A foreign romance

For many, college years are the most fun period of their life. And yet the best memories do not come directly from campus. Especially during summer vacations, we fill our backpacks with unforgettable experiences: an international competition, a hike to the other side of the world, volunteer work in one of the poorest countries... And some even fall in love with the love of their life.


Nele (23, criminology student) went to Columbia to volunteer during the 2019-2020 academic year. Last summer, she returned for a month and met her sweetheart Miguel. In sixth grade, Nele, like all her peers, was regularly asked what she wanted to study. One day her father said, as a joke, that she could also leave on a sabbatical, a year abroad. A joke that became reality: on September 1, 2019, she left for Columbia only to find her feet back on Belgian soil on July 15, 2020. "I can really recommend it to everyone to take a year off abroad. You automatically gain more appreciation for the small things in life and you get to know yourself better. There are some memories that still make me smile. For example, one time my host mom asked if I wanted to go with her to the bakery. No problem, were it not for the fact that I was walking around in my pyjamas. I told her I would quickly change clothes, but I didn't need to. I thought: apparently it's normal here to go to the bakery in your pyjamas, and so every day in the first month I left in my flashy pink pyjamas to buy bread. Once when I was talking to my 'mom' about the cultural differences, I mentioned that I thought it was weird that in Columbia one goes to the bakery in pyjamas, while at home it's definitely not a habit. To which she replied, dead serious, that it was not a custom in Columbia either. When I said that I'd been going to the bakery in pyjamas all month, we laughed so hard!"

In the summer of 2021, Nele returned to Columbia and met Miguel. "I already thought he was good looking, but there was no real love at first sight. After seeing him a few times, it turned out that we got along very well, and then the spark did pass. Miguel and I are still together after nine months. We had made plans at the end of August: he would come to Belgium for a month during the Columbia vacations (February-April). A lot of paperwork preceded this, but after a long wait we received his visa as a Christmas present on January 17th. He immediately bought his ticket and arrived on February 6th. He is now getting to know my family and friends and it really clicks between them. I already know that it will be difficult when he goes back to Columbia. Long-distance relationships are not easy and seven hours time difference does not make it easier. During the first period of our relationship he often stayed awake until I got up, so that we could see each other via Skype. If he was too busy with his studies, I would set my alarm at 3 in the morning. My friends thought I was crazy, but I was really willing to do it. I had plans anyway to return to Columbia after my studies. Because of our relationship, those plans have accelerated. I'll hopefully graduate this year, then I'll do a vacation job for a while and my departure is planned for the end of August. I'm buying a one-way ticket, so who knows when I'll come back..."


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