Belgium is increasingly becoming more attractive for international students. It offers a respectable quality of high education at top universities for arguably, very cheap fees. Best of all however, is the location itself.
Whereas all these factors (and others) matter to an international student, an exchange student will care a tiny bit more about the experience, the memories to be made, and the other social aspects that come with being a university student. For those purposes, here’s why Brussels should be top of your list, as well as some other tips to keep in mind.
What’s it got to offer?
Early 20s are the times of exploring and finding oneself, and what better way to do so than travelling?
Because of Brussel’s strategic location, it has made travelling inside and outside the country rather convenient. It’s affordable, it’s well-connected, and you’re never too far from many beautiful destinations for day. Lille, The Hague or Cologne and many others are just one train or bus away, perfect for quick weekend away. However, you should not forget that the options to party in Antwerp, go to a museum in Ghent, or a simple dinner in Dinant are always very viable.
As one of my friends said, “I came to Brussels as a first step to discover the world, but I found the entire world here.” According to the world migration report, 60% of Brussel’s 1.2 million residents are foreigners, making the city one of the most international and diverse places in the world. That’s very visible, through the countless cultural hubs and events, yet also, and deliciously so, through the many international restaurants. A diverse city would also impose a huge tolerance for differences, let they be ethnic, religious, or sexual.
Amidst all this beautiful mix of cultures, there exists a distinct and unshakable Brussel’s vibe. An immense obsession with arts, and music and the holy Belgian quadrant of waffles, chocolate, fries, and beer. One thing that will never get boring when you live here is the walls of comics in the smallest of alleys. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, Belgium is the land of comics after all, home to some of the most famous ones out there, like the Smurfs.
Commonly in big cities, people never sleep. Nightlife in Brussels is no different, clubs and bars are scattered around the center and in other student-populated areas like Ixelles. The party culture is quite big, and the best way to immerse yourself is through students’ associations who organize it all. It’s a great way of meeting the locals, the internationals and making memories. It’s worth mentioning ESN for example which caters to Erasmus students and assists them with practically anything. It’s a great way of socializing and making friends with other Erasmus students.
What about the costs?
Life in Brussels is subjectively expensive, it truly depends on where you originally come from, but here’s a quick run down of your main living expenses. It’s worth mentioning that the city offers major discounts and deals on transport, and certain activities for students.
Public Transport in the city (Metro, Bus and Tram): 12 euros/year
One-way train ticket anywhere: 6.6 euros/ride
Housing: 400-450 euros
Food and Groceries: 150/month
Leisure and going out: 100/month
Internet: usually included in rent but separately, 30-40 euros.
Check an extended list here
What should I keep in mind?
The reality of living in Brussels can be challenging to accept sometimes, here’s three points to keep your imagination grounded:
- Weather is consistently unpredictable; you’ll always have to carry an umbrella or a raincoat with you. Sun is a rare commodity.
- Even though Brussels is bilingual on paper, and many get by in English, French is still the dominant language. So, expect to have some communication difficulties sometimes.
- The city’s safety index is moderate, meaning crime is quite prevalent, as it is in most big cities. With that in mind, keep your belongings on sight, be careful and avoid shady looking areas.
This article was prepared by Marouane Dahrouch, student at Odisee in Brussels.