Make The Most Out Of Studying In Belgium

by Vanessa Sia

There are lots of unknowns that go along with the decision to study abroad. Even if you’ve already settled on studying abroad in Belgium, you likely have a whole new host of questions. What courses will I take? How much will it cost to live? Where can I hang out after class? Will I make new friends? Can I travel while I’m studying abroad?

The Atomium, Brussels
The Atomium, Brussels. Photo by Troy Peden

Pick Your Program.

Belgium is known for its high-quality, yet affordable system of higher education. The country has international standards of teaching and the standard of education steadily continues to improve. Admission is open to anyone with a diploma in secondary education. Whether you’re applying through one of Belgium’s universities, or going through your own school’s program, or through a third-party provider, your Study Abroad Office can help you get situated. They hold orientation programs for those studying abroad, especially for the first time, and can provide support to you while you’re away. These offices can also help you get your paperwork and planning together, help you get your credits transferred, and find information on financial aid, scholarships, and grants.

Universities in Belgium such as the Vesalius College in Brussels offer academic courses in various areas of study. Some of the basic academic subjects are political and social sciences, health sciences, engineering, literature, history and art, and international studies & multilateral diplomacy.

Third-party providers such as ISA, CIEE, and the Center for Study Abroad offer study abroad trips to Belgium, many of which have courses, trips, expenses, and in-country support built into the program. SIT Study Abroad offers a more specific study program — International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy. If country-hopping is your thing, then Semester at Sea, Up with People, and Global Learning Semesters are traveling programs that take international students through several cities and countries. Still in high school? Greenheart Travel specializes in immersion programs for teens, and offers one in Belgium.

Most of these programs are quite structured, putting participants into regular contact with other international students, and organizing expeditions and excursions designed to get participants out, about, and active during their time in Belgium.

Statue of Mayor Charles Buls and his dog

Statue of Mayor Charles Buls and his dog

Explore Belgium And Beyond.

Belgium has many attractions, landmarks, and charms packed into the small European country. The Grand Place, “the square,” is one of the exquisite places in Brussels with its surrounding architectural showcase. Dine in intimate cellar restaurants, sample the Belgian chocolate in one of the fine chocolate shops, or simply sit and chat with friends in the pavement cafés.

A walk from the Grand Place is the infamous statue, Mannekin Pis which literally means “Little Man Pee” in the Dutch dialect of Marols. The cheeky little cherub urinating into the fountain basin has several legends surrounding it, and is a symbol of spirit and humor. In Liege, an hour away from Brussels, is the Grand Curtius with its collections from archaeology, decorative arts, religious art and Mosan art, ancient weaponry, and glass.

High above Durbuy lies The Belvedere.

You can reach this tower through a small tourist train. Here you can get a magnificent view of the pretty town of Durbuy and of the valley of the River Ourthe.

If you are into history and want to get a glimpse of Belgium during Word War II, check out the monument of the Sherman tank in Bastogne. Situated in the main square of Bastogne, this tank symbolizes the relief of the city during the “Battle of the Bulge.”

Indulge Your Taste Buds.

Belgians have an art and passion for food and are particular with the quality and inventiveness of their gastronomy, Belgium is home to some of the world’s finest beer, most decadent chocolates, and mouthwatering delicacies. It isn’t called “a food lover’s dream, a beer lover’s heaven” for nothing — Belgium holds up to its foodie reputation. In a celebration of the Belgian love and passion for good food and drink, 2012 was the Year of Gastronomy in Belgium.

While you’re studying abroad in Belgium, watch for Beer Festivals & Events held to commemorate the country’s beer tradition. Here are some of the festivals & events:

Spring: Beer Festival of Mons

Summer: The Festival of 100 Beers, the Great Chouffe Party

Autumn: Belgian Beer Festival, Brussels Beer Weekend

Winter: Special Beer Festival

Chocolate lovers can visit factories where you can watch how Belgian chocolate is crafted. Go a step further and take chocolate-making classes to learn how to create them yourself. Musee du Cacao et du Chocolat, the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate in Brussels, is where you can discover the origins of chocolates. You can opt to go to Chocolaterie Duval or Zaabar for workshops and hands-on classes.

Belgium has a huge host of restaurants that serve up great meals at varied prices. In Brussels, some of the recommended restaurants are Alexandre, Bon Bon, Bruneau, and Senza Nome. Liege has Café Lequet, Chateau de Harze, and L’Eclipse. In Namur Province, you can try Cuisinemoi, L’Essentiel, and Chateau de la Rocq.

Castle of Vêves, Belgium

Castle of Vêves

Relax And Enjoy.

Tired from all the touring, partying, and studying? All you need is a good pampering, a relaxing environment, and time with your friends.

You can find a lot of wellness and beauty venues in Belgium but the best place to go is The Spa. Not far from Brussels, this town is relaxing to visit, with its countless rivers and springs. Les Thermes de Spa is a local wellness center that uses water from the “Clementine” spring that’s filled with natural minerals.

The small town of Leuven has a lively bar scene and spectacular architecture. This 20-minute train ride from Brussels will take you to the Grote Market where you can admire the St. Pieterskerk’s church and the Stadhuis. A short walk from the Grote Market is the Oude Market, Belgium’s longest bar. Here you’ll find an array of watering holes with varying themes, and lots of student specials on the tantalizing beer and food.