Neighboring countries, like France and Germany, have always been popular for studying abroad, but savvy international students are now casting their eyes to Belgium itself, as an intriguing, more affordable alternative. Belgium provides a the same quality education in a more unique, less stereotypical study-abroad setting. Students are drawn to Belgium partially due to its global standards of teaching, the variety of courses offered, its cultural and artistic significance, its international business setting, and because the cost of living is lower in Belgium than in many other European nations.
Food & Culture
From street foods like frites to traditional Belgian dishes like mussels in wine sauce, the choices for dining well in Belgium are endless. Chocoholics and beer lovers will never want to leave! Belgium produces thousands of tons of chocolates per year. Foodies from around the world flock to the capital city, Brussels, with its exquisite chocolate shops in the Sablon district. World-renowned (and notoriously strong) Belgian beer is served right from the tap in bars, pubs, and restaurants.
Since the nation is multi-lingual, studying abroad in Belgium makes sense for those interested in learning a language. Although English is the working language for many Belgians, the country is also home to speakers of Dutch/Flemish, French, and German. French is the official language of the Brussels region, but 59 percent of the Belgian population speaks Dutch/Flemish.
Belgians tend to be warm, open-minded, and friendly to foreigners, and anyone trying to speak their language will curry extra favor with them. There are a lot of ways you can learn one of the native languages of Belgium (two recommended paths are language courses through Eurolingua Institute or the Center for Study Abroad).
Things to Do
This relatively small country is packed with a lot of scenic and interesting places to visit and experience, especially for those who love art, history, and adventure.
The cosmopolitan Brussels is quickly gaining a reputation among the “must-visit” places in Europe. Brussels is charming and offers big-city adventures and stunning Art Nouveau architecture. A few of the city’s gems are the Grand Place, The Royal Palace, Manneken Pis, Place du Grand Sablon, and Bozar-Palais des Beaux Arts. Brussels is easy to navigate by public transport — buy a ticket at the metro station or a Brussels Card sold at the city tourist office. Buses or trams run everywhere.
But there is a whole lot to see outside of Brussels, too. Spa is an interesting town often referred to as the “Pearl of the Ardennes.” Surrounded by countless rivers and springs, this town is famous for its healing cold springs. While here, you shouldn’t miss “les Thermes de Spa” for a full day of relaxation.
Namur is an hour from Brussels by train. Here you can visit ancient citadels as well as museums such as the Felicien Rops Museum, situated in a 19th-century residence, and Museum of Ancient Namur Arts, with fascinating medieval and Renaissance collections.
Studying in Belgium
Belgium has a top-performing educational system — the country boasts six universities in the Top 200 World University Rankings.
Higher education in Belgium is organized by the Flemish and the French communities. Typically, students with a qualifying diploma in secondary education can easily enroll in any institute. The exception is those pursuing a degree in Medicine/Dentistry, Arts, Engineering Sciences, and Management Sciences — fields that require entrance examinations prior to admission.
Students of politics or international education can take classes at the Vesalius College in Brussels. Those who want to combine studying with an internship abroad in Belgium can check out the University of Rochester. Brussels has other universities specializing in engineering, technology, and life sciences, including advanced fields such as nanotechnology and nuclear engineering.
Quality third-party providers like ISA and CIEE both offer well established programs in Brussels. Traveling programs such as Up With People count Belgium as one of the stops on their tours. Those who would like a combination of a local university with strong support services for international students should consider the International University of Belgium.
For scholarship opportunities to study abroad in Belgium, click here: Scholarships in Belgium.
If you’re looking for a true European experience where you’ll be well situated to travel around the rest of the continent, consider studying in Belgium. Long considered a great place to visit, it’s becoming better and better known as a fantastic place to study abroad in Europe.