Student life in Brussels
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When studying abroad, it's always a bit hard to know in advance exactly what it will be like. As such, it's well worth thoroughly researching everything beforehand, so that you have a better idea of what you can expect. As a city, Brussels has everything you could want as a student: fantastic universities, a vibrant cultural scene as well as a lively nightlife and every year thousands of international students head to the capital to begin their studies. To give you an idea of what's on offer, here is an overview of student life in Brussels.

While Brussels is certainly a fascinating place to live and work, it is also a popular place to study, and nowadays the universities are just as multicultural as the rest of the city. Indeed, there is much on offer that appeals to students besides their chosen course and university. There are lots of excellent sports facilities for instance as well as a plethora of different cultural events and festivals taking place across Brussels every week.

A quick overview

Before arriving in the city to start an Erasmus or a Bachelors or Masters degree, students should carefully research their preferred institution and course. This is because each university and study programme has its own characteristics and way of working. At the French-speaking universities, for instance, there is a more hierarchical approach to teaching while Dutch-speaking universities are generally more collaborative with students given more opportunities to share what they've learnt. It depends though, and so research is vital before making any decision.

This again applies to the specific course you're interested in, and it is a good idea to look into the ratio of students to teachers. As almost everyone is accepted to university in Belgium provided they have the right qualifications, the first year of a study programme is generally quite intensive as the expectation is that a lot of people won't pass their exams and will fail the course. This means that classes can be quite full although numbers will often drop drastically in the second year. Part of the reason that so many people enrol is because tuition fees are so low.

Alongside the study programme, there are lots of ways that students can immerse themselves in university life whether that is through associations and sports clubs or research groups and volunteering projects. In addition to this, the city of Brussels offers up a myriad of opportunities for students looking to work or do an internship during their studies.

Student accommodation

When it comes to student accommodation, Brussels is again quite affordable in comparison with other capital cities in Europe and some universities have their own student housing. Prices do vary quite substantially though depending on where the place is, what type of accommodation it is, how large the room or apartment is and whether bills are included or not. A study by Brik ' a non-profit student association in Brussels ' showed that the minimum you can expect to pay for a room is 310 euros per month although the average price in the city is 435 euros. These prices drop respectively to 235 euros and 430 euros for a room in a shared apartment. In Brussels, student rooms are usually called a 'kot', and many websites are available to help prospective students to find a place to stay in the city. The most popular are Brukot, Infor Jeunes Bruxelles and MyKot.

Living expenses

While supermarkets are generally quite expensive in Brussels, there are some cheaper ones around such as Aldi, Lidl and Colruyt if you want to save your money to spend on other things. There also several markets scattered around the city if you want to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables for a lower price than in the supermarkets. Expect to spend at least 300 euros each month on groceries while you're in Brussels.

Going out is a lot cheaper than in other capital cities, and drinks prices are generally quite reasonable although they are slowly starting to rise in the city centre. Cimetière d'Ixelles is a favourite hangout amongst students, and there are a lot of cheap bars around here that are teeming with people most days of the week.

In addition to eating and drinking, you'll find that there are probably some books you need to buy for university, and you'll also want to sign up for healthcare. Healthcare plans for students are very affordable, and Belgium is rated very highly around the world for the medical care that it provides.

One area that you will save money on is transport as a yearly pass for all the buses, metros and trams in Brussels only costs 50 euros for students.

Student discounts

When it comes to discounts, students in Brussels are liable to be disappointed as unlike in other major cities, there is very little on offer to them in terms of restaurants or bars offering them deals. The very low tuition fees are where they really benefit, and cheap transportation and healthcare helps keep living costs down and more affordable. Museums and tourist attractions will also offer concessions to students.

To get more deals and student discounts, it may be worth buying a European Youth Card which costs 14 euros though you will have to check on the website to see if the offers appeal to you or not.

Info sessions and orientation weeks

Most universities will start the first semester of the year off with an orientation week to help new students settle in, make friends and learn about what opportunities are on offer at the university as well as Brussels in general. There will also be specific info sessions at various points throughout the year for Erasmus students to get to grips with student life in Belgium. Both info sessions and the orientation week will point you in the direction of associations and sports clubs that you can join. All of the universities have a contact who is responsible for student well-being, and you can always send them an email or drop into their office if you need any help with starting your new student life in the city.

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