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Sister-City News from Kortrijk, Belgium to Greenville, South Carolina

Brought to you in May 2019 by Sarah Markewich, International Coordinator, from Howest University of Applied Sciences, BE


At the end of April, the City of Kortrijk along with Howest University of Applied Sciences (Howest) launched a pilot project called “Nest” to connect local families with international bachelor students to help give the new Kortrijkzanen a sense of home. This idea took inspiration from the iFace project in Greenville, South Carolina after two Howest students who had studied at Furman University in the fall 2018 semester spoke with such great enthusiasm about the local families iFace had brought them in touch with. Howest Tourism students, Silke Vanloofsvelt and Lisa Haentjens said they felt at home and welcome in Greenville and at Furman thanks to the local family-international student contact. They also spoke lovingly about iFace’s Lea Ann Wright, calling her the driving force behind the program and Silke made this video about her local family experience.

After several meetings involving Howest, students Silke and Lisa and the City of Kortrijk, as well as a recent Skype meeting between Howest International Coordinator Sarah Markewich and iFace’s Lea Ann Wright, “Nest” was born and took off immediately, with more than 30 interested local families registering the first day it appeared in the press. Howest Digital Arts & Entertainment students starting a 3-year Bachelor degree in English at the number one game design school in the world in fall 2019 will be the first to benefit from the feels-like-home program.

While Silke Vanloofsvelt and Lisa Haentjens were the first Howest students to attend Furman University, Matt Martin is the first Furman student to take part in an English-taught semester at Howest. Matt arrived in Kortrijk in February 2019 for the spring Creative Communication Project semester and is returning to Greenville for an internship at the end of May. Matt quickly made friends at Howest and has become an unmissable part of the Kortrijk global community. In his first week here, thanks to the sister-city connection, he got to help choose the winners of Kortrijk gift baskets and give them to lucky international students at the Kortrijk Welcomes International Students’ event. Later that same week, Matt won a photo contest for capturing unique Kortrijk spots with his orientation week group. In April, thanks to some sweet contributions from visiting Furman international office staff, he hosted a popular US food and culture stand at Howest’s Global Taste Affair during International Week. Howest will miss Matt and hopes that he had a great semester abroad here in Kortrijk at Howest!

While Furman student, Matt Martin is at Howest, Howest Network Economy student, Aaron Geli, who is heading to Furman for a semester abroad in the fall, took the opportunity to meet up with him to find out more about the school and Greenville. Aaron, though a little nervous, says he is excited to see how different American campuses are from Belgian ones. He imagines Furman as a “city on its own.” Matt assured Aaron that Furman has a great community feel with easy access to Greenville. They spoke about Southern hospitality and Matt said that people are really welcoming and students feel at home easily. Matt explained that he has learned a lot here in at Howest and in Kortrijk because many things were foreign and new to him. Being here gave him the opportunity to explore new languages and cultures and allowed him to travel to lots of places he had never been before in Belgium and in Europe. Matt told Aaron that he will have a great adventure next semester at Furman too. Let’s hope they will meet each other there and send us a photo!

Aaron Geli also got to meet Nancy Georgiev and Caitlynne Goodlett from Furman University’s International Office when they were at Howest in Bruges and Kortrijk for its International Week in April. They also got to catch up with Matt Martin and find out how his time here has been. Furman History Professor David Spear, who spent the spring semester teaching in Brussels with group of Furman students, also took part in Howest’s International Week. Nancy and Caitlynne introduced Howest students to Furman University via presentations and an info stand and David talked to Howest students about American soldiers’ experience in Belgium during World War 1. His story was also a personal one as one of the soldiers he spoke about was a close family member.

Howest was happy to have all three Furman visitors at its International Week and to have time to introduce them to Howest Kortrijk and Bruges. While here, they also, of course, tried some famous, Belgian beer, got a taste of food from all over the world made by Howest students at its Global Taste Affair and visited Bruges and Kortrijk. In Kortrijk, they saw how similar one of its bridges is to one in Greenville. It was a short but sweet visit, in which Howest and Furman could get to know each other better to make future collaboration even more promising.