Explore Europe through the beautiful country of Belgium. Although relatively small geographically, Belgium has a big role to play as home to the headquarters of both NATO and the European Union. Experience the student community in your neighborhood of four major universities, and visualize your future as you cross paths with global business and political leaders in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Although both French and Dutch are spoken in Brussels, you can easily make friends and network, as many of the residents speak English. Indulge in Belgium's culinary treats including waffles, fries, beer and chocolate.



Languages Spoken:

Dutch, French

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW 

Education in Belgium is mandatory from the ages of six to 18. Higher education is regulated and financed by two Belgian communities: the Flemish community and the French community. German-speaking students typically enroll in French schools or in schools in Germany. The Belgian government also regulates tuition fees for higher education institutions, maintaining accessibility and affordability in the higher education system. All students with a secondary school diploma have access to higher education in Belgium. 

As of the adoption of the Bologna process, higher education in Belgium is organized according to the bachelor's/master's system. Bachelor's degrees correspond to three years of full-time study, and master's programs are an additional one or two years of full-time study. There are two main types of institutions that offer higher education programs. Universities offer academic bachelor's, master's and post-graduate degrees such as Ph.Ds. Colleges (Hogescholen in Dutch, or Hautes Écoles in French) specialize in professional training and offer academic and professional bachelor's and master's programs. 

 

STUDYING IN BELGIUM 

Courses 

A variety of courses in different faculties will be available through your host institutions, such as business, politics, languages, event management, social work and healthcare. Courses are available in English.  

Registration 

Check with your host institution coordinator for details about enrolling in courses.  

Course Load 

Higher education institutions in Belgium operate on a full-fledged credit system based on ECTS (European Credit Transfer System). Each course that a student takes counts for at least three ECTS credits, with each credit representing 25 to 30 hours of a student’s workload. Courses are independent building blocks in which students may enroll according to their own preferences and timetable, with due consideration for the semester system and evaluations. A traditional full-time course schedule consists of about 60 ECTS credits per year. 

Exams & Grading 

Most exams are graded on a 20-point scale, or in specific cases on a pass/fail scale. A student with a score of at least 10-20 (or a passing mark) obtains credit for that course, according to the number of ECTS points associated with the course. International students are normally asked to maintain an average above 12. A score of 20 is rarely awarded. 

Transcripts 

Transcripts are sent to ISEP and then released to the student’s home institution if there are no outstanding financial obligations. 

Visa and Residency

Students studying in Belgium for more than 90 days must obtain a long-stay student visa prior to departure. If you have questions regarding the status of your student visa application, you must contact your local Belgian Embassy or Consulate General. ISEP cannot contact consulates on behalf of students. Visa fees and any visa-related travel costs are the responsibility of the student.

European citizens and students studying in Belgium for less than 90 days (summer programs) do NOT need to obtain a visa before arrival.

If you have yet to obtain a current passport, please do so immediately. Your host institution may request a copy of your passport by a certain deadline (for visa or admission purposes), and failure to meet this deadline could have serious consequences. Applicants for the Belgian student visa will need a passport valid for 15 months beyond the end of their program

The student visa requirements for Belgium are extensive, and students should begin collecting the required documentation and preparing their applications as soon as they have accepted their program placement. Click here for ISEP's Application Guidelines for the Belgian Student Visa. Please carefully review this document in its entirety before beginning the visa application process!

Page Updated September 24, 2019

Culture

CULTURE

Communication Styles

Belgian nationals are known to be diplomatic and polite in their communication styles. Negative comments are normally kept to oneself. People in Belgium are also less likely to use large gestures or dramatic changes in intonation when speaking with each other. The typical quiet tone of Belgian speakers helps to convey kindness and sincerity, ultimately creating a welcoming environment for international students.

Greetings

Initial greetings for men and women typically consist of a handshake and direct eye contact. Belgian friends will greet each other with light kisses on the cheek. When men greet women in Belgium, light kisses on the cheek are also normal. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to offer a handshake when greeting male friends or acquaintances.

Food

Belgium is universally famous for excellent cuisine. Most restaurant portions are large and of great quality. National specialties include Moules Frites (mussels and french fries), Endives with Bechamel sauce, Ardennes sausages, ham, game, pate and pralines. Students will also enjoy the world renowned Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer.

Bread and potatoes are the traditional staple foods of Belgium. A standard Belgian breakfast consists of toasted or untoasted bread with a variety of spreads, meats or cheeses. Both lunch and dinner typically include pork, chicken or beef, and french fries. Seafood is also quite popular along the coast of the North Sea and mussels are eaten throughout the country. Cooking at restaurants and in the home is traditionally done with butter rather than oil. There is also a high consumption of dairy products among Belgian nationals.

Generally speaking, mealtimes are viewed as an opportunity to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. While dining manners in Belgium are formal, meals are viewed as a time for relaxation and the exchange of ideas.

Source: http://www.everyculture.com/A-Bo/Belgium.html

Family

Family plays a central role in most Belgians’ lives. Many people remain in the town in which they were raised, which helps to establish close relationships between extended family members. Most children in Belgium have a strong sense of loyalty to their parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Because Belgian families value privacy in the home, it is a great honor to be invited to an individual’s residence.

