Brussels: the 'Capital of Europe'
As a graduate student at University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies, you will have a daily gateway to the 'real world' of International Relations, policy-making, and International Law. There are many tours, conferences, seminars and receptions taking place in the city and graduate students are welcome and encouraged to attend as many as possible during their time here to meet and network with contacts in their field, to develop their research or get a foot in the door with organisations in their area of interest.
As the hub of European Union institutions, Brussels is referred to as 'The Capital of Europe'. The European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament are all based here as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is in nearby Mons. To add to this, with important political, economic and social decisions being made in Brussels every day, more than one thousand governmental and non-governmental international organisations, some 165 Embassies and Diplomatic Missions, the world’s largest international press corps, and over 700 multinational corporations also cluster in and around the city.
Our location also means that BSIS students can easily attend the public meetings of these institutions, and have access to them for up-to-date research and internship opportunities, coordinated by our excellent careers service, key2advance. We regularly invite practitioners from 'the field' - those working at the cutting edge of the international organisations to either teach some of our classes or to give guest lectures and workshops.
Belgium is a very popular tourist destination and Brussels itself has a range of places to visit and things to do during your time here. Some of the most exciting things to do, when you're not studying or taking on an internship, are listed below:
A multi-cultural city
With more than a third of its inhabitants from outside of Belgium, Brussels is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a truly international feel. This means that as a student at BSIS, you will meet people from not only Belgium but also from many countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Just as Brussels is home to people from a range of countries, our student body is also extremely international and your fellow classmates will come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. With this diversity, Brussels is a very exciting place to be and there is always something to do or somewhere to be - from exploring new areas, picking up food from one of the many local markets or eating out at some of the excellent restaurants the city has to offer, visiting exhibitions at the many galleries and museums, going to the theatre or attending concerts at one of the many music venues, or watching one of the Belgian football teams in action. There is a range of events organised over the year from medieval carnivals to group zumba classes in the Grand Place! To have an idea of what is happening, the Bulletin online, in English, is an excellent source of information.
Officially the city is bilingual, French and Dutch, and given the wealth of international organisations based in the city, many organisations and companies will speak English too. Given its diversity, Brussels is also one of the best cities in the world to take up or improve a second or third language and many of our students do take up language classes once they get here. With such an international community, iInternational newspapers are readily available, and there are local newspapers in English, such as The Bulletin and The European Voice. English-medium television and radio stations can be received, such as BBC1, BBC2, BBC World Service, CNN, and NBC. Local television stations also broadcast some programming in English. Nevertheless, Brussels is one of the best cities in the world to take up or improve a second or third language, and many UKB students find the time and energy to do so.
With a population of only a million people, Brussels is by no means a sprawling metropolis and remains conveniently ‘small' and accessible. There is an excellent public transport system with a comprehensive metro, tram, bus, and train network and many areas of the city can easily be reached on foot. It's also very easy and affordable to visit other European cities either for research or for a study-break: Paris, London, Amsterdam, The Hague and Cologne are all an easy train journey away. The city is also very green and there are many parks and forests within walking distance of the School. The Bois de la Cambre, for example, with its centuries old beech trees, is very close to the school and a popular place for picnics and barbecues. When the weather is good, BSIS students frequently take advantage of the Bois for outdoor sports and they also have access to extensive indoor sports facilities at our partner Belgian Universities.
Belgium is also very well known for its food, and has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per person of any city in the world. The ‘Petite Rue des Bouchers’ (street of the butchers) in the medieval centre of Brussels is famous for the fact that every building on it is a restaurant. The street is for pedestrians only, allowing the restaurant owners to construct wonderfully colourful displays of seafood on ice, and to arrange tables outside along the cobble stone walks. For all the quaintness, however, the astute will be aware that at the next table could be an agenda-setting conversation among people who have just left the corridors of power for a light lunch.
There is more to Belgian food than Moules-Frites (mussels and french fries) and other popular Belgian dishes include Carbonade Flamande (a beef stew with beer), Waterzooi (Chicken stew), Filet Americain (raw ground beef used served in a sandwich) and Lapin a la geuze (rabbit in geuze beer, a Brussels beer). For the sweet tooth, there are waffles (Brussels and Liege), speculoos biscuits and ice cream (cinnamon based) and Croustillons (deep-fried balls of sweet dough). Belgian beer is world famous - from Leffe to Duvel, Chimay to Rochefort, there is something for everyone!
Given the number of different nationalities living in Belgium, there are many, many restaurants here and you can eat Lebonese, Italian, Portuguese, Ethiopian, French, Congolese, Mexican etc etc. See here for a list of restaurants by price, cuisine and area.
Brussels has a past that stretches back to the Middle Ages, and its rich history is much in evidence. The remnants of the high rampart walls constructed around the city in 1270, for example, are still visible today. One can also wander through Brussels’ beautiful historic market square to see many of the buildings and streets that are little changed since the 17th Century. The especially beautifully preserved medieval cities of Ghent and Bruges are about forty minutes away from Brussels by train, but for those who prefer more modern sites, the city is also internationally known for its numerous Art Nouveau and Art Deco masterpieces.
This blog is intended for incoming students looking for accommodation in Brussels.