Underappreciated City That Deserves More Recognition! May 05, 2016

By (International Relations, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/10/2016 to 05/15/2016 with

CIEE: Brussels - Business, Communications and Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much during my time abroad! I made infinite amounts of experiences, TBTs, and memories! I improved in my French, learned about the complexities of the country, and visited places that I will always remember. I learned about Belgium's history, politics, culture, the arts, social life, food, language, and importance in the international world. I am so glad I chose to study abroad in Brussels!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I enrolled in five classes, two of which were required: one language class and a Belgian class. I am really glad these classes were mandatory because I learned a lot about Belgian culture, history, politics, arts, food, and more in both of these courses. I also took three additional classes at the partnering college. Professors taught the classes from a European perspective so it was definitely interesting to see the differences.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration of the program in Belgium are absolutely amazing. They care about each and every student and make sure the experience is the best!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a very good location, in close proximity to the metro, trams, and busses. I also lived close to the school, the CIEE office, and retail stores. The only downside was that Belgians do not turn on the heat all day long in the winter time and it would get extremely cold on certain day. I suggest bringing very warm clothing even for pajamas!

* Food:

Nothing better than Belgian fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer! I don't think I will be able to eat any of those foods outside of Belgium. The country spoiled me to the best delicacies!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Brussels is truly an international city. I felt part of the culture right away! The three main languages are French, Dutch, and English. Many Europeans move to Brussels for employment opportunities especially since it is the capital of the EU.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

When I started coming down with a cold, I went to the pharmacy and bought medicine. After a week of not feeling well, I told the program advisor and he directed me to a doctor at the university campus. I was able to get antibiotics and another type of medicine to open up my sinuses. I have health insurance with the program so I will fill out forms to get reimbursed for the expenses.

* Safety:

Overall, I felt safe in Brussels. However, I would not recommend to go out alone at night especially on public transport. It is better to be with a friend or colleague to avoid undesirable situations.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

CIEE is the best study abroad program in my opinion! The advisors are extremely helpful, friendly, and caring. The day trips and excursions were wonderful as they were all planned and taken care of by the program. Advisors also listened to students and planned trips in accordance with requests.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

An unlimited, yearly student STIB - public transport company - card costs €55 so that covers all transportation within Brussels for the semester. If you purchase food at the supermarket and cook most meals at home, the cost isn't so bad. Eating out at gourmet restaurants can get pricy.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $60
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook at home, find an inexpensive sandwich place (the VUB campus has a place that sells sandwiches for as low as €2,20). Personally I brought toiletries that I use at home, which lasted me most of the semester. European countries have similar brands if not the same but toiletries in America is cheaper (especially since the euro is higher than than the dollar).

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

During trips, the program had guided walking tours in English and French so students were able to choose. The program encouraged students in upper-level French to go with tour guide speaking French,

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Fourth year
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The best way is to talk, whether asking for directions or asking for help at the supermarket. Speaking the language can be frightening at first but once you get over being shy and apprehensive, you will get better!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Day trips
  • Activities
  • Programs
* What could be improved?
  • Day trips were too long sometimes (7am-11:30pm)
  • Classes at Vesalius College
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It is extremely cold in the winter time. If you go during the spring, pack more heavy clothing than light!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.