Interview with Kobe Cornelis


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A few weeks prior I had the brilliant chance to interview one of our foreign exchange students, Kobe Cornelis. Kobe is a senior from Belgium who traveled to America to find new visions and art to inspire him as a multimedia student. I learned many differences between the United States and the breathtaking Belgium.

When were you born?

“26th of May, 2000.”

How would you describe Belgium?

“It’s small, everything is really close to each other. Belgium has a French part and a Dutch part. I come from the Dutch part which is called Flanders. It’s more like city, uh, more like your commercial cities. The French part is more nature and open fields, and farmers. You’re not going to find many farmers in the Dutch part of Belgium. So it’s way different here. Here I am in more open fields. When I was in Belgium, I was more like in the city. I lived fifteen minutes from the city Leuven with my bike.”

What are the differences in prices here?

“It’s cheaper here, everything is cheaper. Not only because of the currency with euros and dollars but also just like things are just cheaper. Like you have differences like restaurants. Where I come from you have more local restaurants and fast food restaurants aren’t really a thing in Belgium. While here its more like these big company things where there are restaurants everywhere.

And the refills! So, refills here are um like if your drink is empty even in fancier restaurants they just get your drink and fill it up and I’m just like ‘Oh, thank you.’  In Belgium, even in McDonald’s,  you pay for your drink and you get your drink which is usually in a glass is most restaurants, and if you want another drink you have to order and pay for another drink. Some places in Belgium, the cups have a QR code on it. So when you go to the refill station, which is behind the ordering station so you can’t do it yourself, a thing scans the QR on the cups and they fill it and it scans and you can’t fill it again unless you buy another drink.”

What is the difference between the American dollar and Euros?

“So euros are more expensive than dollars. For example, one-hundred dollars is eighty euros. So that’s really nice for me because everything is already cheaper and I get a discount on everything because I pay in euros.”

What are the wages like in Belgium?

“I think it’s pretty good. I think teachers get like around 1,800 euros every month but the thing is we don’t have to pay for medical or life insurance the same way. If you are a citizen in Belgium it’s kind of free. Like if you break your arm, it’s free. So I think wages are good since you don’t have to pay for those things. But it’s getting more and more difficult to find jobs in Belgium.”

What do you think about America’s Healthcare system?

“I don’t know a lot about America’s health system, but I know it’s like you have to pay for many things and it’s really expensive and people can get in trouble with money for example if someone gets shot it’s not insured and some people don’t even have enough money I think to pay for their medical bills and I think that’s like, I don’t know why it’s like that. I don’t know why medical bills are so expensive here, I don’t really understand because that’s something like a basic need for people.”

What are the schools like in Belgium?

“It’s way different. In Belgium, you have preschool, Primary Education and then Secondary Education, so we don’t have like High School or Elementary School. So you have six years in Primary Education, and then after those six years you’re eleven or twelve years old. Then you go into secondary education which is also six years. You stay with the same people the whole year and you already have to chose in secondary education which study you would like to do. So when you go to college here, then you choose, but in Belgium you have to choose when you are fourteen years old. For example, I studied Multi-Media. So I’m in a class with people that also study Multimedia.

I think that secondary education is harder depending on what you study. If you don’t have a technical, scientific or art secondary education diploma it is almost impossible to get into college. We have Technical education which is what the study multimedia is in, Art education, Scientific education and Special education (for people who are not able to study well, it’s a very low education). Art education is for people that want to study instruments and such.

Exams I think are, for example on tests in Belgium, we can’t use notes. Here it’s always multiple choice questions while in Belgium you never get multiple choice. You have to really know everything from your head. Maybe on the last page will be bonus questions and those are harder questions and those would be multiple choice.”

Would you say it is easier schooling here?

“Yes, definitely. Because in many tests it is like common sense and teachers give A’s and stuff way too easily. Way more easily than in Belgium. In Belgium, it’s almost impossible, like ninety percent, even if you study to get an A. We don’t have the A+ and F system. We just have so many points. It’s stressful.”

