All Roads Lead to…

I left Essen a week ago…

Thinking back feels weird.
I cannot describe how I felt on sunday, when arriving here in Brussels… It was like a million years had passed during the car trip from Essen to Brussels, as if I was thrown into a completely different world and my time in Essen had only existed in a dream.

Hmm.. I guess the lack of sleep also played a major role in how I felt ^^

Still miss it every day, but I adapted to the life here in Brussels more quickly than I thought I would.

Bruxelles, ma belle, ik heb je toch wel gemist…


Maybe it’s because I missed my lovely friends here in Brussels and I was glad to see them back, maybe it’s because I have loads of work to do, maybe it’s because I went home and spent some time with my family…
Most probably it’s because the most crazy friend I’ve ever met visited me on wednesday. Vino’s visit didn’t only cheer me up, it showed me that the world is still as small as it was in Essen, that there are many ways to keep contact with the people you love and that all roads lead to…

Friendship 🙂

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I want to say thank you to everyone who joined me on my Erasmus journey: Thank you to my friends in Essen, to my friends and family who waited patiently for my return and to you, my readers, for letting me share my important and less important experiences.

This is the last article of this blog, but certainly not the last one I’ll ever write.

Keep dreaming, keep making friends, travelling, talking, reading, writing, dancing,…
and most importantly, don’t forget to share your dinner table every now and then: you never know who will come and join you.

x Lien


Young Birds in Stormy Weather

Someone once told me:

“Only when we discover other life outside our planet, we will feel connected to the other inhabitants of our world. Only then we will identify with our fellow ‘earthlings’.”

Is that true?
Do we construct our identity solely in opposition to others?

There is a certain logic in this statement.

I only knew what it feels like to be Belgian when I met someone from another country for the very first time.  I could compare my identity as a Belgian with that of someone else. It became clear what it means to share a geographical region, a government (well, six governments in our case. But that’s a different story), certain habits and ideas, a common history. Therefore all of a sudden I saw the connection with other Belgians in a whole new light. I found out that people can have other ideas about the world than the ones I was used to, things that I had taken for granted were suddenly questioned.

The more people I met the more clearly my identity was shaped. I felt ‘Belgian’, but also ‘Hasselaar‘, ‘Vlaming‘, Western European citizen, European citizen, ‘Brusselaar‘, ‘Limburger‘…
And all these labels indeed referred to differences with other groups and a sense of community within a group. So in a certain sense, yes, my identity is shaped in opposition to others.

But hey, let’s put things in perspective.

Searching for identity also means to define and redefine these labels, because that is what they are after all.
Names that we gave to concepts in order to understand them.

I never labelled myself as an ‘earthling’, because indeed, there is no need to in reference to other life.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t identify as one. Here on Erasmus I met people from all over the world -from Sri Lanka to Italy to Bolivia- and I learned that we resemble one another more than can be seen at the first glance. I never felt a stronger connection to people from other cultures than now.

We are all young people, open to other cultures, open to get to know the world. Let’s try not to forget this once we are out of this dream-like Erasmus bubble and re-enter the ‘real world’.

Let’s get a little sentimental (I am allowed to, it’s almost the end of my Erasmus!)
I love you, my fellow earthlings… 🙂


credits: cover photo Lotte Stockmans

Eating Around the Globe: Germany

I know what you are thinking:

“Lien, you are on Erasmus in Germany! When are you finally going to write about the German cuisine?”
Well, your patience has been put to the test, but your waiting will be rewarded! Especially for you this article contains two recipes instead of one 😉 and I have some more good news for the sweet tooth amogst you:

Today I am baking German winter cookies with my wonderful buddy: Vanessa!

12405265_1086090121415195_1707645135_oI must say, the people who organize the Erasmus buddy pairs have done a great job in matching me to Vanessa. She is an amazingly caring person, who made me feel welcome in Essen even before I arrived. She’s funny, sweet, enthusiastic and a wonderfully talented painter.

