• School
  • September16th

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    I am officially a Master of Science in Business Economics.



    My entire degree is:

    Master of Science in Business Economics; Managerial Economics & Strategy (M), International Business (m).


    Upon graduation, we were asked to be ambassadors for KUL – spread the word of this hidden gem. I feel the best way to do this is for me to be included on a list of notable alumni one day (this is the plan…), but until then here’s some shameless promotion for my Alma Mater, KULeuven:


    I am truly beyond proud to be a graduate of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, a university founded in 1425 (making it the oldest existing Catholic university in the world and the oldest university in the Low Countries) – for perspective, fellow Americans, 1425 is 15 years before the first printing press was invented and the Incan empire still ruled the Americas; it is 26 years before Christopher Columbus was even born; it’s more than 3.5 centuries before the drafting of our Declaration of Independence. Basically, it’s a long time ago.

    KULeuven boasts over 36,000 students, 12% of them international representing 120+ countries, and 4,500 students in either research-based masters or one of 150+ PhD programs.  It consistently ranks in the top 10 of Europe in terms of research output*. In fact, KULeuven is the ONLY non-US university to rank in the world-wide top 10 in terms of royalty income. KUL spent over €225 million on research in 2005 alone. Our research has lead to an impressive 70 spin-offs in the last 20 years that employ over 6,000 people – and this is not even including the “solid state and miniaturisation lab” (IMEC) which employs almost 2,000 people, including over 500 engineers and physics PhDs from all around the world. IMEC alone realized revenue of over €285 million in 2010. “~90% of KUL’s 300 R&D patent families are actively valorized and marketed at the moment…the average for European universities is currently 33%.*

    KUL has been a European center for academia for almost 6 centuries. It was ranked 68th in the world and top 25 in Europe by QS World University Rankings* – higher than many well-known US institutions such as Purdue University (85), Penn State (94), Dartmouth (99), UC Davis (101), Emory University (114), Rice University (117), Vanderbilt (131), and Michigan State (164)*.

    KUL and the City of Leuven’s history runs very deep into Europe’s past. In fact, two of the most significant library burnings/losses in history happened to KUL – in 1914, German troops set fire to University Hall and destroyed more than 300,000 books; In 1940, German troops once again burned the relatively newly constructed Central Library (at Ladeuzeplein), destroying all but 15,000 of its more than 900,000 volumes.

    KUL has also produced many notable alumni:

    Recent & easily identifiable/recognizable by title: 

    Leon Bekaert (1958-) – Belgian businessman with an estimated fortune of  €761 million, making him one of the wealthiest people in Belgium.

    Paul Bulcke (1954-) – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nestlé

    Herman Van Rompuy (1947-) – President of the European Council


    Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens – Pope Adrian VI (the last non-italian pope until Pope John Paul II)

    Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) – “Prince of the Humanists”

    Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) – “Father of Modern Anatomy;” Author of “De Humani Corporis Fabrica

    Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) – His name may sound familiar to you…maps, maybe?

    Patrick Francis Healy (1830-1910) – 29th President of Georgetown University, known for it’s expansion after the american Civil War. Recognized as the first American with African ancestry to earn a PhD (and he did so at KUL!).

    Monsignor George Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (1894-1966) – conceived the “hypothesis of the primeval atom,” now commonly referred to as “The Big Bang Theory.”

    Baron Charles-Jean Étienne Gustave Nicolas de la Vallée Poussin (1866-1962) – Belgian Mathematician; proved the Prime Number Theorem.

    Refael Ángel del Socorro Calderón Guardia (1900-1970) – President of Costa Rica (1940-1944); remembered for being the 1st Central American president to primarily focus attention on deteriorating social conditions and poverty. He founded systems such as the universal health care, high education levels, and the social security that Costa Rica is now well-known for.

    Otto von Habsburg (Archduke Otto of Austria) (1912-2011) – The last crown prince of Austria-Hungary.

    Christian de Duve (1917-) – Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine winner for describing the structure of oganelles in biological cells.

    Géza Vermes (1924-) – Translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls (into English)

    Bernard Lietaer (1942-) – Well-known monetary economist and author; 1992’s “world’s top currency trader” by BusinessWeek; researched and sold the rights to his “floating exchange” methods to currency exchange.


    There are many many more, and Google will be your friend in finding them. I just tried to list a few here that I figured most of my readers will have either 1) heard of or 2) heard of their work.


    I loved Katholeike Universiteit Leuven, every aspect of it…even the 12-hour days in the library week after week…the seemingly endless all-essay exams and research/group projects and my thesis…it was 100% worth it. Not only that, Leuven is one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever visited, much less gotten the chance to live for over a year. I will miss them both very much.


