Myriam VAN HEES says goodbye to the Oost-Gistelhof residence

No more Oost-Gistelhof. After 20 years, a beautiful College of Europe chapter comes to an end as the stately white building will no longer function as a student residence. The end of an era with a lot of great memories for Myriam VAN HEES, the residence warden of Oost-Gistelhof. Myriam will now move to the expanded Karel Verleye (Wispeltuin) residence in the Katelijnestraat in the inner city of Bruges to assist fellow residence warden Carla VERBEKE 

"The choice had to be made between closing either the Biskajer or the Oost-Gistelhof residence, but I soon realized that it would be Oost-Gistelhof as the lease expired after 20 years and because Biskajer is bigger and more centrally located in the inner city. The capacity of my residence corresponds to the number of extra rooms that has been made available in the Karel Verleye residence. 45 of the 47 rooms were occupied in Oost-Gistelhof this year. In Karel Verleye, we had 39 students and the capacity will now increase to 80 rooms."

Soon after the announcement of the closing of Oost-Gistelhof, former students and residents asked about Myriam as they were concerned about her future. "I'm going to Karel Verleye for the last three years of my career, where I will assist my colleague Carla VERBEKE as we need an extra residence warden to take care of the new capacity of 80 students. I am proud to say that I am the only residence warden, or as we used to call ourselves "residence lady", who has both opened and closed a residence. Of course it's emotional, but I've known for a year that this day would come, so mentally I could prepare myself for a proper goodbye. That makes it less hard and difficult, you know."

Residence warden Myriam VAN HEES during her last day at Oost-Gistelhof 
© Glenn Bogaert

Myriam VAN HEES is happy that she can reassure her precious former students: "The alumni and former residents of Oost-Gistelhof can still pay me a visit in Karel Verleye when they come to Bruges for a city trip. I'm still in touch with a lot of them, even with students who graduated 24 years ago, when I was still the resident warden of Gouden Hand. It's so nice that students make the effort to visit me when they are in Bruges, for example with their husband or wife and kids. They want to show their family that special place where they spent an unforgettable year. It's always a very happy and warm reunion."

After 20 years, there are a lot of wonderful memories to treasure: "I have so many memories and stories, I can write books about my experiences and fill whole libraries with them. I have always received a lot of appreciation and respect. To be honest, I have never faced big issues with my students. They know that I am quite straight forward and also that they can always come to me for help. You know what to expect after 25 years of dealing with students. As a matter of fact I'm the only one growing old, the students always have more or less the same age. It's wonderful and refreshing to have a new group of students each year."

A special word of gratitude goes out to the Anna Politkovskaya & Hrant Dink Promotion of 2007-2008 and in particular to alumnus Eddy FONYÓDI from Sweden: "I really want to say thank you for the huge support and heartwarming condolences I received during a very tough period in my life, back then in 2008."  

In her last year at Oost-Gistelhof, Myriam had to face the demanding lockdown period, but she managed successfully. "We had a bubble of 31 students and everything went pretty smoothly, actually. The students knew the do's and don'ts and behaved very well. I regularly informed the students of the government decisions and guidelines and the easing of the measures. We experienced, managed and solved issues well and the students collectively followed the guidelines. The fact that the students could benefit from the take-away food offered by the catering service and eat their meals in their residence also contributed to a more relaxed atmosphere. Students felt more at home and could stay inside their safe and familiar bubble."

Oost-Gistelhof Residence
Myriam together with her students of the Hannah Arendt Promotion 2019/2020

And last but, not least: what will happen to the building in Oost-Gistelhof? "We don't know yet and it's still unclear to the owner of the property as well. The corona pandemic has complicated the situation. There were negotiations with other schools to keep the building as a residence for students, but no deal was reached. We don't know what the future has in store. For me, Thursday 16 July 2020 was my very last day at Oost-Gistelhof and I'm ready to start a new chapter at the College of Europe, more specifically at the Karel Verleye residence. I'm fine with it as my job here is done and I don't expect any difficulties adapting to the new situation. The most important thing for me is that I can keep my job and as long as I am healthy and can end my career at the age of 65, in three years, I will be more than satisfied", Myriam VAN HEES concludes her lovely story.  

Myriam says goodbye to Oost-Gistelhof and all her former students and residents
© Glenn Bogaert

When we announced the news of the closing of the Oost-Gistelhof residence via our social media channels, we received some lovely messages, pictures and testimonials from nostalgic alumni that we would like to share with you: 

Words cannot describe all the memories I have built there with all my friends from Oost-Gistelhof and the other CoE friends. So the news of OG closing was taken with heavy heart.
Vittoria Mazzotta (2015-2016 Chopin Promotion)

The smell of wood from my small tiny window on a cold grey Bruges morning... rarely waking up in time for breakfast prepared by the sweetest lady Myriam! Countless nice memories!
Nadine Mazraani (2011-2012 Marie Curie Promotion)

Oost-Gistelhof is where I met two of the most important people in my life, I'll never be grateful enough for the year I spent there!
Manuela Becchimanzi (2015-2016 Chopin Promotion)

Hundreds, if not thousands of us, have wonderful, amazing, everlasting memories of this place. My first day in Bruges, Oost-Gistelhof welcomed me with open arms. Its quaint courtyard, the nice little room, the amazing people I was going to spend a year with, and all of our Myriam who was going to take care of us as an extra mother for the coming year.
Eddy Fonyódi (2007-2008 Anna Politkovskaya & Hrant Dink Promotion)

Albert Einstein Promotion 2010/2011 (Dario ANNOSCIA) 


Voltaire Promotion 2013/2014 (Elad DANIELS)
Marie Curie Promotion 2011-2012 (Emily JANE)


Chopin Promotion 2015-2016 (Jeyran H MAMMADLI)


Chopin Promotion 2015-2016 (Manuela BECCHIMANZI)


Charles Darwin Promotion 2009-2010 (Marleena M. SILVIA)


Anna Politkovskaja & Hrant Dink Promotion 2007-2008 (Eddy FONYÓDI)


Chopin Promotion 2015-2016 (Vittoria MAZZOTTA)


Václav Havel Promotion 2012-2013 (Basheer SALAYTAH)


Falcone-Borsellino Promotion 2014-2015 (Amel HAMIL)


Myriam VAN HEES together with Raoul ÜBERECKEN (Luxembourg) and Deric DUBIEN (Canada) of the Leonardo da Vinci Promotion 1998/1999 during the 20 year reunion anniversary diner at the College of Europe in June 2019.