Born in Germany to Chinese parents, she identifies strongly with both cultures.
Interesting to see how two cultures can be so divergent and yet they can learn so much from each other. For instance, one of the most important values in chinese culture is respect: respect to older people, respect to strangers… For exemple, when people don’t know each other very well or have just met, they IMG_1645tend to keep a certain distance in order to show each other respect. Keeping your distance has a fairly negative connotation in western culture, but in my opinion it is a use we have forgotten to appreciate. Keeping a certain distance gives the other person space. It allows us to get to know each other more slowly and not to judge too quickly.



On the picture above: Vanessa with her mothers’ cooking chopsticks, one of the two unmissable tools in the Asian kitchen! (The other being a quite impressive, large chopping knife)

By the way, how do you like my house slippers? 😉

Vanessa is currently studying French and arts at the university of Essen to become a teacher. She can speak German, Mandarin Chinese, French, English and is also recently starting to learn Spanish!

She likes to teach me German expressions. Some are particularly funny! Thanks to Vanessa I know now that I was ‘built close to water’…

Ehmm.. what?

Yes, indeed. I was built close to water. Ich bin nahe am Wasser gebaut. This means that I am a sensitive person, who cries quickly when something sad or moving happens.

Or do you ever hear people having a conversation and you ‘only understand trainstation‘?
Well, Germans do. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is an expression used when you cannot understand anything of what is being said.


Or – to stay in the food metaphor – did you know that in Germany something can be ‘stewing in the gossip kitchen’? I don’t think this expression needs an explanation, the image speaks for itself 😉 Da brodelt die Gerüchteküche…

But we are busy in a different kind of kitchen today: We are baking two kinds of Weihnachtsgebäck  (christmas pastries) plätzchen and Zimtsterne. 

The two of us are not very experienced bakers and on top of that I cannot eat gluten or milk, so we have to change some of the basic ingredients…

Be prepared 😉

As soon as we start baking, Vanessa puts on some christmas music and we don’t stop listening till we are finsihed! It’s all about the atmosphere 🙂

What you need for the Plätzchen:

  • 100 gr. Buckwheatmeal and 50 gr. oatmeal (or you can use 150 gr. of plain white flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr. coconut oil (or butter)
  • 30 gr. sugar and 30 gr. agave nectar (or 60 gr. sugar)
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla sugar (about 10 gr.)
  • lemon zeste

Mix all the ingredients togehter in a large mixing bowl. Let the dough rest in the fridge for about an hour. When you take it aout of the fridge, spread out your dough and flatten until approximately 0,5 centimeter. Use your favourite cookie moulds to shape the Plätzchen!

Bake them in a preheated oven of 200°c for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies turned out to be a little bit dry, so I suggest you use a little more of the coconut oil.


For the Zimtsterne:

  • 250 gr. ground almonds
  • 150 gr. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • cinnamon

for the frosting:

  • 70 gr. of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white

Whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar, then carefully add the ground almonds and the cinnamon. Spread the dough on a flat surface and roll it until it’s about a cenitmeter thick. Use star moulds to shap the cookies. And then you get these beautiful little stars!!!



Well, that didn’t go according to plan…

Be sure to add enough ground almonds!  Just add some more of it when you see the dough is too soft, otherwise you’ll end up with these little monsters… hihi 🙂

Guten Appetit!


The International Dinner Table

Hello there!
Welcome to my virtual housewarming party 🙂

Since this is my very first international blog post, I think it deserves to be celebrated!
Feel free to take off your shoes and put your chair around my table, let’s make it warm and cosy!

My name is Lien, I’m a Belgian student on Erasmus in Essen, Germany.
I have been living here now for approximately one month and I felt like sharing some of the many interesting moments I am experiencing.
Residing in a city with such a name (Essen= the German word for ‘eating’ and ‘food’ ^^) I couldn’t find a more suitable image for my Erasmus adventure than a large dinner table filled with juicy conversations and exotic accents.
It describes what this experience is all about: Just like the dinner table at home, Erasmus is about sharing an important part of your life with a multi-coloured family.

Feeling hungry yet?
Do drop by whenever you feel like it and join the Erasmus atmosphere.
My door is always open!