Four practical advices for Erasmus students in Brussels

Nita Makkonen
Published on Thursday 160121
My reasons to come to Brussels as an exchange student might have been a little bit different than for the others. I am at the end of my studies, ready to graduate right after this semester. I have also already a good job in a newspaper. I kept asking myself why I would want to leave my country.

Anyway, I had always been very interested in learning more about European Union, and I also wanted to improve my English. Those two were explanations good enough to pack my bags and go.

I decided to do my bachelor thesis about EU and political journalism before I came to Brussels. I prepared to work a lot during my stay in Brussels and I was absolutely sure that I would just sit alone in my room and study every day as much as possible. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be interested in partying as much as Erasmus people usually do. I was very worried about being the oldest one in here. I am 25 years old, so I am not retiring or anything yet.  I know it was stupid, but life would be very easy if you could always avoid unwanted feelings.

Well, life surprised me. It might be an Erasmus cliché, but I met pretty amazing people and experienced quite many unforgettable moments with them during this semester. I travelled around and visited Cologne, Amsterdam, Leuven, Bruges and Antwerp with my friends. I started drinking beer and found out that I actually like it, sometimes even too much. I gained extra pounds because of French fries, beer and waffles, but I couldn’t care less.

Yes, I also stressed a bit about school. Some of the courses were not easy at all. Challenge is good, because I would have bored during the weekdays if I didn’t have that much work to do with my studies. No sugar without salt and so on.

Tip 1: Explore things alone

One of my best decisions during this semester was when I decided to go to ESN trip to Amsterdam even though I didn’t know anyone from there in advance. It was a three-day Halloween trip, from Friday to Sunday. My advice for next Erasmus students would be to explore new situations and places also alone. It gives you a chance to meet new people that are exactly your type and are eager to meet you as well.

Tip 2: Use your networking possibilities

Me and my flatmates spent a lot of time together with young people from our country working for the Parliament or other institutions here in Brussels. We went to after work sessions in Place du Luxembourg on Thursdays and talked about politics and generally about staying in Brussels with new people all night long. I guess some people call it networking.

Those nights gave me an idea that I might want to come back to Brussels if I managed to get a job or an internship contract in here. I already know the city and know a bit about European Union and its work, so why not to take the full advantage of this Erasmus experience and apply for a job in here? It wouldn’t be easy, but one should never say no without trying.

Tip 3: Don’t stress too much about your grades

I learned this pretty quickly. Erasmus exchange is a relatively short period and it is definitely too short for stressing about grades and studying all the time. Do your homework, but go to the parties and meet your new friends as well.

 Tip 4: Save money

Unfortunately, Brussels is quite expensive city for a student. I was disappointed that there are not that many useful student discounts in Brussels. For example, it is hard to find proper lunch with student prices. There was a cheap cafeteria at my school, but the lunch options were just crap. Go there once and you’ll learn what I mean.

I was also surprised to learn that the student discount for public transportation card is only for people aged 19 to 24 years. So if you happen to be 25 years or more, you have to pay 50 euros per month for the public transport system.

So beer is cheap, yes, but almost everything else is expensive. Be prepared to pay for food, rent, school books and partying. Start saving money early!