Frequently Asked Questions

Where will I live while at Vesalius College?

Study Abroad students have 2 housing options available to them:

How long can I study at Vesalius College?

Most students elect to study abroad for one semester or one year. Vesalius College also offers a 7-week Summer Programme every year. Please keep in mind that you will remain enrolled in your home university during your semester or year’s stay at Vesalius College.

Can I study a foreign language at Vesalius College?

Of course! Vesalius College offers courses in French and Dutch. As course level assignments are different for language courses in different countries, Vesalius College requires that any student wishing to register for a French or Dutch course that is not at the elementary level (no prior knowledge of the language) must take a written and oral language placement test during orientation week (the week preceding the first week of classes). Students will be placed in an appropriate level language class based on the results of their placement tests.

Do I have to speak a foreign language to study at Vesalius College?

No; the language of instruction for all courses offered by Vesalius College (except for the French Literature course) is English. Furthermore, although both French and Dutch are spoken in Brussels, English is spoken by the majority of residents and is the de facto language used by most professional organisations. Studying in Brussels is, however, a prime opportunity for students to study French or Dutch and to become immersed in the language and Belgian culture. We feel that studying a foreign language while abroad is a major factor contributing to the overall quality of a student’s study abroad experience.

Am I academically eligible to study at Vesalius College?

As a general rule, Vesalius College requires incoming Study Abroad students to be in their Junior or Senior year if in a 4-year programme, or in the second semester of their second year or in the first semester of their third year if in a 3-year programme. Students must have a good academic standing and a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 or higher. Students whose native language is not English, who are not currently attending a university where English is the language of instruction or who did not graduate from an English-taught secondary school must provide proof of proficiency in the English language. These requirements may vary with individual partnership agreements. Please consult with the Study Abroad Advisor at your home university for partner-specific requirements.

Students wishing to participate in the Vesalius Internship Programme must have finished at least half of the academic credits towards graduation.

Will my Vesalius classes transfer back to my home university?

That depends on your school. As a general rule, study abroad and exchange partners recognise the academic credentials of the others’ programmes and should give you full credit. However, credit may not be awarded for courses that are similar to the courses you have already taken or whose level is perceived to be lower than the level of courses you are currently taking at your home university. This is why it is extremely important for you to contact your Academic Advisor in plenty of time before the pre-registration deadline to ensure that you will receive maximum home credit for your Study Abroad semester. In addition, Vesalius College offers Study Abroad students the opportunity to apply for a Brussels internship. This is a graded, for-credit course. Some partner universities are not accustomed to granting academic credit for internships. If this is the case with your school, please contact the Study Abroad Department so that we may communicate with your advisor and fully explain our method and format for academic evaluation of, and credit allocation for, the internship course.

What computer facilities and Internet access are available at Vesalius College?

Vesalius College and its parent school, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – VUB (across the street) both provide wireless Internet access to Vesalius students across both campuses. Vesalius College has a computer lab with brand new equipment. Vesalius students also have access to a number of large computer labs on the VUB campus, including one lab dedicated to Macintosh computers. Please keep in mind that in most computer rooms on the main VUB campus, keyboards are designed for French-language users and are, thus, arranged slightly differently from English-language keyboards. This can take a bit of getting used to, and it might take you a few weeks to learn to type as quickly as you do on your keyboard at home. Apart from the computer room at Vesalius College, there are 4 computer rooms on the VUB campus open to Vesalius students with a US keyboard layout.

If you own a laptop, it is worth considering bringing it along for your stay in Brussels. Free wireless Internet access is available throughout the Vesalius College lecture building and on the main VUB campus, including in the student restaurant and the other eating and drinking facilities on campus.

Are scholarships available for studying at Vesalius College?

Vesalius College does not offer scholarships to Study Abroad students. However there are some international and national scholarships available through certain government, non-government and university agencies that may be applicable. Some of these may be specific to certain majors, or countries, or study abroad programmes; others are open to a wide range of study abroad participants. Some are posted on the websites of the individual study abroad programmes; others are special scholarship agreements between Vesalius College and the partner institution. Please check with the study abroad department of your home institution for more information.

Does Vesalius College offer a Summer Programme that is open to international students?

