World news story

Have fun and stay safe, British Consulate-General Brussels tells students in Belgium

Many hundreds of British students come to Belgium to study every year, either in an exchange program or independently.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


For the vast majority, this will be an amazing and life-changing experience.

However, every year our Consular staff are approached by students who are having a tough time. Unforeseen events happen all the time, of course, but prior planning can often make a real difference when problems crop up.

Brussels consular staff have used their experience with real-life difficulties and tragedies to put together tips for exchange students:

Our top tips

  • Renting a flat? If you’re asked to pay a deposit by cash money transfer, be wary - does the flat actually exist? We talk to people every year who have been a victim of scams like this one.

  • What about health cover? It’s not free in Belgium. You’ll need your European Health Insurance Card and arrange health/travel insurance before you start your course. Talk to the human resources department of your Belgium University about this. “Don’t wait until it’s to late, as you may have to pay for your medical costs up front” says Pro-Consul Gary Walsh.

  • If things do go wrong, you may need to be medically repatriated back to the UK. Does your health/travel insurance cover this?

  • Be safe when you go out! Back home, your friends would be there to make sure you get home safely –is that the case here?

  • Alcohol. We’re not going to tell you not to drink (that probably won’t work!) But do make sure that you drink sensibly. Never leave your glass unattended and always be alert if someone offers to buy you a drink that you don’t know.

  • Watch out for misunderstandings – does that guy (or girl) understand what you’re saying? Does he (or she) understand that you’ve said no?

  • A big city is a big city! Remain vigilant and use common sense, just as you would at home. Keep a copy of your passport in your wallet and leave your passport in a safe place.

  • Draw up a budget and stick to it. You may have more euros than pounds, but they’ll go just as fast. Belgium has 3 official languages: Dutch, French and German. Why not try to learn one here!

  • If you do run into trouble, your university should have a person who you could talk to about it.

Where can you find more?

If things do go wrong

If you are in need of emergency assistance, call us on +32 (0)2 287 62 11 (24hrs a day, 7 days a week).

Published 13 September 2013