    The last year held a lot for me. I’ve made some of my closest friends here, and I love them all dearly (y’all know who you are!).  Belgium has seen my highest highs; it’s seen my lowest lows. But through it all, this has easily been one of the best experience of my life. I grew not only as a student and academic, but as a person. 16 months ago, I entered belgium without a single friend here and zero expectations; 16 months ago, I could have never foreseen my amazing present.

    It will take a lot to top this past year, but I plan on doing my best to make every year from here on out as memorable as this past one!


    – Ross, a proud alumnus


  • July16th


    Exam Results

    Posted in: School

    So my program’s graduation “ceremony” was last week. My cousin accompanied me to celebrate with my friends who were actually graduating (I still have to finish my thesis, so I was not graduating). But I have to admit, I was woefully unprepared for what was to come AFTER the ceremony was over…I walked past the table where the graduates were receiving their transcripts and diplomas and was told “you can get your results even if you didn’t pass.”  My heart sank. I was under the impression that I would have a few more hours (read: drinks) to prepare myself!  I told the lady my name and literally shook as she handed me my results…I was prepared for the worst.

    I stood staring at the paper attempting to find the right column to look at – I could tell Anna, my cousin, was a little nervous as my face gave no clues and she knew how nervous I was! I kept scanning the column full of numbers over 10 certain I must have been looking at the wrong column. I finally looked up holding back tears and said in a shaky voice, “I did it! I passed all of them!” She gave me a big hug and I immediately ran down stairs to call my parents and Laurel. Neither of whom immediately picked up their phones!!!  Finally I got in touch with Mom and Dad and immediately start crying as I told them that all the hard work I’d put in had finally paid off.

    I have to admit, I’m still a bit in shock over a week later…All the hours, days, and weeks I spent at the library studying my ass off – all for the moment of seeing that paper.

    My transcript – showing I passed all of my exams (lowest grade of 12/20 this semester – WOOHOO!!) – now has a prominent position on my fridge :)

    Once I finish and defend my thesis (hopefully in the next couple of months), I will officially be a Master of Science, Business Economics: Managerial Economics and Strategy; minor: International Business.

    Thank you for all the finger crossing, candle lighting, prayers, and good vibes y’all sent my way!




    – Ross


    P.S. – all the C’s in that column are the key/code for “passing” – it’s uncorrelated with the traditional grading scale of the US’s A, B, C, D, & F.  haha Just FYI

  • July3rd

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    Despite the fact that I’ll be staying in Belgium until September, a lot of my friends will not be. So as I begin to say my “see you laters” to my friends here, I’ve begun to contemplate once again: “why do we set ourselves up for these emotional roller coasters?”

    Unfortunately, I don’t really have a good answer…but while I was walking in the Brussels Central Park, I came up with the closest thing to an answer that I could:

    We put ourselves in these situations with inevitable good-byes because the moments and memories between the nice-to-meet-ya and good-bye far outweigh the momentary sadness of the end.

    So despite the sadness, I regret nothing. And after all, there is no such thing as good-bye, merely see-ya-laters; if not in this life, in our next.

    I’ve heard it said
    That people come into our lives for a reason
    Bringing something we must learn
    And we are led
    To those who help us most to grow
    If we let them
    And we help them in return
    Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
    But I know I’m who I am today
    Because I knew you…

    Like a comet pulled from orbit
    As it passes a sun
    Like a stream that meets a boulder
    Halfway through the wood
    Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
    But because I knew you
    I have been changed for good

    It well may be
    That we will never meet again
    In this lifetime
    So let me say before we part
    So much of me
    Is made from what I learned from you
    You’ll be with me
    Like a handprint on my heart
    And now whatever way our stories end
    I know you have re-written mine
    By being my friend…

    Like a ship blown from its mooring
    By a wind off the sea
    Like a seed dropped by a skybird
    In a distant wood
    Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
    But because I knew you

    Because I knew you
    I have been changed for good

    And just to clear the air
    I ask forgiveness
    For the things I’ve done you blame me for

    But then, I guess we know
    There’s blame to share
    And none of it seems to matter anymore

    Like a comet pulled from orbit
    As it passes a sun
    Like a stream that meets a boulder
    Halfway through the wood

    Who can say if I’ve been
    Changed for the better?
    I do believe I have been
    Changed for the better

    And because I knew you…

    Because I knew you…

    Because I knew you…
    I have been changed for good.

    To be honest, I never truly believed I would make such amazing friends in my short time here…but alas, I did. Amazing and true friends that I couldn’t be more thankful for…

    – Ross

  • July1st

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    The blok starts out innocent enough: you wake up somewhat excited at the start of a new routine – awake early, shower, actually put some time and thought into what you look [and smell] like, arrive at the library early with bag and books and bottle of water in hand to wait in line till they open. You spend a good 4-5 hours studying with the somewhat frequent YouTube-distraction-break, then it’s lunch – just a quick one so you can get back on track for studying. Then it’s more studying till 19h-20h and you call it a day. Fall asleep to comedy shows.

