When I moved to Belgium permanently four years ago, I lived with my boyfriend and his parents for two months. Two long months. Not that they were inhospitable or that we didn’t get along – but with no job, no income, and nothing to occupy my time except for job applications, I think we all started to go a bit stir-crazy. My boyfriend was finishing his thesis over the summer, so we spent our days holed up in his room working simultaneously. It’s also difficult after having lived on your own for years to suddenly be a perpetual guest in someone else’s home. You’re trying to do things your own way, but no matter what, you are always in the way. (Like all my food in the fridge, or the time I thought I broke their washing machine!)
I started napping for several hours every day, and my boyfriend started working in a different room. The weather was cold and dreary for July, and every day as I sent more applications out, and saw my job count rise from 20 to 30, all the way up to 90, it was hard to stay motivated.
With my boyfriend heading back for one more year of school, I knew that by September I needed to be out and supporting myself. So in August, without any job lined up, I started apartment hunting in Brussels. It was exciting at first, although sometimes a bit depressing when I realized the limits of my budget! Luckily, I found quite quickly a cute and quirky studio apartment to call home – with its lopsided futon, the shower stall in the kitchen, and the toilet only accessible off of the porch. It was furnished in a mismatched wooden style, but hell, it was furnished, it was just inside the cheaper postal code of the centre of Brussels, and the lease was only one year.
Getting in with companies was difficult. Most Belgian companies are looking for bi- or tri-lingual people, and my French just wasn’t up to snuff (thanks haughty English recruiter for telling me). I interviewed with an organization for a four week internship, but I think my face gave me away when they explained the job was just verifying and inputting data. On top of that, I had recruitment firms questioning my intentions to stay in Belgium, not impressed with my one-year relationship at the time. I understood, I was a flight risk, but I just needed someone to take a chance!
In the end, I was only on the job hunt for two months. That’s it! But believe me, it felt like so much longer. It really was a full time job, and the kind that can be unforgiving and hard to motivate yourself for. I actually ended up getting two job offers, within days of each other, for entirely different industries and roles! I still wonder how my life would have been shaped if I had taken the other position. But instead I ended up with a career that has so far gotten me through four years and likely many more to come.
I know I’ve said multiple times how strange it feels to no longer live in Brussels, but I really feel like I’m starting a new chapter in my life. There are so many aspecting of settling into our home that are extremely stressful, but reflecting back on the road I’ve taken so far I can see I’ve already overcome some major hurdles. Back then, I just knew somehow that eventually it would all work out, so I’m trying to pull some inspiration from 22-year-old me to get me through these next few hectic months!