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If you’re searching for a vibrant mix of European culture, look no further than Belgium. As the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, it’s a hub of international activity. Join students from around the world to explore a country with three official languages and historic ties to French, Dutch, and German cultures. By living with a host family in the southern half of the country and attending a local high school, you can get an inside look at the customs, the language, and the people of Belgium. This is your chance to redefine the meaning of international education and spend a year or semester immersed in the Belgian way of life.

Things to know about Belgium

According to international polls, Belgium is one of the most satisfied countries in the world. This satisfaction is perhaps due to the fact that Belgians tend to be very involved in their communities and government. Even so, they can be reserved around new people, and you may have to take the first step in getting to know someone. But once you do, plan to find yourself surrounded by a warm and friendly community.

What's included in your experience

  • 70 Years Experience

Eligibility

Graduates Eligible? Yes, high school graduates are eligible to participate.
Minimum GPA 2.5
Age Range
16yrs, 0 months
to
18yrs, 8 months at start of program
Language Skills Preferred, but not required
COVID-19 Vaccine Not 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 Belgium will begin when you land, where you’ll be met by staff and volunteers …and meet your fellow AFSers from around the world! You’ll be taken to a three-day arrival orientation where you’ll have a crash course on Belgian culture and get to know members of AFS Belgium (French).

Soon you’ll be ready to travel to your community. Along the way look out for dense forests and intricate medieval architecture (there are more castles per square mile in Belgium than anywhere else in the world). As you travel further into your picturesque new home, you’ll likely see people gathering together on cobblestone streets to devour waffles or munch on crispy fries.

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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 particularly 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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Your Belgian High School

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. You may find that your Belgian peers are more focused and dedicated to 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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Settling into daily life

Teenage life in Belgium

While living in Belgium, you can experience 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.

During your year abroad, you’ll get a chance to give back to your community by becoming involved in a local non-governmental organization (NGO) or social organization.

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.

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
  • International secondary medical travel coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people

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.

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.
After you learn French in Belgium and return home, 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.