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Meet the expat: Teacher and keen chorister Alison Biesmans-Harries
Originally from Liverpool, England, I arrived in Belgium in my early 20s, having studied languages in the UK, Germany, Austria and France. My intention was to stay for a year, then work my way slowly around the world. I knew someone who had moved to Brussels, and it sounded like a good place to start. I was keen to meet people from different countries, practise the languages I already knew, acquire some new ones, and experience other cultures. A marriage, three children and a divorce later, after almost 40 years, I am still here!
I enjoyed my first job in the international sales department of the Hilton in Brussels. I then worked for 15 years at the European Parliament, which fostered my interest in European and international politics. In both these jobs, I worked with people from all over the world. When my children were small, I decided to retrain, and went into teaching. Since then, I have worked in a language school and Belgian and international schools. My pupils have been from many countries, and have ranged in age from two to 64! In my leisure time, I’ve always sung with various international choirs, and have even occasionally trodden the boards in musicals with international amateur dramatic groups.
I’ve lived in all three of Belgium’s regions – Brussels, Tervuren (Flanders) and for the last 17 years in Rixensart (Wallonia). I really enjoy living in Wallonia, as we have easy access to attractive countryside and beautiful woods and parks. My younger daughter has come back to live at home, and my son lives nearby. They often join me for dog walks (with our international rescue dogs) and for bike rides. This has been so uplifting this last year during lockdown – we have really appreciated being able to escape into green spaces right on our doorstep. What’s more, Brussels is only a 25-minute train ride away. My elder daughter works in Malta, currently with Covid patients; I can’t wait to have the vaccine in order to see her again, as well as my family and friends in the UK, after more than 12 months apart.
I love shopping at the weekly market five minutes from my house, which sells delicious local produce as well as food from across the world – a reflection of the diversity in my community. I very much value being part of both the Belgian and the international communities. I still enjoy exploring everything this little country has to offer: the wealth of towns, the countryside and the coast, and I look forward to travelling further afield to neighbouring countries once life gets back to quasi-normal.
This article first appeared in WAB (Wallonia and Brussels) magazine