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Entries tagged with: "clairenovak"

Drawing to a Close

Aug 04, 2011 by Mary-Elizabeth Claire Novak in Europe


Dear readers,

Before I begin this post, I must first apologize for it. It's going to sound utterly corny at times, but sometimes it's a bit necessary. Keeping this in mind, please continue!

Today is the last day of my internship, and I'm busy saying goodbye to everyone I have met during my stay here. It's something I don't want to do, but unfortunately it's a necessary part of the process. While I'm going out with the other interns tonight for dinner, and later meeting up with my new Belgian friends, I thought I should post a picture of some of us U.S. interns at the Embassy the other evening:
The US interns at a party outside the Embassy

I'm going to miss them terribly!

Last night, however, I felt completely and totally at mohome. Now, for those of you who aren't up to date on your Mount Holyoke College slang, mohome is that wonderful feeling students get when they realize that the campus, friends, staff, and faculty have become apart of them. It's the feeling of being appreciated for your eccentricities and all the little quirks you enjoy about yourself. So yes, last night I was mohome.

My wonderful boss for the summer arranged a meet up of some of the Mount Holyoke alums in the area. Upon arrival at a lovely house a few blocks away from my own, I found myself surrounded by strong, confident, and smart women. The evening included delicious Turkish food, discussion of life in Belgium, and me being utterly ridiculous and telling them about my worries as a soon-to-be-senior with a whole world of possibilities in front of me. I have never been so mortified in my life as when I opened my mouth and found myself telling these strangers about my worries about what my course of action should be upon graduation.

And then it hit me: they were Mount Holyoke students. While they may have already graduated, they too had taken the same sorts of classes, eaten in the same dining halls, and (probably) had the same sort of hilarious anecdotes about Mountain Day that we all seem to have. They weren't strangers at all! They were family! And what's more, they helped me more than I could have ever imagined. They happily answered even some of my silliest questions and understood my desire to "get the ball rolling" as soon as I graduated. It was a lovely evening, and a perfect way to end my summer internship in Brussels. Indeed, what better way to end a summer than to find yourself surrounded by members of the MHC community?

Then again, it's not the end of my summer. While the internship has ended, I'll still be wandering about Europe for a little longer. First, I'm off to visit friends in the UK and to visit Ellen Whitehead, the utterly fabulous exchange student who I was lucky enough to meet last year. After that, I'll pop over to Amsterdam to visit a friend who is an alum I met while I was helping with reunions at school. To finish off the summer over here, I'll be going to Rome and Venice for a little sun and a lot of pasta. It's been an amazing summer full of strange and wonderful occurrences, and I have truly enjoyed and learned from it all. All of that is true, however...you know what? I'm really excited to go back to school in September.

Senior year, I hope you're prepared for the new(er) and (slightly) more worldly Claire Novak.

Weirdest Realization

Jul 14, 2011 by Mary-Elizabeth Claire Novak in Europe


It’s about half way though my internship, and I’m starting to realize that I’m going to miss Brussels when I leave.

While utterly gorgeous in its architecture…

One of the Main Buildings on the Grande Place

(One of the main buildings on the Grande Place)

I’m going to miss the everyday life I’ve been so privileged to call my own. I’m going to miss my morning metro rides with my fellow commuters, my favorite being the man whose name I don’t know but every day has a silent rave with me; we both have our headphones on, and while the music wakes us up, we dance together. Of course, I have no idea what he’s listening to until we show one another before I get off the metro, but we both bob our heads and mouth the lyrics to one another for the 20 minutes I’m on the train.

I’m going to miss my coffee shop called Les Gens Que J’aime (The People That I Love), where they have good people watching, free wifi, and the best inexpensive hot chocolate I’ve ever had. I’m even going to miss the way I never know if it’s going to rain or be sunny (then again, wait 20 minutes and the weather will change here).

