As I’ve said elsewhere, I commuted between Bruges and Ghent every weekday during my first year at university, something that probably contributed to my failing that year – although it probably wasn’t the main factor. From my resit in September 1974 to my graduation in July 1979 I stayed in Ghent in privately rented accomodation. The address was No.4 Van Hultemstraat, and I shared one of 12 rooms in a 4-floor house converted into student accomodation.
Even then, I undertook the commute between Bruges and Ghent, except that this time it was a weekly rather than a daily affair. I gather this still happens in Belgian universities, in which they differ from student life in Britain: in Britain you’re basically left to your own devices for most of the year, whereas student quarters in places like Ghent and Louvain are pretty deserted during the weekend, when everyone goes home on Friday afternoon to dump their dirty washing on their parents, and return on Sunday night with fresh provisions and the weekly cash injection to get you through the coming week.
This pattern basically remained the same during my first stint as a researcher, which merely emphasises my assessment that during that time I was merely a student with more money. I still went home over the weekend, in part because there was just nothing going on in the Ghent social scene during that time, but probably also out of habit. The only difference being that I now supported my own finances.
My second stint as a researcher was slightly different, since I was now living in the Wittebeerstraat in Bruges, which is only a stone throw away from the station, which made a daily commute again a realistic option. Besides, when you’re working the end of the working day is the end of your obligations to the job, unlike a student’s life where the days were filled with lectures and practical sessions, and the evenings were when you were supposed to do further studies.
Was the commute onerous ? Not when I was working – leaving the house at about 7am was sufficient time to to the laboratory for 8.30am, since the train journey itself only lasted just under 30 minutes. However, as a student I still remember getting home after 7pm following a day of lectures and practicals, then having my evening meal and then not feeling 100% to start studying to pass the regular tests that went on throughout term time. The failure to do well in these tests (which counted for a third of the total points) was a major contributor to my failure to pass my first year.
However, I’m willing to forgive myself, since I clearly learnt from the bitter experience and passed all subsequent year as a student.