Nov 5, 2013 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Celebrated for its waffles, beer and chocolates, birthplace of The Smurfs, and home to more castles per square foot than any other country in the world, Belgium is a destination like no other. While relatively small in size, Belgium has a mighty global footprint. Home to both the European Union and NATO, Belgium offers international students a unique education experience steeped in rich history and vibrant culture, right in the heart of Europe. Read more about studying in Belgium here.

1) You can get a scholarship to go study in Belgium

While the Belgian government focuses much of its scholarship programming on international students from developing countries, there are a number of opportunities for international students from other regions of the world, as well.

Government Scholarships:

  • Belgian Development Agency (BTC) Scholarships: Scholarships and internships are awarded to nationals of Belgium’s 18 partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation in support of master’s and Ph.D. studies, internships and travel in a number of academic disciplines. 1,000 grants are offered every year in Belgium with 4,000 local grants.
  • VLIR-UOS Training and Masters Scholarship: Up to 180 scholarships are awarded annually to students from 54 countries for development-related training and master’s programs in preparation for leadership roles in their home countries. Funding covers tuition, accommodations and program-related costs, as well as a monthly allowance.
  • CIUF-CUD Scholarships: The University Commission for Development (CUD) grants 150 scholarships for courses and 70 for training programs to international students from selected developing countries training or pursuing Master’s studies in Belgium.
  • Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Programs in Belgium: This program allows international students to pursue participating Erasmus Mundus study programs free of charge.

Private Scholarships:

2) You'll get the change to study in one of the most attractive countries in the world.

Here are five great reasons to study in Belgium (not counting the Brussels sprouts):

1. An Unbeatable Price Tag

Belgium’s cost of living is low -- particularly for students, who are also permitted to work to defray costs. Factor in the premiere higher educational opportunities and strong research culture and international students reap an unparalleled price to quality ratio. With a full one-third of the country’s Ph.D. students hailing from other countries, the result is a vibrant and diverse research community. Besides, Belgium has six of the top 200 universities according to the "QS World University Rankings" : KU Leuven, University of Ghent, UCL, ULB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Antwerp, University of Liege.

2. At the Center of it All

People from all over the world aspire to study, work and live in the bustling business center of Belgium, due to its central location, tradition as an international trade hub and progressive global focus. Home to countless international institutions and represented by every nation, Belgium offers unparalleled educational and networking opportunities.

3. Multilingual Magnificence

In addition to multiculturalism, Belgium also offers astounding multilingualism, and higher education institutions prioritize the improvement of language skills for foreign students. With not one, not two but three official languages (Dutch, French and German), Belgium offers a multitude of opportunities to improve language skills. As the second or third language of many native Belgians, most of whom speak two or three languages, English is also prevalent.

4. Exceptional Quality of Life

Belgium is known for its safety, high quality of life and vibrant culture. From its internationally renown healthcare to countless culinary delights, Belgium offers countless thing to see and do. Architecturally rich cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Belgium are wondrous, while castles, tranquil gardens and historic battlefields provide a different view. For its many student-friendly amenities, Brussels is ranked 38th in the QS “Best Student City Rankings.”

5. Home Base to Anywhere

Not only does Belgium offer premier public transportation for getting around within the country, it also offers an ideal home base for travel to parts unknown. London, Paris, Amsterdam and many other popular destinations are less than two hours away by train.

3) You can study in English, but also practice your French, Dutch, and German.

While Belgium offers a terrific opportunity to study in the three national languages, there are plenty of chances for study abroad programs in English, as well. The Belgian Association of Anglicists in Higher Education (BAAHE) encourages and rewards research in English Studies through an annual prize --alternating each year between literature and cultural studies and linguistics and translation studies -- for outstanding undergraduate dissertations written in English.

Because of the diversity of languages offered at Belgian institutions, it can be helpful to first determine your preferred language of study before deciding on a school or program.

4) You'll be part of the top EMBA and MBA programs.

An increasing number of international students and expats are taking advantage of Belgium’s premiere MBA offerings -- both traditional and executive. The executive MBA trend in particular has experienced exponential growth, with over 3,500 EMBA programs now offered across the globe. This trend can be seen playing out in Belgium, where international students receive an executive education through full- or part-time studies in management sciences, as well as corporate internships. Read more about part-time EMBA in Belgium here.

Belgium’s reputation as an ideal place for international studies is amplified when it comes to MBAs -- particularly in a global economy in which employers are focused on international perspectives. MBA programs in Belgium offer not only great value but also great returns: they present a wide range of employment possibilities in multinational government and non-government sectors, as well as the increased chance of meeting influential people who can help you after graduation both in Brussels and beyond.

 

Belgium Beyond Expectations:

BONUS MATERIAL:

8 secret tips for studying abroad in Belgium

  • Working, living and studying in Belgium is a wonderful whirlwind, but attending to as many details in advance can help international students feel acclimated and primed to learn. Find out here about universities, schools, and programs in Belgium that suit you best.
  • While students from the EU don’t need a VISA, those from non-EU nations should contact the Belgian embassy or consulate in their home country to determine the requirements. The procedure varies according to student status and length of stay.
  • Upon arrival in Belgium, students must confirm enrollment with their host universities, request an enrollment certificate and obtain the required residence permit. Within eight days of arrival, students must report back to the authorities with residence info.
  • Accommodations for international students vary according to student status, budget and length of stay. On campus housing is in great demand, so contact the housing office of your host university as soon as possible to beat the rush. The housing office can also help you with finding private lodging, such as apartments and shared housing.
  • Most universities offer a variety of dining options to enrolled students. Additionally, the neighborhoods typically surrounding campuses offer coffee shops, snack bars, bistros and restaurants.
  • Belgium’s public transportation system is known for is accessibility and efficiency. From buses, trams and the underground to trains, bikes, cars and planes. The epicenter of Europe’s high-speed train network, Brussels is centrally located to all points in Europe both via train and plane. Cyclists enjoy safe, scenic cycle paths.
  • It can take several days to gain access to a bank account in Belgium, so be sure to bring enough money to get through this initial period. Credit cards are widely accepted: notify your bank about your travel plans in order to prevent unnecessary delays and declines as you begin your life as an international student.
  • With a full-time course load and a valid residence permit, international studies can work in addition to studying, although non-EU students may need a work permit. After graduation, most higher ed institutions offer professional tools and services to help students transition to the work force -- in Brussels or another country.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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