Yes! Each year, Vesalius College offers a 7-week Summer Programme that is open to Vesalius students, as well as to Study Abroad students. We generally offer a selection of courses at the 100, 200 and 300-level in each of our 3 major disciplines (Business, Communications and International Affairs), as well as a statistics and an art course. Week-long intensive seminars may also be available depending on the year. Please note that course offerings change slightly from year to year. Application rules and regulations also differ for the Summer Programme from those of the Fall and Spring programmes. For information on the Summer Programme and application procedures, click on the following link: Vesalius College Summer Programme for more information. Information for upcoming Summer Programme is generally available by February of each calendar year.

Regarding visas for the summer term, it is usually sufficient to obtain a tourist visa for your summer stay in Brussels. However, please contact the Belgian embassy or consulate in your home country for details.

Does financial aid apply?

Yes, in some cases. Some partner institutions allow financial aid students to apply their financial aid to Study Abroad semesters. Please consult with your school’s financial aid department for details. Vesalius College does not offer financial aid to visiting Study Abroad or exchange students.

Is it expensive to study abroad?

That depends. Studying abroad can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you make it. If you are a SAWA student (your school has a partnership agreement with Vesalius), tuition and fees will depend on your home institution. If you are a SANA student (your school does not have a partnership agreement with Vesalius), please refer to the following link for information on Tuition and Fees. Aside from tuition and fees, probably the single biggest factor that will affect your costs is how much independent travel you do on weekends and breaks.

 

When should I arrive in Brussels?

All Study Abroad students are required to attend orientation week. Orientation week for the fall and spring terms is comprised of the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the week preceding the first week of classes. Therefore, at the very latest, you should arrive on the Tuesday of the week before classes begin. As most Study Abroad students are coming from other time zones, we recommend that you arrive a few days before the Tuesday of orientation week in order to allow yourself to recover from jet lag before the start of orientation. Orientation includes important lectures, placement tests and registration sessions, for which you will be required to be mentally alert!

For the summer term, orientation takes place on the morning of the first day of classes (usually a Monday or a Tuesday), so we recommend you arrive during the weekend preceding the first day of the term.

For semester-specific programme dates, please refer to the current academic calendar for the fall and spring semesters and for the summer term by clicking here.

If you have committed to participating in the host family program, then you must arrive on the Sunday that precedes the first day of orientation, regardless of the term.

Once in Belgium, can I travel to other European countries?

Of course! In fact, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of long weekends and breaks (unless you have a big paper due!) to see as much of Europe as possible. However, upon your arrival in Brussels, you must immediately register with the Commune at which you are residing (or at least have started the registration procedure and obtained documentation proving your registration request) prior to initiating your travels. This will allow you to travel freely within the European Union Schengen space.

Until you have your proof of Commune registration in hand (or at least proof of having initiated the registration process and paid the registration fees), it is not recommended that you travel to countries that are not Schengen members (i.e., the United Kingdom) as you could encounter strict border controls that could prevent your entry into or exit from that country. The following countries are Schengen members that have implemented the terms of the agreement: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland (not a European Union Member State), Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein (not a European Union Member State), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway (not a European Union Member State), Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Swizerland(not a European Union Member State). In other words, you should not travel to the UK or other non-Schengen countries without the finalised document in hand. In some cases, Communal administrative procedures are so slow that you may not even receive this document prior to the end of your Study Abroad semester. If this is the case, you may still travel within the Schengen region as long as you have proof of initiation of your Communal registration request.

When traveling by air between Schengen countries, identification (usually passport or national ID card) must be shown at check-in. This is not a Schengen rule, but an air security rule, which applies equally to internal flights within Schengen countries. You may be able to travel to non-Schengen countries by applying for a tourist visa prior to travel. Please inquire about visa procedures and processing times long in advance of your desired travel dates.

For more information on countries that have implemented the terms of the Schengen Agreement, click on the following link: Schengen Agreement.

Does Vesalius require study abroad students to carry their own insurance plans?

Yes, In order ensure optimal student safety when in Brussels, Vesalius College requires that students provide proof of the following at the time of application:

  •  International Health Insurance
  • International Personal Liability Insurance (should include coverage for bedbugs)

How am I supposed to pack for an entire semester?

It can be very challenging to pack your suitcase when trying to prepare for a semester or a year abroad.  You’ll need to take into account varying weather conditions and also be sure not to exceed your maximum baggage allowance on the plane.  This is why most students opt to have extra clothes and other personal items shipped to them from home.  The problem that may be encountered, though, is that many students find themselves having to pay hefty customs taxes (“douane”) in order to claim their package at the post office.  This is because gifts and commercial goods sent to Belgium from abroad are subject the Belgian customs tax.

