There are many factors to consider when choosing a destination to study abroad, but, to say the least, a country best known for chocolate, waffles, extra crispy frites, and beer can't be a bad choice! If these reasons weren't convincing enough, study abroad in Belgium has plenty more to offer you. This multi-lingual country serves up history, medieval castles with gothic spires, and pairs it with a hip cafe culture and art scene. While more affordable than neighboring France and Germany, Belgium is no less cultured than the two. Plus, Belgium maintains an important global position making it an ideal place to study business and international politics abroad.
Belgium is like a patchwork quilt of made up of different cultures and languages, so when choosing a city to study abroad in Belgium you may want to consider which language you are comfortable speaking or would like to learn. Rest assured, English is also widely spoken throughout Belgium. Despite it’s size, Belgium is home to six of the top 200 universities in the world; so odds are, no matter where you choose to study in Belgium, you will get a top-notch educational experience. Belgians are notoriously friendly and welcoming to visitors, and there is plenty of chocolate and beer to share!
Brussels is the cosmopolitan capital of Belgium, and many visitors are drawn to its historic Art Nouveau architecture and grand palaces. Here you will find history mixed with modernity as you walk along the cobblestone streets (due to massive reconstruction after World War II). Brussels is an obvious choice for anyone studying international business and politics, and Vesalius College is popular among international students. Both French and Dutch are spoken here, even the road signs are in both languages!
The second largest city and Belgium's largest marine port is Antwerp, which has always been a top arts and entertainment cultural hotspot within Europe. Art fans will marvel at the numerous museums dedicated to the work of Pieter Paul Rubens, who called Antwerp home during the height of Baroque decadence. Adding to the appeal of this city, the University of Antwerp is one of Belgium's top places to study business, medicine, and law.
Ghent is a smaller city, but in the Middle Ages was one of the largest and richest cities in Europe. A winning combination of old and new, Ghent holds medieval charm as well as the youthful spirit of a college town as it is houses Ghent University. Art history buffs will not want to miss Van Eyck's famous Ghent Altarpiece, located in the equally magnificent Saint Bavo Cathedral.
Study Abroad Programs in Belgium
Belgium's culture is just as sumptuous as the food; you will hear many different languages and find no shortage of prestigious universities in Belgium, making it a great destination to study abroad. Signs and stories from Belgium's fascinating history are ever present, but this small country is also of central importance to European politics and international business, and is home to the European Parliament and NATO headquarters.
Political science majors would be wise to study abroad in Belgium, especially in Brussels (home of the European Parliament and NATO), because it is a powerhouse for the European Union and international policy. This factor also makes studying in Brussels a savvy choice for international business majors.
Belgium is a big draw for foodies, and with more Michelin Stars per-capita than any other European country, ambitious culinary arts students flock here to earn their chops. On the other side of the artistic coin, those studying art history will find it hard to overlook the importance of Belgium's contribution to artistic tradition during the Northern Renaissance. Belgium is where many great artists lived and worked, including Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Belgium's climate is quite mild year round, but layering is a good idea since it can go from pleasantly warm to chilly within minutes. Summers are nice, and sometimes a little cool if you are used to warmer climes, but expect rain and cold weather in the winter-time. Another thing to keep in mind if you’re considering study abroad in Belgium is that the days get very short during winter in Europe, while in summer you will have more daylight hours to make the most of your stay.
As a multilingual country, English speakers should have an easy time getting by. However, don’t miss out on an amazing opportunity to practice French, Dutch, and German, all of which are spoken throughout Belgium.
Scholarships & Costs
Despite all of its charm and tempting cuisine, Belgium is often overlooked by tourists who flock to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. This means that the cost of living is pretty typical for Europe, but affordable food and non-food items are easier to find with fewer gimmicky tourist traps with marked-up prices. The first items (necessities!) you will probably buy in Belgium are a beer for around six euros and one of those scrumptious waffles for about three Euros.
Keeping with European tradition, it is easy to get around town via bus, subway, tram, or even by renting a bike. And since Belgium is about the size of Maryland in the U.S., why not take a trip to a nearby town on one of your free weekends? Most study abroad programs in Belgium include housing and necessary transportation for pre-arranged activities, which sometimes include the flights, but you will need to set a budget for your own food, souvenirs, and entertainment while studying in Belgium.
To help offset travel and program costs, check out some potential scholarship opportunities for study abroad in Belgium in GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory.
Accommodation & Visas
As far as living arrangements go, dormitory style housing or a shared apartment with other students is typical for those who study in Belgium. Another popular type of housing arrangement is lodging with a host family, which gives students studying in Belgium the best opportunity to get to know Belgian culture, and maybe get some home cooking tips too! At the very least, your study abroad program in Belgium will assist with finding a place to stay, if it is not fully included.
U.S. Citizens can study abroad in Belgium for less than 90 days as a tourist, but a longer stay in Belgium or the surrounding Schengen States will require a student visa. Visit GoAbroad's Embassy Directory to get your visa research started.
Benefits & Challenges
Belgium is laid back, cultured, and considered more welcoming (and less touristy) than many other European countries. This could pose challenges to some since many parts of Belgium are not as well adapted to catering to the needs of travelers outside of Europe; however, at the same time, it provides a more authentic study abroad experience.
Many places in Belgium, even cosmopolitan Brussels, are considered quaint and charming compared to the hustle and bustle of London or Paris. You will be able to enjoy a slower pace as you take in its storybook loveliness, while finding more opportunities to relax with the locals and chat over a glass of world-renowned Belgian beer.
As a country with three major languages, this can pose some challenges for students who study in Belgium and are a master of none of them. However, English is also widely spoken, and there are plenty of friendly Belgians happy to help as you scratch your head staring at one of those multi-lingual street signs. On the bright side, consider this a fantastic opportunity to learn a little French, Dutch, and even German.
While studying abroad in Belgium you can enjoy some of the best European foods, art, and architecture, without the massive crowds of tourists, which provides a more intimate cultural experience. Start practicing how to say "cheers" in three different languages, and get ready for an unforgettable study abroad experience! You are sure to be hungry for more adventures once you get back from studying in Belgium.