Disaster in Brussels

Brussels Travel Blog

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Today was a disaster! We had the morning to see Brussels, and then in the afternoon I was to interview at the Free University of Brussels (Belgian universities are either Catholic or Free). We wandered around the centre of Brussels, which was beautiful. The Grand Place was circled by guildhalls so ornate that even Lydia thought it was overdone, and she has a very high threshold for gold, statues and ornamentation. We wandered around the Royal Palace and gardens and saw thefmous statue of the little boy peeing, and then I headed off for my interview with a promise to Lydia to meet her in the Grand Place between 6pm and 6:30pm so that we could catch our train.

I had been told that the ULB was only ten minutes away by taxi but I left myself an hour so I could see the campus.
When I hopped in the taxi I gave the full address and even a map I had found on the website, but the taxi driver snorted dismissively and said he knew where the university was. Ten minutes later I was there, and I walked around campus for half an hour before starting to ask people where the institute was. I was dismayed to learn that it was on another campus, but I still had half an hour, so I hopped in another taxi, cursing the first driver. The driver took a long hard look at the map and started driving. Half an hour later I was getting nervous, so I asked how long it would be. He replied that the second University of Brussels campus was not actually in Brussels, and that it would take another half an hour. Great, I was going to be thirty minutes late. Half an hour later I asked again, getting really nervous.
He replied "I will stop the meter now (at 150 Euros!) because I am lost". We drove backwards and forwards for another complete hour, despite the map with every turn-off listed, until he finally found the second campus. Despite being called the University of Brussels and being right next to the "Brussels South" airport, the second campus was actually just outside Charleroi, deep in Wallonia and closer to France than to Brussels!

An hour an a half late, I had to skip my interview with Muriel, their head of immunology (on the promise that she'd drive me back to Brussels, an interview me during the hour-long drive). I had a great chat with Etienne and then started my presentation. Just my luck, I had brought the wrong one - but maybe the adrenalin kicked in or something, because I gave one of the smoothest talks of my career. The questions afterwards by the selection panel were great, very insightful even without considering that their speciality disciplines were not immunology. The package they offered was also great, tenure in three years and funding to match the VIB offer. The only downsides are the low pay and the fact that it would be a commuting job. If it was in Brussels itself it would be a no-brainer, but now we have to weigh up the cost of me driving every day to work, or Lydia finding a job locally.
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photo by: Vlindeke