Can you describe what you do?
I’m editor-in-chief for the local student-run paper Veto. Veto’s become quite the solid institution within and even outside of Leuven, having been in print for 44 years now. With the expansion of our University, Veto has also started appearing in the other external KU Leuven campuses, like in Kortrijk and Brussels. Our newsroom is located in the student centre ‘s-Meiers 5, where we report daily on the University, its educational landscape, student representation and the current trends in everyday college life. On top of this, Leuven’s cultural scene and politics are also inherent in our tropes. We have a committed group of volunteers ranging from writers to photographers and cartoonists. Of course, Veto is a dream come true for any aspiring journalist’s resume – but most of our volunteers stay for the friendships and unique experiences to be made here.
For most students moving to Leuven, it represents a transition from a safe nest to the real world.
How do you perceive Leuven? What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city?
Leuven sometimes feels more like a campus than an actual city – and it’s without a doubt Flanders’ finest student city. For most students moving to Leuven, it represents a transition from a safe nest to the real world. Living on your own can be terrifying for any 18-year-old, but Leuven makes it seem easy and achievable. You learn to be independent in a cosy environment. Being surrounded by so many other students helps, too. Most activities and restaurant businesses located here are adjusted to the student population, which makes it a cheap city to enjoy.
How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Working for Veto really made me feel like I could make a difference, even as an inexperienced student. I got – and continue – to meet interesting people, and learnt to take a critical approach to the world surrounding us.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
I think Leuven’s student population could do better on diversity. Most students are white, and middle- or upper-class. Many come to Leuven from abroad, thanks to the Erasmus program, but these international students tend to find it hard to mingle with the local student population. It’s a pity we don’t get to experience more of the world’s cultures due to our typical Flemish aloofness.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?
My first piece of advice would be, don’t come to Leuven on a weekend! Almost all (local) students return to their respective homes on Friday evenings, dirty laundry packed to the brim. On Sunday evening, we come back to Leuven with our bags full of Tupperware containers from mom to survive the week. This weekly exodus is a very typical sight in Leuven. As a student, I would recommend a fakbartocht – a pub crawl along the multiple student bars that are run by student associations – on a Thursday night instead.veto.be facebook.com/vetoleuven