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With its culture renowned for tolerance and diplomacy, Belgium is an ideal place to begin your international education. Spend a year of high school in Belgium wandering the cobblestone streets and you’ll understand why this country has produced some of the finest artists and thinkers of Europe. As you go about your daily life, you’re likely to hear a lot of Flemish (a regional variation of Dutch), but you may also come across natives speaking French, German, and English. This is your chance to experience first-hand the cultural melting pot of Belgium by living with a Flemish host family and attending a local high school.

Things to know

Belgium is considered to be one of the most satisfied countries in the world, which may be because so many people are involved in their communities and government. Even so, Belgians are often reserved around new people, and you might have to take the first step in getting to know someone. But once you do, you can expect to be surrounded by a warm and friendly community. In the culturally unique Flanders region, people usually prefer to use Flemish, but many are also able to speak French.

Eligibility

Graduates Eligible? Yes, high school graduates are eligible to participate.
Minimum GPA 2.5
Age Range
15yrs, 8 months
to
18yrs, 8 months at start of program
Language Skills Preferred, but not required
COVID-19 Vaccine Required

Your journey to Belgium

In the months before your departure, AFSers have the opportunity to participate in various preparatory activities, including an online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to learn how to develop essential global skills, intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact, maximizing the outcomes of the AFS learning experience.

AFS-USA will coordinate and share your international travel with you. You will need to coordinate your own travel to the point of international departure. From there, your journey in [COUNTRY] will begin when you land, where you’ll be met by staff and volunteers …and meet your fellow AFSers from around the world! Shortly after arrival, you will attend an arrival orientation and get a crash course on local culture, living with a host family, safety, and support structures.

Soon you’ll be ready to travel to your community. Along the way you’re bound to see the fairy-tale peaks of castles and walled medieval cities. You also might spot the North Sea with its smooth sandy beaches. As you get closer to your new home, you’ll likely pass long lines of people waiting to buy crispy fries or waffles from store windows and carts in the street.

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Meeting your Belgian Host Family

AFSers have lived in communities all throughout Belgium. You’ll most likely be in a rural or suburban town, but there’s a chance you could end up in a city. Belgium is a small country (about the size of the state of Maryland) so no matter where you are you’ll always be just a train ride away from Brussels, the coast, or neighboring countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg).

Like anywhere in the world, all families in Belgium are different. But Belgians are known to be flexible, open-minded, and accepting of other cultures. You’ll most likely find your host family to be close-knit with one or two children.

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Settling into daily life

Your high school in Belgium

Belgium is known to be a well-educated country with a challenging school system. You’ll likely be enrolled in a general (academic) secondary school, but you might also attend a vocational high school. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday classes generally run from around 8 am to 4 or 5 pm. Most schools have Wednesday afternoons off, with classes ending around noon. High schools in Belgium have high academic standards and you may find that your peers are more focused and dedicated to their studies than many in the US. But don’t worry – you’ll also have time to unwind after school with extracurricular activities offered through community or youth organizations.

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Teenage life

While living in Belgium, you can get involved in the regular fairs and carnivals that parade through both small towns and big cities. You’ll find festivals celebrating anything from electronic music to historic witch trials! Belgium is also the home of popular characters like Tin-Tin and the Smurfs, and the people have a long-standing appreciation for comic strips (in French, bandes dessinées). Your Belgian friends will probably enjoy sports, especially soccer and cycling. Teenagers also participate in activities like tennis, bowling, swimming, ice-skating, and canoeing.

Food you’ll encounter

Belgium is famous for waffles (wafelen) and fries (pomme-frîtes) that you can buy from vendors on the street. Belgians claim to have invented French fries, and serve them in paper cones with mayonnaise instead of ketchup. Their chocolate is legendary, with brands like Godiva and Leonidas offering delicious pralines. You’ll also find lots of mussels and carbonade flamande (beef stew) along with potatoes and bread. Belgians take their time to eat, so even with all these options you’ll have the chance to savor each new flavor.

What's Included

  • 70+ years of experience delivering high-quality programs through a worldwide network of 50,000 dedicated volunteers
  • Accommodations with a vetted host family
  • Round-trip international airfare for the designated program dates
  • School enrollment fees
  • Worldwide, 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Access to an in-country support team and network, as well as our Participant Support Department based here in the U.S.
  • Orientations and intercultural education before and during your program
  • Secondary medical coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people

Visa Info

Do I need a visa/residence permit for Belgium? YES. Visa
How do I apply for the visa? (By mail, In-person, In host country) In-person
Visa/Residence Permit Process Difficulty Level (Easy, Average, Complex) Complex
Estimated Visa/Residence Permit Expenses
($ – $$$)
$$$
Frequently Asked Visa Questions Visit our general visa FAQ page for more information.
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home from high school in Belgium, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Belgium.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.

Scholarships at AFS-USA

AFS-USA scholarships are made possible by the generosity of numerous donors who all have a deep connection with AFS and value intercultural exchanges as necessary for the promotion of peace and justice in the world. Upon submission, applications will be reviewed and matched with the most applicable scholarship, if available. All scholarships are partial, and scholarship award amounts will be determined based on program length. For additional funding resources, check out our Fundraising page. You can view all available national and local scholarships on our Scholarships page.