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Why You Should Choose Brussels for Your Erasmus Exchange

Phoebe

Jan 18 • 3 minute read

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is a lively, colorful city, rich in culture and international diversity. It’s well-known for its chocolate, as well as for being the homeland of The Smurfs (Schtroumpfs), those lovable blue cartoon characters. Brussels is also the esteemed capital of the European Union.

Brussels possesses the unique talent of feeling like a smaller locale, but in the next breath, illustrating just how cosmopolitan it truly is. It is full of places to go, things to eat and wonderful people to turn into new friends.

Packed with international young people from a large number of different nationalities, an incoming student who is studying abroad is sure to feel at ease in no time in this gathering place for expats from all over the world. So, it’s easy to see why Brussels is an ideal location for your Erasmus exchange, but let’s explore even more of what this promising city has to offer!

What to eat

Of course, Brussels is known across the globe for their delicious chocolate, second only to perhaps the nearly infamous Swiss sweets. However, another delicious confection known as Spéculoos is an additional popular source of sugar. These are traditional cinnamon biscuits, which originated to mark the start of St Nicholas' feast on December 6th but are now an indulgence for any time of the year.

Where to drink

When you’re studying in Brussels, you will most definitely experience a momentous occasion or two that are best celebrated with a few drinks with your classmates, which could turn into a weekly tradition. So, it’s best to know about some of the best bars and pubs in the area to relax from the week’s lectures and exams, while getting to know your new friends.

The Hard Rock Cafe, located on the Grand Place, is also another great place to grab a few drinks, as well as a tasty burger. They are also known for their steaming hot cups of coffee.

Just for students

Students in Brussels usually participate in what might appear to be a rather unusual hazing ritual of sorts, referred to as activités de baptême or bleusailles. During this ritual, students will go about wearing a cape in the color of their faculty, and during this time, they must complete any “tasks” that the students with higher seniority request of them. This could include chugging a liter of beer, or taking some other sort of “dare.”

In the end, those who participate are rewarded with a cap called a penne, often accompanying a shaved head for the males or a dye job of green or blue for the females. This is why it’s not a good idea to wear your best clothing to these parties. Even though you might be tempted to “dress to impress,” your clothes will surely not be wearable again, so opt for something you won’t miss from your closet.

Additionally, the student drinking parties are often called “TD,” which is short for thé dansant (dancing tea party), and you can expect a variety of drinking games to go along with the revelry. One such custom is buying the 1€ beer at the bar. It’s traditional to drink most of the glass, and then throw the rest of the drink in the air, getting everyone around you wet. It’s a great time to spend the night dancing until dawn, plus it’s the absolute best way to acclimate to student life in Brussels.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to have a meal before you turn in for the night to help with that morning hangover. So, you’ll be glad to know that, whatever time the fun ends, there’s always a Kebab restaurant open to make sure you don’t go to sleep on an empty stomach.

Important do’s and don’ts

Do:

  • Drink as many Belgian beers as you possibly can!
  • Never skip a student party.
  • Join student organizations and meet new people.
  • Listen to the singer, Stormae, who is quite popular in Brussels, even filming a video in the city with a hidden camera.
  • Visit the Magritte Museum, dedicated to the talented Belgian painter.

Don't

  • Give a second thought to wearing your best clothes to a TD, a wild university party.
  • Don’t buy your chocolates in touristy areas, as that you’ll pay quite a bit more than at other sweet shops. Instead, try some of the stores near Chaussée d'Ixelles.
  • A clear day can turn into a rainy one in a matter of moments, so don’t leave home without always having an umbrella close by.
  • Don’t ever drive while or after drinking.
  • Don’t forget to shop at the wonderfully diverse food stores, offering organic, vegan, Italian, Moroccan and African foods, just to name a few.

Lastly, when beginning to search for accommodation in Brussels, remember that it is best to start looking at least three months before your intended relocation. With Brussels being a popular European capital, expect housing to rent out quickly! Make sure you move fast to secure the best room for you.

Enjoy your Erasmus exchange, and welcome to Brussels!

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