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Living as an Intern in Brussels, Belgium
If EU politics is your thing, there’s no better place to be for your year abroad placement than Brussels. We’ve got the lowdown on everything you need to know for living as an intern in Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the home of beer, waffles, and Tintin – from where to live to where to spend your evenings.
How did you spend your Erasmus+ placement in Brussels?
I worked in Brussels for a year as an intern at the British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium. Brussels is an amazing place to be an intern, as you can build connections and network for future career options, and there is a huge intern culture. I ended up meeting a lot of people from my own university that I had never known before in Brussels, as well as lots of other placement students from British universities.
It is also a hugely international city, as it hosts the EU institutions and countless lobbying firms, public affairs companies, and political agencies, so people come from all over the world to work there. Not only does this mean you get to meet a huge range of people, but it also means English is widely spoken, so you don’t need to know any other languages (although obviously, the chance to learn is another bonus)!
Where did you live?
I lived in a shared house with 8 other young professionals. I managed to find it through one of the interns who had worked at the British Chamber of Commerce the year before, however it was quite a last-minute decision as some other plans I had fell through. I was very rushed so took the first thing I could find, which in hindsight was a bad idea – my landlord ended up taking 4 months to give me my deposit back and wouldn’t reply to my emails or return my calls for months! Lots of my friends found their accommodation through agencies such as IKOAB and Appartager, which was a lot more above board and they didn’t have any problems with dodgy landlords!
I paid €430 a month for a single room, and you’d typically be paying €400 – €600 a month for a decent room in a good area. My house had a bit of a revolving door – I probably had about 20 different housemates in my time there, coming from all over the world. Most of the people I lived with were lovely, but were typically 5 – 6 years older than me with very different interests, which is definitely something to consider when looking for somewhere to live.
The best areas to look for accommodation are probably Etterbeek, Ixelles, the city centre and Saint-Gilles. They’re close enough to the main ‘Brussels Bubble’ area of businesses and office buildings, have decent transport links, and lots of nice social areas.
What was daily life like?
Brussels is quite a chilled out place to live, but there is still lots to do. There are loads of nice parks in the city, some great museums and tourist attractions, and all of the EU institutions to visit. There’s a huge café culture, and you’ll find nice bars, cafes and restaurants with outdoor tables pretty much everywhere you go.
Belgium is obviously known for its beer, chips and waffles, and they do live up to the hype. The best waffles come from the vans you see dotted around the city, the best chips come from Maison Antoine, and the best beer is literally everywhere and anywhere.
Brussels is only a train ride from cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges in the north, and Dinant and Namur in the south. There are some nice beaches a few hours away, and you’re only ever a few hours from Germany, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg.
How was the Brussels nightlife?
As an intern in Brussels, you’re going to end up at the Place du Luxembourg (aka Plux if you want to sound like a local) every Thursday – it’s just a fact. Place du Luxembourg is the square in front of the European Parliament, lined with bars and filled with every intern in Brussels on a Thursday night. In the summer months, people sit on the green and drink their cans, and in the winter everyone crowds into the bars for happy hour deals. It’s a great place to socialise and meet new people, and is just a lot of fun. It’s definitely one of my favourite memories from my time there.
There are big clubs in the city but we mostly stuck to bars, which play music and clear space for dancing at the weekend. You’ve got to learn to love beer in Brussels, unless you want to pay €14 for a vodka lemonade!
There were lots of music and beer festivals during my year there, and plenty of ‘networking’ events loaded with free booze. The dream!