I’m really surprised how quickly I’ve gotten a weekly routine and how by doing so I’ve made Brussels my own. Granted, I never know what the weekends will hold—trips to other cities, tiny museums about lace, witnessing protests against the Syrian government—but the fact that I’ve found places to be a “regular” surprises me. Who would have thought that I’d know I’d be not homesick all the time, but worried that I’ll be Brussels-sick when I leave? It’s nice to know that even in a foreign country I can make myself at home.

This week, my boss is giving me Friday off so I can go explore a new city for a long weekend. I’m have trouble with this for multiple reasons. First, I actually like work! I don’t really want to leave the offices more than I have to. Second, where should I go? Amsterdam to see the Van Gough museum? Paris for the lights at night? Berlin for the friends from Mount Holyoke? Or should I stay in Brussels and get to know the city even better? How can I possibly choose?!

What do you think? Where should I spend my weekend?

One Strange, Wonderful, and Busy Week Later...

Jun 22, 2011 by Mary-Elizabeth Claire Novak in Europe


My goodness, what a busy time I’ve had! It’s only been a little over a week since getting into Brussels, and I already have more stories than I thought I’d collect! As to not completely bore you with the little details of my life, here’s a top-ten list to sum up a few things that surprised me.

Claire’s Top Ten “Huh, what d’ya know” Moments:

  1. The light switches are different enough for me to not have actually turned them on for a while, thinking it was something else on the wall.
  2. It is far more complicated than I thought to get into NATO headquarters without a badge.
  3. One of my flat mates is a Portuguese girl who lives in Sweden but is fluent in Flemish.
  4. Flemish is to Dutch as American English is to British English, unless you’re talking to a person from Flanders. Then it’s totally different...?
  5. Being kissed on the cheek when you meet someone your age for the first time is the norm.
  6. The metro (subway) closes down at 1 am even on weekends.
  7. They do not give you bags at the grocery store for your food.
  8. Sitting at a table and holding a conversation in English, French, and Flemish is normal, expected, and relatively easy to follow.
  9. The escalators in the subway will only start to turn on when you approach them.
  10. There is a museum dedicated to chocolate. And there are free samples. And the chocolate is delicious. Did I mention it’s free?

So, now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you about the end of my first day at work and how I ended up meeting the American ambassador to Belgium.

 Myself, Ambassador Gutman, and my fantastic Boss!

That's me, Ambassador Gutman, and my fantastic boss (and Mount Holyoke alum)!

After running around and preparing for a reception for Fulbright recipients on Friday, our office went to the Embassy to give a lecture and to go to a reception for Fulbright recipients at the ambassador’s house. Thinking I was merely going to be checking off names at the door, I was utterly excited when my boss told me to come inside and meet some people. Next thing I know, I’m chatting with the ambassador and my colleague is snapping photos! We talked about the differences between day-to-day life in Brussels and America and the 4th of July party that's going to be happening soon. Needless to say, it ended up being a truly interesting evening and a fantastic way to start my new internship. Who knows what will happen next?

Goedemorgen, Hello, and Bonjour!: Claire Novak '12

May 20, 2011 by Mary-Elizabeth Claire Novak in Europe

Claire Novak '12 on the sidelines of a Mount Holyoke College Rugby game!

Hello there, everyone! My name is Claire Novak, and I'm another member of the class of 2012! After I finish working reunions (aka, hanging out with some of our fantastic alums) and have a quick stop home in Easton, Connecticut, I'll be heading off to Brussels, Belgium. This summer, I’ll be working with the Commission for Educational Exchange Between the United States and Belgium, which is apart of the Fulbright Commission. I'll be in charge of lots of different jobs, including setting up their college night for the fall. As an international relations major, I am especially excited for my first day of work; after finishing work for the day, I’ll be going to a dinner at the American embassy! I adore being thrown into new and intense situations, so going to an important dinner where three to five different languages will be spoken, most of which I don't know, is right up my alley. It’s going to be an amazing summer! Now all I have to do is figure out what to pack…