Life in Brussels - Brussels School of International Studies

Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) gives you a gateway to the 'real world' of international relations, policy-making and international law. There are conferences, seminars and receptions taking place all over the city that you can attend during your time here. Our location gives you a great opportunity to develop your knowledge and network with people and organisations in your area of interest.

'Capital of Europe'

With the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament, as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), all based in the city, Brussels is often referred to as the "capital of Europe".

Important political, economic and social decisions are made in the city every day. More than 1,000 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 Brussels.

Flags in Brussels
International flags flying over Grand Place

A multicultural city

With a population of just over a million people, Brussels is by no means a sprawling metropolis and remains conveniently ‘small' and accessible. But with more than a third of its inhabitants from outside of Belgium, it's a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a truly international feel. In the city itself and within our international student body, you will meet people from a variety of backgrounds.

In the city there is always something to do. Explore new areas, pick up food from one of the many local markets or eat out at some of the excellent restaurants. Visit exhibitions at the many galleries and museums, go to the theatre or attend concerts. There is a range of events organised over the year from medieval carnivals to group dance classes in the Grand Place.

Want to keep up-to-date with what's going on? Bulletin online is a great way to find out what's happening in and around the city.

History and heritage

Brussels' rich history stretches back to the Middle Ages and beyond. The remnants of the high rampart walls constructed around the city in 1270 are still visible today. Inside the walls, you can wander through the beautiful market square to see buildings and streets that remain largely unchanged since the 17th century.

The city is internationally known for its connection with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. As well as spectacular architecture and listed buildings, the city houses various collections of modern art within museums and galleries. Don't miss the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Fin-de-Siècle Museum and the Brussels Biennial.

If you want to explore further afield, why not take a 40-minute train journey to the beautifully preserved medieval cities of Ghent and Bruges? With most of their medieval architecture still intact, particular highlights include Ghent's Saint Bavo Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

Food and drink

Belgium is well known for its culinary scene 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 as every building is a restaurant.

Brussels restaurants at night
Street of the butchers

There's so much more to Belgian cuisine than moules-frites (mussels and french fries) and beer. Other popular Belgian dishes include carbonade flamande (a beef stew with beer), waterzooi (chicken stew), filet americain (raw ground beef served in a sandwich) and lapin à la geuze (rabbit in geuze, a Belgian beer).

For those with a sweet tooth, there are waffles (Brussels and Liège), speculoos biscuits and ice cream (cinnamon based) and croustillons (deep-fried balls of sweet dough). And you can't come to Brussels without trying the luxurious chocolate for which the city is famous the world over.

Cost of Living in Brussels

The cost of living in Brussels is still very reasonable by Western European standards, but does vary depending on in which commune you choose to live, the type and availability of accommodation and your lifestyle. Our estimates are based upon a student living  in a decent neighbourhood:

  • Accommodation: You can find a room (sharing bathroom and kitchen) for about €400, all costs included, in either Ixelles or Etterbeek communes, both of which are close to the university. Those wishing to live alone can expect to pay €800-€1000 per month for a one bedroom apartment.

On arrival you need to be prepared to place 2 months rent into a dual signature account (landlord and tenant) as a deposit as well as factor in the cost of temporary accommodation on arrival (hostel/hotel).

  • Food: Approximately €150 per month.
  • Study materials: We would suggest that you budget around €10 per month for photocopying and printing during the teaching terms and no more than €300 for textbooks for the entire year.
  • Mobile phone: This depends on the type of subscription and provider but we would estimate a budget of between €10 and €20 per month.
  • Public Transport: Brussels is a relatively small city and many students choose to walk, but a monthly public transport card costs just under €50 if you are under 25 years old. For more details, please check www.stib-mivb.be/
  • Health Care Insurance: This depends on whether the cover from your home country extends to Europe or you have a European Health Insurance Card. If not a basic health care insurance costs around €10 per month.

There are many internship opportunities in Brussels which students may undertake whilst studying; however they are not especially well-paid. Students are able to work for up to 20 hours per week in Belgium, and there are many opportunities for English speaking positions in the city, within the international organisations and elsewhere.

BSIS Graduate Student Union (BGSU)

The BSIS Graduate Student Union (BGSU) gives our students a voice. As well as organising and coordinating events and initiatives, the BGSU is your representative to the academic and administrative staff of BSIS, to the University of Kent, and to Kent Union in Canterbury.

The size of our school helps to make our student union different from other universities. Every decision is made with a high sense of sharing, solidarity and commitment between students and staff. Our academics are available to answer every question you might have and advise you in the best way possible to suit your career perspectives.

The student union president is elected for the term, assisted by a vice-president. The elected body also consists of a secretary, treasurer, social secretary, sports representative, welfare officer and an academic officer.

BSIS Graduate Student Union members
BGSU members 2017/18

Relocating to Brussels

Moving to another country is an exciting but potentially daunting experience. The majority of our students come from outside Belgium, so we are very familiar with the preparations needed to relocate for postgraduate study. We can offer advice on key practical issues such as visas, accommodation and transport to make the process as smooth as possible.

All non-EU or EEA students require a visa to study in Belgium. As soon as you receive your offer to study here, we send out a step by step guide to help with your visa application. The process can be fairly lengthy, so apply as early as possible.

You also need to secure your own accommodation as we do not have any halls of residence. However, it is fairly simple to secure accommodation in Brussels.

See our Getting Started site to ensure your smooth arrival at BSIS

Gallery

There are lots of things to do when you're not studying or working. Some of the city's highlights are shown here:

grand place

The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the city's most popular tourist destinations.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis is a 61cm tall bronze sculpture designed by Flemish architect and sculptor Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder.

The Atomium

The Atomium was built to host the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It reopened in 2007 following a renovation and is now a museum.

European Parliament Building

The European Parliament buildings were built in 1993. THe complex comprises the Paul-Henri Spaak building, the Altiero Spinelli building, the Willy Brandt building and the József Antall building.

The Parliamentarium

The Parlamentarium is the visitor centre of the European Parliament. It is located on the Esplanade of the European Parliament, which runs the length of Espace Léopold.

Arcade du Cinquantenaire

Arcade du Cinquantenaire is a monumental triple arch in the centre of Cinquantenaire Park. It was originally conceived as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Belgian independence.