HOW CAN YOU TRY AND AVOID PAYING THIS TAX?

Shipment Via Regular Mail:

  1. If your package had a declared value of goods shipped on the mailing label (i.e. if your parents estimated the value of the shipment to wrote it on the mailing ticket) then you can be sure that a tax will be imposed based on the declared value.  As such, it is best to ask the sender to write “personal effects” on the sending label but NOT to declare a value for the goods shipped. One problem, though, is that if there is no value declared by the sender, customs officials will often open the package, give an estimate of the value of the goods and then declare a tax due based on their evaluation.
  2. If the package is to be considered “excess baggage” then this can be shipped tax free.  However, the goods must be shipped in a suitcase.  The same instructions apply, however, when filling out the shipping label.  The sender should indicate that the contents are “personal effects” and should NOT declare a value for the goods shipped.
  3. Specific questions about customs taxes and standard shipping can be addressed directly with B-Post.  The phone number is +32 (0)22 012345.  You should choose the option to continue in Dutch (“en Néerlandais” – option 1) and then, when you get someone on the line, ask to speak to someone in English.

Alternative Shipping Methods (from the US):

  1. US Postal Priority Mail International: With this type of shipment, the package is tracked – this is a very rapid mode of expedition and also one of the safest.  However, you have a 50% chance of facing customs charges.
  2. US Postal Express Mail International: This is the most secure, controlled and rapid mode of expedition.  However, with this type of expedition, you are almost certain to encounter customs charges.
  3. Private Shipping Companies ( UPS, DHL…): Again – very rapid and secured expedition, but sure to result in your having to pay customs charges.

In light of this information, it would seem that your best bet for avoiding customs taxes would be to ship your goods via standard delivery methods, claiming “personal effects.”  Your decision, however, might depend on the value of what you want to ship and the level of security you require.

What if I am a special needs student – can Vesalius College accommodate my needs?

Vesalius College offers a minimal service for students with special needs such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for which students are required to provide medical documents relating to their disability. Vesalius College does not currently have the facilities to operate its own internal disability testing service, nor does it currently have any facilities for physically handicapped students, such as ramps, handrails or disabled toilets. If you are a student with special needs of any kind, please inform us of your needs prior to submitting your Study Abroad application form, so that we may ensure that your needs will be adequately met in order to allow you to take full advantage of your Study Abroad experience. Please download our Disability Notification Form. Specific questions about our disability services can be addressed to Louise Bond at lbond@vub.ac.be.

Are there are special safety concerns I should be aware of?

You should always use your best judgment when in a foreign country, just as you would at home. The following basic safety guidelines should be observed:

  • Be aware of local laws and act in a responsible manner.
  • Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time.
  • When you travel, use a security pouch to carry your passport, credit cards and travellers’ cheques.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and know your way around.
  • Do not handle or display large amounts of money openly.
  • Be inconspicuous in dress and demeanour; try to blend in.
  • Try speaking the local language, even with other Study Abroad students.
  • Avoid consuming large amounts of alcohol that will impair your judgment.
  • Never use, handle or distribute controlled or illegal substances; the punishments in some countries can be very severe.
  • Do not hitchhike. We also recommend that students do NOT drive while abroad.
  • Use the same precautions for HIV/AIDS/STDs and unwanted pregnancy as you would at home. Be aware that the quality of some contraceptives in some counties is unreliable. Act responsibly!
  • Always try to travel in small groups.
  • Be careful how late you come home at night.
  • Know where to find the nearest embassy/consulate of your country of origin.
  • Be wary of people who seem overly friendly or interested in you.
  • Observe local traffic laws – in some countries they drive on the left side of the road.

I am the parent of a student who is planning to study abroad. Are there publications available that could help me better prepare myself and my son/daughter for the study abroad experience?

Yes! The Association of International Educators (NAFSA) produces an excellent booklet entitled ‘What Parents Need to Know! Before, During, and After Education Abroad’. This booklet is written for parents to help their son or daughter make the most of their education abroad experience – one of the best ways they can develop independence, maturity and self-confidence, and become a globally competent citizen. Among the topics it covers are: finding a programme that fits, preparing for departure, communication planning, culture shock, returning home, and academic and career development.

The booklet can be ordered by phone +1-866-538-1927 or from their website.