Though small, Belgium packs quite a punch in the European community. Home to the headquarters of such globally influential organizations as the European Union and NATO, those who join high school programs in Belgium find themselves living in a culture which is both uniquely Belgian and internationally oriented. Whether studying French on the south or exploring the Dutch speaking north, your high school program in Belgium is bound to be an exciting and educational adventure. The waffles sure aren’t bad either.
Belgium is divided culturally into two distinct regions. The French speaking south incorporates about 41 percent of the country’s population, while the Dutch speaking north is home to the 59 percent majority. Although much of the country’s recent history has been marked by cultural tensions between the Walloon and Flemish populations, Belgium continues to thrive as a unified state nonetheless. In most cities you will hear people speaking both French and Dutch, and many Belgians are proficient in English as well.
As the capital and largest city, Brussels is first on many students’ lists for high school programs in Belgium. A central hub for international political and non-governmental organizations, students who take an interest in global affairs will be delighted by the sense of international prominence that pervades Brussels. Its architectural beauty, having been built upon for over 1,000 years, is just the icing on the cake. Brussels is bilingual, though French is the dominant language spoken in the city.
Other popular destinations for high school programs in Belgium include Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. These cities are significantly smaller than Brussels, but each offers a unique taste of Belgian culture in its own right. Many high school programs in Belgium will also include travel, with students visiting a few of these cities, as well as nearby countries, such as Netherlands and France. These multi-location high school programs abroad can be great for getting a taste of the regional diversity of Western Europe.
High School Programs in Belgium
Belgium excels in education, so high school study abroad programs in Belgium will be both a challenge and incredibly rewarding. Many high school programs in Belgium will place students at a local high school, where they will be learning alongside Belgian and international peers. It is possible to study at either a Dutch or French speaking high school in Belgium, depending on your language proficiency. Courses in either language are a popular area of study in Belgium, but subjects such as european history, international politics, and other such studies are also common.
Some high school programs in Belgium are not academic oriented at all, and will instead focus on cultural exploration activities throughout Belgium and the surrounding region. These high school programs in Belgium are typically shorter in length, though jam packed with an array of activities ranging from touring the European Union headquarters to learning how to make chocolate.
Generally high school programs in Belgium run in the summertime, so that students will not have to miss the regular school year. Students usually have the choice whether to go abroad for a shorter session of two to four weeks or a longer session lasting up to two months. It is also possible to spend a semester or whole academic year attending high school in Belgium, just be prepared to go through a whole lot of planning and organization with your home high school if this is the route you want to take.
Scholarships & Costs
As a wealthy country, it can be expensive to attend high school programs in Belgium. That being said, many on-the-ground costs, such as housing, meals, and transportation, are often included in upfront program fees, so students shouldn’t have to worry too much about spending money after arrival. If program is affordability is a concern, you should explore all the scholarship and fundraising opportunities out there that can help make your trip happen!
Accommodation & Visas
Foreign students generally have the option to live in a homestay with a local Belgian family or in dormitories with peers. Either can be a great choice, depending on each student’s personal preferences, and both include consistent supervision for high school students. Students should talk with their families and program providers about which housing situation might be best for them.
You also might need to obtain a visa to attend a high school program in Belgium. In a broad sense, students coming from within the European Union will not need a visa, students coming from several countries outside of Europe will only need a visa if they plan on staying for longer than 90 days, and the rest will need a visa for entry. You can learn more about your specific situation by checking out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Be at Center Stage. As the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, Belgium finds itself at the center of a lot of Europe’s policy decisions. While relatively small, it is a very important country in the international community.
Go Trilingual. French, Dutch, and English are all commonly spoken in Belgium, making it a linguistic gold mine for students interested in learning a second (or third) tongue.
Explore History. Belgium has played a vital role in the development of Europe, ever since it won independence from the Netherlands in the 19th century. A major force in colonization and the industrial revolution, Belgium also suffered as a major battleground in both world wars.