Cultural Adjustment

International students are often tempted to spend time with other study abroad participants, especially those from their native country. While it is comforting to make friends with fellow expats, make sure to meet Belgian students and families. Forming relationships with Belgian nationals will undoubtedly contribute to your experience of a lifetime with ISEP.

Language differences may be the largest hurdle for expats in Belgium. ISEP participants are encouraged to meet with French- and Dutch-speaking students to expand their language abilities; many Belgian nationals are ready and willing to form conversation groups with foreign students.

Space and Distance

An arms length of personal space is the norm during conversations. Touching of the arms and shoulders is common during conversations, especially with friends and family.

Population and Religion

Housing approximately 10.5 million people and measuring 30,510 square kilometers, Belgium is the second most densely populated country in Europe. Ethnically, 58% of Belgian citizens are Flemish, 31% are Waloon and 11% are of mixed ancestry. Most people in Belgium describe themselves as Roman Catholic (75%) but do not practice the religion actively. Catholicism is most faithfully practiced in Flanders. 25% of Belgians follow other religions, including Protestantism. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Daily Life

CULTURE

Communication Styles

Belgian nationals are known to be diplomatic and polite in their communication styles. Negative comments are normally kept to oneself. People in Belgium are also less likely to use large gestures or dramatic changes in intonation when speaking with each other. The typical quiet tone of Belgian speakers helps to convey kindness and sincerity, ultimately creating a welcoming environment for international students.

Greetings

Initial greetings for men and women typically consist of a handshake and direct eye contact. Belgian friends will greet each other with light kisses on the cheek. When men greet women in Belgium, light kisses on the cheek are also normal. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to offer a handshake when greeting male friends or acquaintances.

Food

Belgium is universally famous for excellent cuisine. Most restaurant portions are large and of great quality. National specialties include Moules Frites (mussels and french fries), Endives with Bechamel sauce, Ardennes sausages, ham, game, pate and pralines. Students will also enjoy the world renowned Belgian chocolate, waffles and beer.

Bread and potatoes are the traditional staple foods of Belgium. A standard Belgian breakfast consists of toasted or untoasted bread with a variety of spreads, meats or cheeses. Both lunch and dinner typically include pork, chicken or beef, and french fries. Seafood is also quite popular along the coast of the North Sea and mussels are eaten throughout the country. Cooking at restaurants and in the home is traditionally done with butter rather than oil. There is also a high consumption of dairy products among Belgian nationals.

Generally speaking, mealtimes are viewed as an opportunity to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. While dining manners in Belgium are formal, meals are viewed as a time for relaxation and the exchange of ideas.

Source: http://www.everyculture.com/A-Bo/Belgium.html

Family

Family plays a central role in most Belgians’ lives. Many people remain in the town in which they were raised, which helps to establish close relationships between extended family members. Most children in Belgium have a strong sense of loyalty to their parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Because Belgian families value privacy in the home, it is a great honor to be invited to an individual’s residence.

Cultural Adjustment

International students are often tempted to spend time with other study abroad participants, especially those from their native country. While it is comforting to make friends with fellow expats, make sure to meet Belgian students and families. Forming relationships with Belgian nationals will undoubtedly contribute to your experience of a lifetime with ISEP.

Language differences may be the largest hurdle for expats in Belgium. ISEP participants are encouraged to meet with French- and Dutch-speaking students to expand their language abilities; many Belgian nationals are ready and willing to form conversation groups with foreign students.

Space and Distance

An arms length of personal space is the norm during conversations. Touching of the arms and shoulders is common during conversations, especially with friends and family.

Population and Religion

Housing approximately 10.5 million people and measuring 30,510 square kilometers, Belgium is the second most densely populated country in Europe. Ethnically, 58% of Belgian citizens are Flemish, 31% are Waloon and 11% are of mixed ancestry. Most people in Belgium describe themselves as Roman Catholic (75%) but do not practice the religion actively. Catholicism is most faithfully practiced in Flanders. 25% of Belgians follow other religions, including Protestantism. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Health and Safety

Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference the Health and Safety section of the ISEP website for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

- Detailed information about Belgium can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections. 

- Non-U.S citizens should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections. 

- Please review the CDC's Health Information for Travelers to Belgium.

-If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Program Manager and Host ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions. 

 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency

Belgium uses the euro, which has the same value in all euro-zone countries. There are seven euro notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight euro coins (one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and one and two euros). One side is standard to all euro coins and the other bears a national emblem of participating countries. Travelers should note that Belgium is still a largely cash based society. Locals generally use cash for small purchases so students should grow accustomed to carrying cash regularly. Major credit cards are widely accepted at top and midrange hotels and restaurants, and in many shops and petrol stations.

Money Changing

Banks are the best place to change money, charging only a small commission on cash or travellers cheques. Banks in Belgium are generally open from 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. to between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Most banks will also hold hours on Saturday morning. In smaller towns, you may find that banks close for an hour at lunch.

Out of hours, exchange bureaus are also available for changing money. Students should note that exchange bureaus will be significantly more expensive than Belgian banks. Bureaus can be found at most airports and train stations and will be called wisselkantoren in Flemish or bureaux d’échange in French.

ATMs are not widespread around the countryside, but are well populated in city centers and at the main international airports. MasterCard and Visa are generally accepted throughout the country.

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