2021 Year Abroad: How Brussels found me

While Covid tests our patience and while a post Brexit world does not make it easier to study or work in Europe, we still cannot stop the positive energy from flowing. Here is June Dawson, reporting from Brussels.

student in Brussels' main square with Belgian flag in the background
Dutch Year Abroad: Studying in the Netherlands or Flanders

Hi! I’m June and I’m a third year BAML student (Dutch, Spanish, German) currently living in Brussels whilst I complete an Erasmus semester at KU Leuven.

"I must admit, the Belgian capital was not my first choice for my year abroad. Or my second, third, fourth or even fifth for that matter. However, when Covid-19 closed almost every door, Brussels found me. And I am so grateful every day that it did!

KU Leuven is an incredible university. The classes are very small and engaging. Unfortunately, non-native Dutch speakers are not allowed to take classes taught entirely in Dutch aside from the Dutch language classes. Luckily, the university also matched me with a Flemish ‘buddy’ who is more than eager to praat Nederlands met mij.  

the outside of a student home in Brussels. A 19th c, building with iron works

Although I study at KU Leuven, part of their campus is based in the centre of Brussels. Leuven is a famous student city around 30 minutes by train outside of Brussels, in Flanders, which means it is fully Dutch speaking. Brussels, however, is not. The francophone nature of Brussels is not something I considered before living here, however, I have not particularly struggled too much to use Dutch. Every sign, label and metro line exists bi-, or sometimes even tri-lingually. This is very confusing when Google maps tells you to exit via Koningstraat and all you can see is a sign for Rue Royale, but it is part of the charm.

I am so happy to be in Brussels and so glad everything fell out of place to send me here: I couldn’t imagine spending my year abroad in a different location.

June Dawson

Reporting on her Third Year Abroad in Brussels

The university also uses Dutch as a working language in my classes (e.g. to explain Spanish grammar) and Brussels residents can receive a wealth of free Dutch tuition, which has been made covid proof. On Thursday mornings I have an hour of group conversation with a Dutch-speaking volunteer!

View over Brussels near central station

The odd unfriendly cashier aside, I am absolutely in love with Brussels and I really suggest a visit/a year abroad semester to everyone who studies Dutch. It’s the perfect size- large but walkable and it’s rich with culture, art, history and politics (alongside frietjes and wafels, natuurlijk). I really love going to art galleries with my housemates as I can flex my first year Dutch Studies knowledge – they were very impressed with my explanation of Breughel’s painting The fall of Icarus in the Old Masters Museum today! And naturally, being the home of the EU, it’s impossible not to feel European.

I am so happy to be in Brussels and so glad everything fell out of place to send me here: I couldn’t imagine spending my year abroad in a different location. Even though it was an incredibly difficult struggle to get here with Brexit and Covid, I persevered, and I can truly say it was worth the hassle. Tot gauw!"

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