Though Belgium is a small country, its capital city of Brussels packs quite a punch. A global city which is the de facto capital of the European Union and the headquarters of NATO, Brussels regularly finds itself at the center stage of international affairs. It also happens to be one of the most architecturally charming cities in Europe, having continuously built upon itself over the course of the last millennium. Interning abroad in Brussels will be an immensely rewarding experience, both personally and professionally, and an experience you will not soon forget.
Internships in Brussels
Brussels is home to a large amount of international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, and therefore is a premier destination for interns who are pursuing a career in international affairs. You can find placements interning for political think tanks, activist groups, NGOs, research institutions, and more of the like. Brussels is one of the best places in the world to get an insider’s perspective of current events in the global community.
Brussels’ influence is not limited to the public sphere however. It is a highly influential global city in many aspects of the private sector as well. Those who are interested can find internships working in banking, media, law, and a bevy of other professional fields in which Brussels’ hosts some of the world’s top notch companies and organizations. Brussels is also a very popular travel destination with a storied history, and so there are many internships available such as tourism and hospitality as well.
Brussels is a multilingual city, so there are internships offered in a variety of different languages. French and Dutch are the most commonly spoken languages in the city, and most people in the professional field speak English as a second language too. Language learning can be a valuable part of interning abroad in Brussels, though most internships do not require you to be bilingual.
Life in Brussels
Brussels is a beautiful historical city with many famous landmarks, and also a very modern city with an advanced infrastructure and high quality of life. Old structures such as the Cinquantenaire triumphal arc and the Guildhalls on the Grand Place are strewed among the new age buildings of the European Union and business district. There is a large diversity of architecture in the city, which is also bordered to the southeast by the peaceful Sonian Forest.
Brussels is a walkable city, but when the distance is too far you can take advantage of the local metro or bus to get around town efficiently (a one way ticket is typically around $$2.50). Brussels also boasts a car-sharing service which began over a decade ago, but you should be warned in advance that the city has the worst traffic congestion in all of Europe!
Culturally, Brussels is widely known for its artistic integrity and delicious cuisine. Many famous artists have studied in Brussels (such as Renee Magritte), and the city is home to over 80 museums featuring famous works from all over Europe and the world. There are also tons of great cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the best of French and Flemish culinary influences – and of course, plenty of Belgian waffles.
Salary & Costs
Because it is a global city in a wealthy part of Europe, Brussels can be an expensive place to live. In fact, the per capita GDP is Brussels is nearly double the rest of the country. There are no specific labor laws in place regarding interns, meaning that you can find both paid and unpaid internships in the city. It will be important to establish with your employer what your compensation will be beforehand, and also to map out a budget for the two to six month period which internships typically last.
Accommodation & Visas
Some internship providers will help organize housing for you in Brussels, either living with a host family or in an apartment. If you are left to find your own housing, the best strategy will be subletting a single room, as real estate prices in Brussels can be quite expensive. Like in most major cities, rent will be cheaper further away from the center of the city.
Residents of the European Union will not have to apply for a visa to intern abroad in Brussels. Those coming from outside the EU may or may not have to, depending on external factors such as the length of your internship, whether it is paid, and which country you are coming from. For more information about what visa you might need, you can check out our Embassy Directory to locate the nearest Belgian Consulate.
Benefits & Challenges
Be at the Center. As the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels finds itself at the center of many important decisions which influence the entire continent. The feeling of importance here is palpable, and interns will benefit from the international exposure.
Get Experience. Brussels is one of the premier-ranked global cities in the world, making it a great place to network and pick up valuable international work experience.
Learn a Language. Be it English, French, or Dutch, Brussels is the perfect place to gain proficiency in any of these languages. Northerners typically speak Dutch and southerners speak French, while most of the country embraces English as a common tongue. In the capital city you will hear it all.