Belgium is known to be a small country with a few public universities, some of which ranked among top 200 universities in the world in a recent QS World University Rankings. In this article, there is all you need to learn about studying and working in Belgium as an International Student.
As a top study destination in Europe with a serious language barrier, Belgium is preferred by thousands of international students. The predominant languages of instructions – French, Dutch and German – are officially recognized as the official languages of the country. However the official languages used by Belgium’s higher institution are solely dependent on the communities housing that university.
Tuition fees and living cost for international students in Belgium
Belgium institutions consists of both private and public universities but however the tuition fees at Belgian universities are relatively affordable,
EU students are expected to pay around 800-850 euros per annum depending on the choice of institution while non-EU students are expected to pay higher between the range of 1000 euros to 4000 euros depending on the choice of institution.
International students studying for masters and undergraduate degree programs are required to pay applications fee. Although scholarships are available for this purpose but are usually very competitive.
Cost of living
Living cost in Belgium varies depending on the city in which you live in, Brussels, the capital, as the most expensive city in the country. The highest amounts of your budget would be spent on accommodation and if you decide to eat mostly at the restaurant, you should be aware that some of them have expensive prices.
However, there are nice accommodations on campus and also private residences, but the campus accommodations are quite cheaper and affordable for students who can’t afford private residence, on average students may spend between €750 and €1 100 per month and covers for accommodation, feeding, travels and other expenses.
You could also get a part-time job to augment your expenses while studying.
Buying food stuffs and cooking at home is best way to manage finances however on average, you would spend around 150 EUR/month for your groceries, eating out in a restaurant would about 12 euros for a meal or even less depending on your residential locations
The easiest model of transportation for international students are trains and buses monthly pass for students on public transportation usually costs around 20 euro/month. taxis are rather expensive, meaning you can expect to pay around 25 euro for inner city trips, however if you plan to rent or travel by car, the price for gas is between 1.39 and 1.60 euro a liter which might end up being more expensive than going by train.
Here are a few examples of other expenses while living in Belgium:
- Books: 35 – 50 EUR/month
- Entertainment: 50 EUR/month
- Insurance/ health care: 30 EUR/month
- View and compare 80 Bachelor programs in Belgium
Student Visa Application
European union students do not need visa to study in Belgium, non-European international students are required to apply for visa to study in Belgium, you will need to visit the Belgian embassy in your country of residence to apply for a visa, however you have to be guaranteed of your admission before applying for your visa because you will be required to demonstrate your acceptance letter from the university as proof of admission.
Also, a student resident permit is also needed by an international student to study in Belgium, however as a student you will need a long term visa, the visa process might take up to 60 days or more, so it is advisable to start the visa application 70 days before your departure. However, if perchance, you need a visa for a short stay, three weeks before your departure might be enough for the processing of the visa.
Documents Required for visa application
You are required to provide the following documents for the visa application process
- A passport that is valid for 3 months longer than the visa
- 2 original visa application
- Acceptance letter from your university of study
- Copies of your educational certificates
- Cover letter
- Medical certificate
- Proof of adequate financial means to take care of your study and living expenses
- Past criminal record if you are above 21
- Visa application fee (€210 for long stay and €70 for short stay)
The list is not limited to the above, other documents may be required.
A resident can be applied for at the regional employment embassy in Belgium as an international student. With a valid resident permit, you are allowed to work 20 hours per week while school is in session. It could be more during the holiday and you may not need the work permit.
The residential permit must be applied for 8 weeks on your arrival to Belgium, make a call to the local municipal administration offices to register for a residence permit. With the residence permit, you can open a bank account, apply for a work permit and also purchase an insurance policy in Belgium. However, in some cases you can apply to live on the campus residence whichever way you will be helped out.
Note: If you need to extend your visa, you should apply for an extension of your residence permit. You should make an appointment at least 14 days before your expiration date. You have to apply at your local administration office or town hall.
Top universities in Belgium to Study
Some of the top universities in Belgium include:
- University of Leuven
- University of Antwerp
- Ghent University
- University of Liege
- Vrije Universities Brussels (VUB)
Job opportunities for international students in Belgium
As an international student studying in Belgium, getting a part time job to support your studies is very important. It will help ease your financial burden while studying in Belgium. However, earning from such jobs would not be sufficient to pay for tuition fees but it will be of little help to support your studies for example to pay your food bills or may be entertainment cost.
The type of job you get may largely depend on your qualification, previous work experience, and your ability to understand the native language. But having a part-time job helps understand the culture and language faster and meet new people.
Part-time job opportunities are better for students enrolled for graduate programs or research. For candidates enrolled in undergraduate programs or certificate courses of short durations, opportunities are limited. Commonly available part-time jobs for international students includes;
- Newspaper delivery
- Filling station attendant
- Bar attendant
- Working in an amusement park
- Work from homes (remote jobs)
- Working in a restaurant
Advantages of studying in Belgium
The following are the numerous advantages of studying in Belgium they include:
- Affordable transportation: transportation is very affordable in Belgium, which makes it great for students to travel during their spare time. The available transportation means are rams, metros, buses and even trains. Which are very affordable
- Affordable housing: renting an apartment in Belgium is very cheap and affordable, Belgium has no record of housing shortage for international students getting an apartment to stay while studying in Belgium is very easy and affordable
- Standard universities and business schools: Belgium universities are recognized globally and ranks among top universities in the world. Surprisingly, even with the excellent learning facilities, the schools are very affordable for international students compared to its counterparts around the world.
Disadvantages of studying in Belgium
Some of the few disadvantages of studying Belgium would include:
- Rainy weather condition: the rainy weather condition may have negative effect on international students who are not used to such weather conditions.
- Excessive taxation: Taxes in Belgium are some of the highest the world. The personal income tax brackets range from 25 to 50 per cent. Giving away half of your salary to the government surely pinches.
- Language complexity: Belgium has 3 official languages namely French Dutch and German So, if you do not know any of the three languages, things can get tough for you. These three languages are difficult to learn and can be challenging as well.
In conclusion studying in Belgium is a very good option for international due the low cost of living and standard of learning. However, language barrier could be a problem, except you are able to learn at one of them.