The Study Abroad Experience: Brussels, Belgium

When I was a little kid, my mom always told me to get out of my home state and go see the world. Having me when she was young prevented her from exploring the world and experiencing different cultures and she wanted to make sure that I would take advantage of every opportunity that came my way.

I am excited to now be able to write and say that I am studying in Brussels, Belgium for the semester at Vesalius College. Vesalius is a hybrid of American Belgian education tactics, stemming from an agreement between Boston University and the Dutch Free University of Brussels that started the College nearly 40 years ago.

During my stay, I am living with a host family. My host family is Moroccan and Muslim; they mainly speak French, but can speak enough English for me, a non-French speaker, to survive. The family has two children, a girl, 14, and a boy, 12. The girl is learning English, so it’s been fun to try to have conversations with her about her life as a Belgian teenager. The boy knows some English, but not enough to have a full conversation. I’m working on my French though, so there is still some hope for us to be friends!

I’ve only been here about two and a half weeks so far, so I haven’t been able to travel all over Europe quite yet, but I have been able to see quite a bit of Belgium. In my first week in Belgium, I visited the Grand Place in Brussels, Antwerp and some of the Belgian countryside. (This included some castles!)

This coming weekend some friends and I are going to Ghent to see the Lighting Festival, which is apparently an annual event that attracts people from all over. In the near future, I plan to make it to Germany and eventually to the rest of Europe.

Vesalius College is a very international school, so there are full-time students from all around the world and quite a few study abroad students who are only here for a semester or year. This blend of students creates an interesting atmosphere in classes because we’re able to get perspectives from pretty much everywhere in every discussion we have.

For example, I have a Global History class in which we discussed the ethical stance regarding the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan during World War II.

The class ended up having a heated debate about the issue, since there were a couple of American students as well as various European students and a couple of Japanese students who all had very different perspectives on the issue based on their country’s involvement with the bombing.

Being abroad has been great thus far, and I expect it to get even better, but it wasn’t easy to get to this point. Applying for study abroad through various applications and then having to get a student visa was, honestly, a mess for me.

If you’re considering studying abroad, I highly recommend that you plan early and that you take full advantage of every resource offered to you at Elizabethtown College to make sure your experience is as smooth as possible.

If you have more questions about studying abroad in general, contact Study Abroad Advisor, Megan Bell at or If you want to know more about my specific experience (or need advice on how to make it easier for yourself) feel free to email me at .

Please note: Student Aileen Ida ‘19 originally wrote this article for The Etownian’s weekly ‘Study Abroad Experience’ article. It was originally published on February 1, 2018. The Etownian is Elizabethtown College’s student newspaper.

About the Author – Aileen Ida ‘19

Aileen is a communications major and international studies minor, who studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium for the spring 2018 semester. On campus, Aileen serves as The Etownian’s Editor-in-Chief.

On April 4, 2018, Aileen shared the picture accompanying this blog as a part of the a senior communication student’s project ‘Humans of E-town: Study Abroad Edition.’ In addition to the picture, she shared the following story:

“When I first looked in to studying abroad, I never imagined studying in Brussels—I didn’t even want to study in Europe. In being here though, I have had the most amazing experiences. I’ve been able to travel around Europe. In these travels, I’ve been able to see the literary inspirations for Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and the Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve also met two of my brothers who live in Germany—my family is kind of complex—which has probably been one of the best experiences of my life. Overall, even though I never imagined studying in Brussels, I’m extremely glad that I am here now.” – Aileen Ida ’19

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