    Then you get to the second and third weeks where the hatred of your new routine has now dwarfed the previous appreciation you had for it. You wake up before your alarm due to bright sun entering your windows at ungodly hours in the morning, and you roll out of bed wondering what fresh Hell the day will bring. You wet your hair down within an acceptable afro range and comb it in the hopes it will stay down for most of the day to prevent a jew-fro despite the fact you’re Scotch-Irish. You throw on clothes not caring that someone will undoubtedly notice you’ve been wearing the same zero-effort outfit for the past 5 days. You add a Diet Coke to your study bag for the caffeine…which is soon replaced by multiple RedBulls after the Diet Coke loses any and all effect…you also tend to forget about the water, too…eff that, right? Then you get to wait in line at the library, moping and sighing so everyone knows just how ridiculous you think it is that one has to WAIT IN LINE AT A LIBRARY. So nowadays your studying is less frequently interrupted with YouTube-distraction-breaks, since at this point the exams are taking place seemingly every other day and you’ve somehow managed to read hundreds of pages of textbook and write 70-100+ pages of notes for each class; yet still also manage to read over it and think “there’s no way I wrote this…I’ve never seen this before…WTF?!” Then you go home and fall asleep to some depressing documentary about teenagers with children in abusive families and ya think “well, at least I won’t have a teenager at my 10 year reunion…?”

    Then you enter the last week of studying…You wake up and instead of “wondering what fresh Hell the day will bring” you pretty much know at this point….and you certainly dont give a rat’s a** what you look like – cologne takes on new meanings, by the way. You’re 4 exams deep into the Blok and you’ve got ONE more. You wake up in the mornings of the last week cursing the day you signed up for this class thinking it would be easy…You take your last  exam…probably fail it…then you’re done!

    If you ever finish an exam period not knowing what to do with yourself – I’ll tell you what I did: I finished my exam period by leaving the exam room and making a bee-line to the nearest bar.


    Now I await my results…July 7th…I certainly wonder what Hell that day will bring…for the love of God, PLEASE keep your fingers crossed for me!!!!! :~)


    Y’all have a great day now, ya hurr?!


    – Ross

  • October13th

    1 Comment

    Ya know what I miss?

    *****hin hint hint***** – look at title of this post.

    Yes…that’s right…I miss the occasional:

    Just every once in a while – I’d like to hug one of my friends here. But they don’t do it! It’s always a kiss on the cheek and a little touch on the shoulder or just a handshake between guys.

    I have mixed feelings about this, because you also do the whole cheek-kiss thing when you first meet someone, and I really like that. It’s very personal and an immediate ice breaker – an immediate connection. However there’s the whole “how many times do you do it” question which is, by no means, a little question with an easy answer…

    Spain & Italy: 2

    Netherlands: 3

    France: 1, 2, 3, OR 4 depending on location

    Belgium: 3

    Germany: air-kissing is restricted to family or very close friends. Handshakes are dominant.

    I also have some friends from Turkey and they also do 2.

    So whenever you meet someone, you not only have to remember their name, what they look like, and try to remember what they study, but you also get to remember where they’re from, what part of that country they’re from, and how many air-kisses are customary. This proves to be EXTREMELY difficult, let me tell you.

    So the moment you forget and default to just 1 air-kiss (as many people here in Belgium do, because I mean…lets face it, 3 is overkill) you get stuck with the other person expecting another one and you’re standing there looking at their face turned to the side. Then you get to do the whole “oh hahaha sorry! Let’s finish that!” kind of thing and try to fix the faux pas.

    Many people just say that you should look at what other people are doing and guess from that. Well there are a couple of issues with that:

    1) There are about 1,000 international students at this university representing no telling how many countries with no telling how many customs on air-kisses. My program is taught in English, so we’ve got students from literally all over the world…makes it VERY confusing.

    2) Most Belgians default to 1 kiss (traditional is 3, remember) with friends or people of their own age (USUALLY). So if you’re the new one in a group, you’ll notice everyone else just doing 1 air-kiss, but apparently you’re expected to do 3…sometimes… So yeah, I’ve had multiple awkward encounters on this point alone.

    So…my advice? I guess…just do some research! Make sure you know where you’re going and what the custom is in that area. When in doubt, just ask your friends what they think you should do; they’ll know…probably! But you should also just prepare yourself for some awkwardness: prepare your awkward laugh, get ready to swoop in with a witty phrase and finish off as many air-kisses as they apparently see fit…

    But back to the point – no one hugs here. When some friends and I went to Paris last weekend, we met up with some other Americans there and, of course, we all hugged each other! One of the girls actually yelled a little like “Ah! Americans who hug!”.

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