drink. This café is one of my favorite places too. Another place I like is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. This museum is in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is really beautiful. You do not feel you are inside a museum. I can stay there for hours!

What do you miss most about home? 

I miss my family and my friends of course. I also miss Belgian food like chocolate, fries and beers.

Describe the school(s) you have attended.

I was in the same school from primary school until the end of high school. The name is Lycée de Berlaymont. It is a school for boys and girls and [requires] uniforms (only a few schools have a uniform in the all Belgium). The school system is very different from the United States. You cannot choose your classes. Everyone has history, geography, math, French literature, PE, sciences and religion. You can only choose [one] option. So I had Latin, Dutch as a second language and English as a third one.

Why did you choose to take a gap year before college?  

I chose to take a gap year for diverse reasons. First, because I did not know what to study after high school. Second, I want to improve my English. Indeed, English is very important for the future, my studies and my job. In Belgian universities, lots of classes are in English but in high school we do not learn enough English. So it is better to know English before going to university. English is the international language, so you use it [not only] for your job but [also] to meet people too. Then, I think it is very important to take a gap year between high school and college. During this year you can discover things or yourself or do things that you never [would] imagine to do. I think that [to] take a gap year is a big challenge but it is also a chance. It is a challenge because you go alone [to] a new country; you know nobody, and you have to make new friends. A gap year will often add something that you cannot learn at an institution of higher education: the ability to manage and solve problems, and a strong sense of direction. If the gap year has been used creatively, then this can tip the balance in an interview between two close candidates. But my primary reason to take a gap year is to live a life-altering experience.

How did your first semester studying abroad impact you?

I spent my first semester in Denmark in an international boarding school. I was studying and living with 100 students from 35 different countries. This experience was really rewarding. I cannot explain it. You need to live it to understand it! I am another person now. I grew up a lot and I am more open-minded now.

What is your advice for others who may want to take a gap year studying in another country?  

Just do it! Really do not hesitate to do it! It is an experience of a lifetime. This experience changes your mind and will mark you forever. It brings you more than you think.

How and why did you decide to come to Ursuline Dallas? 

I first chose Dallas because my mom’s best friend lives here. After, we chose Ursuline Academy of Dallas because we think it is a nice school and probably the best for me. This school also has the same values as my school in Belgium, which is important for my parents and me. I am living with my mom’s best friend and her family. She has three boys. The oldest one is in college and the two other ones are at the Jesuit. They are really amazing and nice with me. The dad is really cool. They are the best host family ever! I could not wish [for] better!

What was your first impression of Ursuline?  

I was really impressed [by[ how the people are nice! The school is also beautiful. I was in a nice school for Belgium, but it has nothing to do with here. This school is like in the movies. I find that funny!

What is one of the biggest differences between Texas and Belgium? 

Definitively the weather!  For my first day in Dallas, the sky was blue and the sun shining. I was so happy because the last time I saw a blue sky was one month ago. The weather is really bad in Belgium. It rains a lot and it is cold. But sometimes we can have 100 degrees like last summer!

Where will you attend college next year?

I will study at Université Catholique de Louvain. But I have no clue what I am going to study. We do not need to apply for university. If you are graduated from high school, you can enter [any] Belgian university. I still have a little more time to think about my studies. The deadline to register is the end of August.

Check Out L’Université Catholique de Louvain

What did you always want to be as a grown-up?

I think that as all little girls, I wanted to be a singer. But I actually can’t sing…

What countries have you visited? Do any of them in particular stand out to you?

France, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, England, Guadeloupe, Rwanda and Uganda. It is my first [time] in the United States of America. The country I like the most is Uganda. Everything is so different from Europe, [such as] the culture and the way of life. The nature is beautiful and the people are really nice. This trip was the most beautiful trip I have ever had!

What is the best food you have ever tried?

Three years ago, I was on vacation in Madeira (an island in Portugal). We went to this small family restaurant near the beach. We asked to eat a traditional meal. They served us calamari with vegetables and potatoes. It was so good! I cannot even explain it.

What is one of your happiest memories, just off the top of your head?

I have a lot of happy memories. When I do something, I try to always remember the positive things. The first memory which comes to my mind was in my boarding school in Denmark. We had a silent party. It was my first one. Everyone had headphones and you could choose between three different kinds of music. It was one of the best nights of my life. I had so much fun with my friends.

What about America that surprises you the most?

The size of the popcorn at the cinema! It is really huge!

What languages can you speak? 

I can speak French, Dutch and English. French is my mother tongue. I have been learning Deutsch since I was seven. Half of the population in Belgium speaks Dutch so it is really important to know it for your job or even your social life. And I have been studying English for four years. I also want to be able to speak Spanish. That is why I take a Spanish class here at Ursuline.

What drives or motivates you the most?

I am afraid to not be successful and not achieve my goals. So I push myself a lot.  

Would you consider yourself a global citizen given your experiences?

Yes, I try to be a global citizen. By being a global citizen, you can discover new things and meet new people from around the world. You also think less about yourself and your country and think more globally. But I am still proud to be Belgian !


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