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

VISAS AND RESIDENCY

If you have yet to obtain a current passport, please do so immediately. Your host 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. 

Non-European Union citizens who intend to study in Belgium for longer than 90 days must acquire a student visa from their local consulate. The student visa requirements for Belgium are extensive, and students should begin preparing their applications as soon as they have accepted their program. Please check the requirements of the specific embassy or consulate for your jurisdiction prior to starting your application! 

The following procedures and requirements are specifically for United States citizens applying for a Belgian student visa. If you are not a U.S. citizen please check with the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in your home country regarding their specific requirements. If you will need any documents certified with the Apostille of the Hague, please consult this list of designated competent authorities.

U.S. citizens can apply for their Belgian student visa in-person or by mail, and may only submit their visa application to the Consulate with juristicion over their region. Please note that the Consulates General require that you schedule an appointment prior to an in-person visit and these visa appointments can fill up several months in advance. If you intend to submit your application via mail please be sure to read the special instuctions at the bottom of this page. 

I. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: IN-PERSON AND VIA MAIL  

NOTE: The visa-section requires one set of original documents and two sets of copies for every long-stay visa-application. Make sure you have included TWO copies for every original document (except for the application form) in your file. You should also keep a third copy of every document for your personal records. 

1. Passport valid for 15 months beyond the end of your program

2. ONLY students 21 years of age or older at any point during their time in Belgium: A nationwide criminal history record check (for U.S. citizens, a FBI Identity History Summary Check) dated within six months of your date of application for the visa. If you will be under 21 for the full length of your time abroad you do not need to complete this step. 

For information on how to request an FBI Background Check please consult this link. The FBI Background Check process can take up to 16 weeks. For a faster processing time ISEP highly recommends that students submit their request via Electronic Departmental Order or use a FBI-approved channeler to expedite this process. 

No authentication (apostille) is required. ONLY FBI CHECKS PRINTED ON TAMPER PROOF PAPER ARE ACCEPTED. Please provide one original and two copies. 

3. Two original visa application forms duly completed, dated and signed.

4. Language form (in French, Dutch or German); Choose one of the forms and indicate your language preference (or no preference). The option you choose will be used by the Belgian Home Office to communicate its decision regarding your visa application. There is no English version of this document. Please retain a copy for your records.

A. Indicate your name: full name as it appears on your passport (nom du demandeur, naam visumaanvrager, Name Visumbewerber) 

B. Number of the file will be indicated by this office (numéro du dossier - dossiernummer - Aktenzeichen) 

C. Indicate in what language you wish your file to be handled:

i. have no preference (geen voorkeur, pas de preference, keiner Sprache den Vorzug) 

ii. prefer French (français, Frans, französischer Sprache) 

iii. prefer Dutch (néerlandais, Nederlands, niederländischer Sprache) 

iv. prefer German (allemand, Duits, deutscher Sprache)

D. Date the form NOTE: be sure to format DAY MONTH YEAR (NOT: MONTH, DAY, YEAR) 

E. Sign the form (no need to notarize it)

5. Two recent passport pictures, each signed on the back.

6. A medical certificate and two copies. The medical document can be issued a maximum 3 months before the date of your application.

You may choose from a list of physicians affiliated with the Embassy or the Consulate General, or have your family physician complete the medical certificate. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you choose your family physician, the doctor's signature needs to be notarized by a notary public and authenticated by apostille, which in the U.S. is to be obtained from the Secretary of State for the state where the notary public has their office. 

7. The official Letter of Acceptance from your host institution, certifying that the applicant is accepted and/or registered as a regular, full-time student. 

8. Two official copies of your latest academic transcripts.

9. A financial support declaration guaranteeing payment of living, educational, medical and repatriation expenses. The Letter of Certification from ISEP, ISEP Contract of Participation, your cards for the ISEP Student Insurance (all three documents found in your ISEP student portal), and the policy brochure for the ISEP Student Insurance should suffice for this requirement. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your ISEP program (Vesalius College) does not fully cover the cost of your meals abroad, an additional declaration of financial support may be required to cover the cost of these additional expenses, depending on the requirements of your particular consulate. If you must submit this additional documentation please follow the guidelines below. 

A  financial support declaration (Dutch form) signed by the applicant’s sponsor (one person only), guaranteeing payment of living expenses. This form needs to be completed in Dutch, the official language of the school you will be attending. For your convenience, you can find a bilingual copy of this document here. Please however note that you have to fill out a copy in ONE language and that you cannot fill out the bilingual copy!

The sponsor needs to date and sign the financial support declaration document, add the mention ‘read and approved’ in the language of the form (in Dutch: ‘gelezen en goedgekeurd’), and join a notarized copy of his/her driver’s license or foreign passport with US visa or permanent resident card.

Suggestion: if applying for the visa in-person, the financial support declaration can also be signed by the sponsor in front of the visa officer, thus avoiding the presentation of the notarized copy of the driver's license or passport. The signature legalization fee is: 24 USD

As proof of solvency, one of the following documents should be provided by the sponsor who is signing the financial support declaration:

- W2 form of the last fiscal year (two copies)

- Pay slips of the last 3 months (two copies)

- Form 1040 'individual income tax return' (two copies)

- Bank statements of the last 3 months (two copies)

11. Pay the contribution fee (200 EURO) via wire transfer. For payment instructions see: New contribution for visa LONG stay-D.  You have to provide a valid proof of payment for the correct amount of the contribution. For example: If you have made a bank transfer, you should include the account statement or a deposit slip with a postmark. 

12. Fee to be paid at the time of application: 216 USD. The visa application fee is non-refundable.

Certified checks and money orders only, paid to the order of:

"the Embassy of Belgium in Washington" if you apply at the Embassy in Washington

"the Consulate General of Belgium" if you apply at the Consulate General in Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York.

Incorrect money orders or certified checks will be rejected and returned to the applicant. Processing will only begin once the proper payment is received.

11. A self-addressed prepaid envelope for the Consulate to return your passport and visa. Do not use metered postage – certified mail or shipping service (Certified USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc,) only. The Embassy or Consulate General is not responsible for lost items during shipping. 

II. IF YOU WISH TO SEND YOUR APPLICATION BY MAIL the additional requirements apply: 

1. Your signature on the application forms must be notarized (certified) by a notary public of your place of residence in the U.S.

2. Make sure you have included two copies for every original document (except for the application form) in your file. The visa-section requires one set of original documents and two sets of copies for every long-stay visa-application. You should also keep a third copy of every document for your own records. 

3. No more than three months before the start of your program: Assemble all of the above materials, plus two copies of each document, and mail via certified mail to the Embassy or Consulate General of Belgium for your jurisdiction.

 

III. AFTER ARRIVING IN BELGIUM:

It is important that you register yourself with the City Hall of your place of residence in Belgium within 8 days of your arrival. Make sure that all passports are endorsed by the immigration authorities when first entering Belgium (at airport or other border post). The local authorities will process your registration identity document that will allow you to enter and leave the country as a legal temporary resident of Belgium.

A Note Regarding the Schengen Area

Belgium is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.

Current Schengen signature countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. 

Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and, most notably, the United Kingdom are NOT part of the Schengen zone.

 

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. 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections. 

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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