Thuong HA: Ghent University, Belgium

Last changed: 03 April 2024
picture of a group of students on a visit in Antwerpen

I’ve met great new friends, got few student jobs, volunteered in a retirement home during summer and be able to travel to other neighbouring countries (Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Luxemburg) while studying and living in Belgium. I went to watch a football match in Ghelamco Arena as I wished. I’ve eaten lots of Belgian chocolate, fries (with special cooking process), and beer (I haven’t tried all Belgian beers though) and waffles. To be honest, it was a heavy academic year for me with many dissimilarities in academic life and some difficulties with the housing. However, If I could choose again, I would go on an exchange anyway. I feel like I become stronger and more mature as a person both in academy and in life.

Why did you want to do an exchange? 

I pictured myself as an agricultural consultant which requires both academic knowledge as well as communication and management skills. At SLU, courses in Plant Biology help round up my knowledge and gave me the idea of plant production from different viewpoints (from molecules to the fields). At UGent, courses are divided into smaller learning units which allow me to simultaneously take several classes in different subject areas, plants in agriculture and socio-economic development which essentially support my career.

Which courses did you take?

Here follows some example of courses

Environmental Fate and Management of Pesticides I002596: Even if the course was announced to deliver in English, many of course materials are in Dutch which gave me quite some difficulties along the way.
The basic understanding of pesticide management is helpful in understand other courses (like precision agriculture, irrigation and drainage, farm management and food marketing)

Plant Yield C003163: Active discussion and diverse topic. Help students to practice preparing, presenting a scientific topic alone and handle questions.

Food Marketing and Consumer Behaviour I002758: This course provides inside and impacts of marketing in food industry. Now I can spot what and how food industry "communicate" with consumers.

Micro-economic Theory and Farm Management I002799: Heavy course for me (as I don't have any idea in economic). Good overview for agricultural personnel and handling a farm

Ethnobotany and New Crop Development I002742: Collecting and analysing data from different shops in town. Ethnobotany is interesting like adventurous stories

Irrigation and Drainage I002715: A bit heavy for me as I don’t have much prior knowledge about soil. The course is helpful and practical for one who wants to work with plants, crop
farm or agriculture.

Post-Harvest Handling, Processing and Preservation I002783: Interesting course and provide practical solutions for one who works in food production.

There were some periods, I had to run to attend 3 classes a day in different campuses (of course it was my fault choosing those courses) which was tiring (but not unusual). And in general, students have much homework for each and every course which leads to studying on weekends and holidays is pretty common. I admitted that I feel overwhelmed often. In conclusion, it’s worth the effort as I’ve learned a lot and see things from different angles.

What was the student life like outside of your courses?

There are over 44 000 students at UGent and there’s always some events going on. Student’s party night is Thursday all over the town but mostly Overpoort area. On Friday night, many Belgian students are going home, and tourists fill in their gaps. I personally feel a bit stressed with quite little green area in the city, but I can suggest some nice parks (Koning Albert I Park, Muinkpark, Universiteit Gent - Botanical Garden, Citadelpark, Keizerpark and Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen). Gent is a pretty tourist city that easily travel to many other pretty cities nearby.

Alcohol drinks are sold in normal grocery store but most of the grocery store (and shops) are closed on Sunday. Many museums, castles and public places are free of charge or have discount for under 26 years old students. Public transportation is convenient and has many promotions on weekends and during holidays, especially if you’re under 26. It’s easy to travel to Luxembourg (about 4.5h), Paris (2.5-5h), Amsterdam (3-5h), Frankfurt (4.5h). De Lijn and SNCB have many promotions on bus/tram/train tickets on weekends and holidays. Buses and trams are free for everyone, and stores are opened with many special promotions on first Sunday of the month in Gent.

What was your best experience during your exchange?

Every event has its own mark in my memory. If I must choose the best thing, that’s the people. I’ve met great people who taught and support me a lot in study, work, and life. And I would repeat this thousand times, it’s not about the place, it’s about the people surrounding you.

What was the biggest challenge during your exchange?

Housing issues and energy crisis. I lived in a basic furnished studio, and I’ve had plenty of problems with private housing which stressed me out during the second exam periods.

Advice for future exchange students

Apply for dormitory is the best options (and might be cheaper). If you can not find a place to live at the beginning, you can book Airbnb or couch surfing for the first week or so. Renting a room in private market (that you haven’t seen with your own eyes) is risky and difficult to get help if some problems occur. ALWAYS click pictures, videos of the room (every corner) when the landlord is there with you, or they might just blame you for any damages and won’t pay back deposit.

Feel free to email me at if you want to ask something else.



Name: Thuong HA
Exchange at: Ghent University, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
Programme at SLU: Plant Biology for Sustainable Production
Period of exchange: from autumn 2021 for 2 semesters