Think your commute is long? Imagine travelling from Belgium.
Janina Scheuren, a third-year history and film studies KU student, starts her journey every Wednesday evening from the small city of Liège, an hour from Brussels, to get to her classes on Thursday and gets back on a coach on Friday evening to return home.
Scheuren, 26, is doing a masters preparatory year in historically informed performance practice of the baroque flute in a conservatory in Brussels, where she has lessons on Tuesdays, alongside her KU degree.
“It’s worth it, because this way I can continue studying in the UK and I also get to spend time with my boyfriend, family and friends from Belgium, something that I couldn’t really do for the last two years,” she said.
“Sometimes I’d like to spend more time exploring London life, but I guess you cannot have everything, and I feel so lucky and I am so grateful for how my life has turned out so far,” Scheuren said.
The Belgian booked almost all her coaches for this term in advanced and, together with knowing the peak and off-peak hours when travelling in London, has managed to keep her commute at less than £50 every week.
“I travel during the night, to not lose an incredible amount of time and money for accommodation, I try to catch up as much sleep as possible and I always hope that the coach is not too full so that I can take two seats to lay down,” she said.
On the night from Thursday to Friday she used to stay in hostels, for which she paid around £10-15 for a bed in a shared room, but now she stays at the library to do some of her Uni work and night studying.
“I am used to this because some years ago I worked at a bar that was open until six or seven in the morning, so that experience has made a bit more resistant. And it’s just one night, anyways,” she said.
Scheuren did her first year in Kingston before taking on a long-distance commuting routine and lived together with an Australian mother and her fiver-year old son and says she was “sort of a live-in nanny”. She spent her second year abroad, the first semester in New York and the second one in Istanbul.
“Because of my study abroad year, summer music courses and my masters, I’ve made some very good friends all around the globe, who I don’t necessarily see regularly, but who are more important to me than socializing,” she said.
Her family wasn’t very happy with her decision to study in the UK initially, especially her two little sisters, because she was the first person in her family to move out of her home.
“My parents thought that my music degree should be sufficient; in their mind the only purpose of a degree is to find a job that you more or less like, so in my case, work in a local music academy or as a conductor in the local brass band, which is not at all what I wanted,” she said.
However, since she has taken up the juggle of two degrees they have accept it and supported her in any way possible. Because they don’t get to see her very often they usually invite her and her boyfriend for dinner and trips, and she’s become “sort of the spoiled one”.
She says her boyfriend has also been supportive of her studies because he knew that she’d need a lot of inspiration, which is not always easy to find in a small town where she came from.
“So he tries to not stay in my way, to not hold me back and encourages me to experience the world and life, even though he wasn’t too happy about the fact that they wouldn’t be together all the time,” she said.
“But in fact, through the distance, we both learned appreciating the other and the moments that we spend together even more.”