published Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Belgian students adapting to North Georgia life

Belgian exchange students Laurence Lambert, left, and Kevin De Kock attend a business class at Dalton State College.
Belgian exchange students Laurence Lambert, left, and Kevin De Kock attend a business class at Dalton State College.
Photo by John Rawlston.

ABOUT THE EXCHANGE


• A student and faculty exchange program between Dalton State College and Hogeschool Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium.

• As part of the agreement, a group from Belgium comes to study one semester in the School of Business at Dalton State.

• Each student is assigned a faculty mentor and has an internship with a local company.

• The first group arrived in February, and members will return to their home country in June.

• A faculty member from Belgium will come to Dalton State to lecture and conduct seminars.

• A group of students and faculty from Dalton State will visit Brussels for a study trip, where they will learn about business and government. The first group will travel this fall.

Source: Dalton State College

Schools with which Dalton State is developing educational and cultural exchanges:

• Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

• Erasmus University College, Brussels, Belgium

• Korea Tech University of Technology and Education, Cheonan, South Korea

• National Chengchi University, Taipei City, Taiwan

• Regent University College of Science and Technology Dansoman-Accra, Ghana

• The school anticipates signing a memorandum of understanding later this spring with Dong-Guk University in South Korea.

Source: Dalton State College

DALTON, Ga. -- It didn't take long for a group of four Belgian exchange students to adapt to life in Dalton.

Their first outing straight from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Feb. 5 was to a local Applebee's restaurant, where football fans closely were following the Super Bowl.

"It was quite an experience that evening," said Kelly Vermeiren, a marketing student from the Hogeschool Universiteit Brussel in Brussels, Belgium and one of the first students to study abroad at Dalton State College.

And because Vermeiren, 25, studies marketing, she was more interested in watching the commercials than the game itself, she said.

Last spring, a delegation from Brussels visited Dalton State to talk about an exchange program between the two schools as an extension of Dalton's Sister City relationship with Dilbeek, Belgium, near Brussels.

And last May, Dalton State officials visited the Western European country to sign a memorandum of understanding and interview program candidates.

The four students, three women and one man, room with other Dalton State students at the college's Wood Valley apartment complex, take classes in the School of Business and intern with local companies -- including Balta Group and Beaulieu of America, two of a handful of Belgium-affiliated companies in the area.

Kevin De Kock, 24, applied for the program because he wanted to experience America "for more than just a holiday trip," he said.

"And this was the opportune moment to do that, because this is our last year," he added.

The four students graduate this summer.

They even made local friends from their second day of arrival, the group of students said on a recent afternoon as they walked to their dorm, switching from English to Dutch even as they spoke amongst themselves.

"People are extremely friendly," said Vermeiren, who is doing her internship at Dalton State.

She didn't know anything about the North Georgia city before she came. The only thing she had heard was that it was not very big, but she has been pleasantly surprised.

She loves to mountain bike and go on hikes, something she can't do in her home country because it's flat, she said.

She's even made a trip to Florida for spring break.

"When I go back to Belgium, I'm going to recommend it," she said.

And the students haven't been shy about trying all different kind of foods from Mexican to Italian. But their favorite place so far is Cracker Barrel.

"I like Southern food," said De Kock, especially the chocolate Coca-Cola cake, he added.

In less than two months, the students have adjusted pretty well, they said.

"We know our way around Dalton, we know where everything is," said De Kock, who even is playing soccer with a local league.

Donna Mayo, dean of the School of Business at Dalton State, said exchange programs such as this are important because students live in a global world.

"The world is global, all business is international," she said. "Students can see and experience a different culture."

For her part, Vermeiren said she likes to be open minded.

"It's important to learn about different cultures and improve your language and social skills," she said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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