Do you have sports in Belgium?

“Belgium schools don’t have things like sports, you’d have to go to something different like sports education. Our schools doesn’t have things like Seymour Owls, it’s just around normal education. While here it is more like “Sports are important!””

How would you say your experience has been here in America?

“So when I arrived for the first few days, I was in New York city. So that was really fun. I visited everything like Times Square. Then I flew here after those first few days, and I was so stressed in the beginning with my host family and stuff. I really like it here because many exchange students end up in the middle of nowhere like Texas or something. And people are always like “Why do you want to be in Seymour?” But here I am about fifty minutes away from Indianapolis or Columbus or Louisville for stores. I love Walmart. We don’t have Walmart in Belgium so that’s something I’m really going to miss.  I also love hiking and you have pretty nice hiking places here.”

What are the shops like in Belgium?

“It’s more like bakeries and the butchers. And you have the grocery store which is way smaller and you only have the food section like in Walmart. If you want to buy a T.V., you have to go to a T.V. store or an electronic store. It’s all like separated in Belgium, it’s no one big thing. ”

What foods do they have here that are not in Belgium and vice versa?

“The snacks I really like here are Recees, Corn Dogs, and so many more. In Belgium, I know they have chocolate here too, but in Belgium it’s such a big thing. Chocolate here doesn’t really taste like chocolate to me. It tastes more like candy. We have pretty much the same things but we have less variation. Here in America, you have for example Oreo’s. We have Oreo’s too in Belgium but we can only buy like the normal Oreo and Oreo thins. But here you have like pistachio Oreo, firework Oreo, peanut-butter Oreo. We don’t have any of that. We don’t have Recees cups.”

Is there a way to get American foods from Belgium?

“There is probably a way through like E bay or Amazon or something. But we don’t have Amazon in Belgium. We’d have to order from like the German Amazon. But it’s probably expensive. Most web-shops in Belgium work together with the Netherlands web-shops. They have a store called Coolblue which is the most popular one. The biggest difference is that we can get everything there too but if you order something in Belgium before midnight, it gets shipped for free the next day. While here you usually have to wait a couple of days.”

What are the laws like in Belgium?

“What most people are shocked about is the drinking age in Belgium. If you’re sixteen years old, you can drink beer and wine and if you’re eighteen years old you can also drink liquor. Tobacco products are sixteen. Every hard drug is illegal but cannabis is legal in some cases. You can carry maximum of two grams of cannabis if you’re eighteen or older and can grow one plant. Guns are illegal in Belgium, I think also in most European countries. So policemen have them of course but they can’t just buy them, it’s all internal.”

So does it surprise you that you can get a gun from Walmart?

“You can do that? Oh my god I didn’t even know, in Walmart? I’m very surprised. I mean I’m even surprised you can go into gun shops and buy guns. It’s crazy.”

Are there any differences in the police in Belgium?

“I see way less police here than I see in my city in Belgium. In my city, especially at night, there are a lot of drunk people and party people so police are everywhere to call ambulances. I heard that police here really like try to find things to make you do things wrong and they really try to find things to blame you for. But I don’t know about that, it’s what I heard from people. In Belgium, I don’t think they’re going to convict you unless you do something extremely wrong. Otherwise they’ll just say things like ‘Don’t do things like that again.’ Things like that.”

What are the different customs in Belgium?

“So, for example, I don’t know about here but if it’s someone’s birthday family comes and sits at a round table and we eat cake all together. Every time we see family or friends we give kisses on the cheek, which people don’t do here. People are more huggy here. So if I see a family member I give them a kiss on the cheek and if it’s their birthday they get three kisses. For friends, if it is a girl I give them a kiss on the cheek and if it is a boy I shake their hand, which also doesn’t really happen here. And for example Christmas in Belgium isn’t really that big about Jesus. No one there really believes in religion anymore whereas here everyone does.”

 

Kobe’s Media:

Photos of Leuven, Belgium:

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