Universities in Europe are increasingly receiving students from latin america. More than ever, there are exchange and scholarships programs such as Erasmus+ that make it easier for undergraduates from the Americas and the Caribbean to travel and study in the “old continent”. But many of us thrive to select the ideal country and city for a perfect travel and learning experience.
Four months ago, I received from my university the opportunity to apply to a scholarship to study Communications at the Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales (IHECS) in Brussels, Belgium. Even though at the beginning I didn’t know much about this country, now I can say that it was the best decision for me and the other four Peruvians that traveled with me in this adventure. In the next paragraphs I’ll tell you why I think Belgium and Brussels are my favorite places to start an international adventure in Europe.
At the heart of Europe
When you think on studying in Europe it is impossible to separate it from the idea of ¡¡Travelling!! Yes, you have the opportunity to visit many cities in different countries, see monuments and places that were only part of your memories from postcards or movies. But this continent is big and going from one place to another might take its time.
That’s why living in Brussels makes things a lot easier. Since it is at the heart of Europe, it allows you to reach many famous cities within hours. You can be in Paris, Amsterdam or Luxembourg in less than 3 hours by train. Besides, London, Madrid and Berlin are less than a couple of hours away by plane. This also means you can save a lot in transportation!
It is very popular for university students in Latin America to prefer Spain as main destination for studying because we share almost the same language and have cultural similarities, but in my experience, Brussels feels like home away from home.
I can remember the first day of classes, when we were not aware of how to use the subway (tram). At the station, a very kind lady talked to us in perfect spanish and helped us to get the tickets. A few hours later, the clerk of the restaurant we were going to dinner took our order in spanish and was also very gentle. In fact, when you get in the tram of Brussels you can hear different languages from all over the world.
Since this city is the capital of the European Union and hosts its main institutions, people from all over the continent and world comes to work, creating an international environment in which cultural differences are welcome.
European Union’s Capital
Something I wasn’t really aware of is the fact that most of the main decisions for the European Union are taken from Belgium because its main institutions are in that country. The European Parliament as well as the European Commission have their main offices in the European district in Brussels. This means a lot if you are interested in topics such as politics, international relations, public relations and international organizations. Many agencies, NGOs, political parties and public relations companies have offices next to this zone; so you can learn, get contacts and live the European policy from first hand.
A month has passed since we arrived in Belgium, the girls (my four peruvians crazy friends) travelled to the Netherlands last weekend, while I’ve been in Luxembourg. Both experiences were amazing and took us only one day for the whole trip. Our experience in the city is diverse, there are so many cultures and so many people from the whole planet in the tram and in our daily classes at IHECS that we feel challenged to explore and embrace all the different languages, food and cultures, without losing our Peruvian soul.
If you want more information about what to do in Brussels, check our cultural calendar
Author: Christian Ramirez (Peru) – International student January to June 2019