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Pros and Cons of Living and Studying in Belgium

In September 2021, StudyFree mentor Galina Golovushkina entered Media and Information Design, a master's program at the LUCA School of Arts.
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She chose Belgium because she knows French, although she wanted to study in English. We've asked Galina to speak about the pros and cons of living and studying in Belgium.

What’s Good About Studying in Belgium

A large selection of programs in English. Although the official languages in Belgium are Dutch, German, and French, universities offer many English-speaking programs. I study in English at the LUCA School of Arts.

Moreover, there are many one-year master's programs in Belgium. As a result, you have to pay twice less for your education. Non-EU students have to pay about  €1,000 per year. I also had to pay an extra €200 for the textbooks.

To get a student visa, one needs a guarantor (for example, a parent who takes financial responsibility for the student) or a blocked account. A blocked account is one of the conditions for getting a student visa and a guarantee that the student has sufficient funds to cover their living expenses in Belgium.

I deposited €9,800 for 13 months, including the housing deposit. Every month, I get €700 from the School. I use €490 to pay rent and €210 for my living costs.

The creative atmosphere in dorms. My university has a wonderful residence hall. Students of the LUCA School of Arts and KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture live there because they are linked.

The administration of the hall regularly throws parties and events, which is very bonding. The top floor of the building accommodates a large living room with a pool table and a panoramic view of Brussels.

Interesting classes and opportunities to develop and be creative. We have an exhibition of art objects on the black hole information paradox. It's part of the big KNAL Festival that takes place in Leuven and Brussels. It's great that the university provides us with such an opportunity. Also, the School invites art experts from different countries as guest lecturers.

The university has extensive art facilities. Among them are a print shop and a laser cutting workshop. Besides, students are offered a lot of creative activities. For example, I had a free tango and a hip-hop class.

Also, the university provides free access to a large variety of computer programs. I downloaded the full Adobe package that I need for my studies.

Another good thing is that the university boasts quality student support services that include all kinds of help, from funding and housing to psychological assistance and healthcare.

Opportunity to work part-time while studying. Students can work 20 hours a week and earn about €11-15 per hour. The university offers JobTeaser to look for a job. The platform is available to everyone, but some jobs can only be viewed by students and graduates of the LUCA School of Arts.

What’s Good About Living in Belgium

Brussels is an international city with an unhurried pace of life. A foreigner would feel very comfortable here, even if they only speak English. With the basic level of French, I feel extremely comfortable here.

There is no rush. For a while, I couldn't get used to the fact that there are no deadlines and homework. For me, it is easier to study here than in the Communication Design undergraduate program at the Higher School of Economics that I completed in Russia.

Great starting location to travel. Brussels is located in the center of Europe. You can get to the neighboring countries fast and at an affordable price. For example, a train ride to Cologne and back would cost you €40-50. A bus ticket to Paris and back is €38. It is cheaper on weekdays. When I went to Paris on Monday, I only had to pay €8 for the ride back. A one-way airline ticket to Copenhagen is €30.

When traveling by bus, I recommend using the FlixBus and BlaBlaCar platforms. Their buses are always late, but they never fail to refund the trip.

Cheap public transport. Students under 26 will only have to pay €12 for the annual student pass to use the metro, bus, and tram. A train ticket to Leuven, for example, costs about €8 for ten trips.

What’s Not So Good About Studying in Belgium

Most of the work is done by students independently. Professors don’t tell you what's bad or good during the semester. It seems like they are just fine with everything you do until the final exams come where they give their opinion already. I was totally confused by that when working on my master's thesis.

Initially, I thought that I would offer some options, we will discuss them and then decide on the topic that is best for me. In the end, however, all I heard was "You can do whatever you want." Locals say it's always like that in master’s studies here.

Rent prices. Renting a room in my dorm costs €490. It's a small but modern room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a shower, and a toilet. Internet and light are included in the price. The kitchen is shared, one for sixteen students living on two floors. You can go to the university website to see pictures and take a virtual tour. This was the cheapest and most convenient option near my university.

Most students rent rooms. The price depends on the area. It starts at €600 near my university and in the city center. You can use Brik to look for accommodation.

What’s Not So Good About Living in Belgium

Public transport is quite expensive for people older than 26. This applies to students who are over 26, too. A metro, tram, or bus ticket costs €2.6. You can get a pass for several trips, but it wouldn’t be much cheaper.

Bureaucracy. Everything is complicated and takes extremely long. Sometimes the City Hall employees don't even know what to do with you and send you to the wrong offices. It took me three months to get my resident permit.

Problems with contactless payment. In Brussels, it’s common that only Bancontact cards are accepted. There can be problems with Visa, Mastercard, and Maestro cards, so you’d better always have cash with you. I never thought I would experience such a problem in Europe.

By Galina Golovushkina

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