How I ended up in Belgium: Travis’ story of chasing dreams

| Dit artikel past in een opdracht voor studenten uit het eerste jaar met als onderwerp cmp - international programme.

Travis Czechorski, an American white man, standing in front of his favourite plaza in Leuven, Belgium

Travis Czechorski in the front of the City Hall Plaza of Leuven, Belgium


My life is like a splash of reality of the USA and the “American Dream” on my dreams and hopes. I wanted to feel safe and secure, not fear my life, because the government could care less.

My country doesn’t help me at all. It’s never helped me in any shape or form.

Travis Czechorski

For everybody except me, it was just another August day when I first set foot on Belgian soil. I was excited yet anxious as the plane touched down. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. My name is Travis Czechorski, a 28-year-old with a Master’s degree in chemical engineering (from the USA), and this is the story of my journey from the United States to Belgium.

Born and raised in a rural part of America, you see, I have long been a believer in the so-called “American Dream.” I have always wanted to explore more of the outside world because when you live in a small town, there is only so much you can do. 

I moved to Louisville, Kentucky for college, but my curiosity to know, learn and understand the world was not satisfied there. I kept moving into bigger cities, trying to find the opportunities and the satisfaction I was looking for. As years passed, I noticed that there were apparent cracks in the American Dream, and they were making my life difficult. So, I decided to make a life-altering decision – to leave the USA and find something new in another country across an ocean. 

The decision to move wasn’t impulsive; it had become my dream. I wanted out, and I worked hard to get it. America’s promises of success and prosperity had left me weary. Things like no justice for the girl being stabbed right next to my dorm or never being able to earn enough to get a safe house in a safe neighbourhood, the ever-increasing student loans, the difficult healthcare, and the safety nets I was told to expect were slippery and always led to a fall. It kind of seemed that every time I got excited to do or see something new in America, I was just met with disappointment. My country doesn’t help me at all. It’s never helped me in any shape or form.

It kind of seemed that every time I got excited to do or see something new in America, I was just met with disappointment.

Travis Czechorski

I had a few options in mind as I carefully planned how my new life would unfold. However, Belgium felt like a mix of everything I had looked for. It felt like a little bit of a mix of France, Germany, and the Netherlands, and it also felt kind of cosy. It’s not everyone’s first choice, meaning the culture is not as touristy and influenced as some other places, so it feels very local and homely.

My journey to Belgium was more than a relocation; it was a quest for a better life that felt more secure and welcoming. The initial fear and pride mixed and settled in as I realised this wasn’t just a vacation; it was a permanent shift. Obviously, a reality I had prepared for but still had to come to terms with.

The decision to leave my family behind wasn’t without its emotional toll. Before my dad left, we went out for a few drinks and later watched some engineering shows together, as always, and he eventually passed out. At that moment, I realised that things were really changing, and I would probably miss these moments that were becoming memories. I cried that night. 

Eventually, the beautiful church and plaza in Leuven became my symbolic reward, affirming that the sacrifices were worth it. The bustling streets, the cosy restaurants, and the happy faces around me reassured me that I was on the right path. It almost felt like what I had been searching for had been right here, in Leuven, waiting for me.

Obviously, like any other person moving to a new city, I experienced some minor inconveniences. However, I was not going to let the differences, such as shops closing on Sundays, the frustrating AZERTY keyboard and paid public restrooms, deter me from building my life here. It may all seem like whining, but it was a daily reminder of the adjustments I had to make. The structured Belgium offered a stark contrast to the 24/7 lifestyle of the United States. The lazy Sundays, the ability to bike anywhere, and the safety and acceptance of the government were all welcome changes, albeit an adjustment.

As the sun sets over the enchanting city of Leuven, I find solace in knowing that my journey is far from over.