The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Carolien Frijns

Carolien Frijns

Linguist, KU Leuven

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.