Can you describe what you do? How do you perceive Leuven?
I am a linguist, having received my PhD in Linguistics from the KU Leuven in April 2017, which included studying the relationship between social factors and the acquisition of Dutch as a second language amongst five-year-old pre-schoolers with a Turkish background, living in Flanders. The main goal of my research is to contribute to more equal education opportunities for at-risk learners in education and more generally, society. Besides conducting research; I love teaching, travelling, dancing (salsa, bachata) and creative writing. I’m also a volunteer at Hannibal, an organization that offers holidays for children and youths with(out) disabilities.
I’ve lived in many parts of Leuven, both in- and outside the ring-road. As a student, I’ve resided in a student house consisting mainly of Flemish students, as well as the Loyola International Nachbahr Huis where Flemish and foreign students live together. Afterwards, I moved into an apartment near Park Abbey with two close friends. Now, I’m based in another apartment close to the same park, in a quiet neighbourhood where I can hear the birds as soon as I open my terrace door.
What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?
Its cosiness and openness: although Leuven is a relatively small city, there’s a strong creative and alternative vibe to be found here. Think of De Wikke shop in Park Abbey and the packaging-free shop Content; or the recently renovated Sluispark where people meet and do things together, like dancing salsa.
Leuven has had such a fundamental role in my life, I sometimes call it “Le(u)ven”.
What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Leuven has been the starting point of my life as a student and, afterwards, as a researcher. After studying Linguistics and Literature (specialising in Spanish and Dutch), I started working for KU Leuven’s Centre for Language and Education. My closest friends live in here, and much of my spare-time activities are based here as well. Leuven has had such a fundamental role in my life, I sometimes call it “Le(u)ven”.
Additionally, to try and compensate for CO2 emissions, I sought to counteract this by planting trees during for data collection of my PhD. I reached out to several organisations, and although they all liked the idea, a system was missing in order to realise this. The alumni organization of bio-engineers, however, decided to set up a system, making it possible to donate trees to the University forest.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?
If they’re a fan of ice-cream, I’d take them to Decadenza (I love their lemon cake!), and would try to find a spot on the University Library steps to enjoy a cone and the afternoon sun.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?
Neither legend nor a myth, but the cat with three legs living in our neighbourhood has some spirit for sure. Not bothered about missing a leg, she welcomes you as soon as you enter one of the neighbourhood streets.linkedin.com/in/carolienfrijns boomerangblog.wixsite.com/boomerang