Parisian Jérémy Levy, 24, has lived in Brussels for five years. He moved to the Belgian capital to study dentistry.
Looking back, Jeremy does not regret his decision to go abroad and even plans to extend it for a bit. Because ultimately, Belgium isn’t that bad...
Jeremy, why did you come to Brussels?
Jeremy: I came as part of my studies. I had passed the examination in France and managed to rank within the top 500 out of 1200. But they only take the top 40. So I had a choice: I could try again, but after two years of studying science in Europe, you no longer have the right to try again. I had heard about Belgium from a customer of my mother whose son went to study there. At that time, there was no numerus clausus or examination, it was enough to have an average of 12 for the exam. However, I hesitated before deciding to go. To have a look for myself, I went with my father to visit the campus. Once there, I thought to myself, "this is a catastrophe." The campus was not that great, far from it, I wasn’t feeling it at all...
Did you have any preconceptions about Belgians?
Jeremy: When I left, my family, my friends, all made jokes about Belgians, their fries, accent, etc. I'll spare you the details. Personally, it's true that I was afraid of their accent. Now, when I go, people ask me to imitate them. In the end, there isn’t really one, especially in Brussels. It’s more about the type of expressions people use…
Did you settle in well?
Jeremy: At first it was a bit difficult. In my family, I have two sisters and a brother, so it was a bit empty without them and without my friends. Especially in the first student housing that I found with my mother. We were only two boys and five girls; it was a struggle! There was constant fighting. After I discovered the city, I moved closer to the centre and I made friends. In the end, I came to like Brussels!
What do you like about the city?
Jeremy: The relaxed atmosphere! In Paris you can’t go out in a t-shirt and sneakers. Here, we don’t care. If you are out in the evening it’s easy to start a conversation with people. No need for a special introduction before you dare to speak to someone. People are much more open.
What is also amazing in Brussels, is that if you cross two streets you find yourself in a totally different area!
I also appreciate the fact that everything is within reach. At first, I always took my car. Now I sold it, because I don’t use it anymore. I almost go everywhere by foot, sometimes I take public transport. If I leave my house, I have a baker and a butcher just around the corner. If I want a drink with friends or join them somewhere, it's never very far away.
Is there a downside?
Jeremy: The garbage collection system. It’s really not good. In Paris, each building has containers, so you can take out your trash whenever you want. There, you simply put your trash in the container and on the day the city is emptying them, the guardian of the building takes care of moving the containers. So, the city is much cleaner.
Did the proximity to Paris play a role in your decision to come to Belgium and not to another country?
Jeremy: Yes of course. I could go to Spain, or Canada but Brussels is next door. If I forget something at home, I do the round trip and voila. However, it is true that I return less often now because the Thalys is super expensive. I tried carpooling and taking the bus, but I got fed up quickly. And then I also made my group of friends here.
Jeremy: Yes, mostly French. A lot of them come here to study. I have some Belgian friends but not many. What is good in Brussels is that you meet a lot of Italians, Spaniards, Germans, people of all nationalities.
What are your plans for the future?
Jeremy: Nine months from now I will have finished my Master's degree. It is possible to enrol for a sixth year to receive an INAMI number and be officially appointed. Although I do not think that I’ll be staying here later, I think I'll enrol this year. That way, if I return one day, I have the number.
In addition, I have plenty of friends who will stay and I must admit, I am tempted by the prospect of another year in Brussels, without examinations, being paid, and with my friends.
On the other hand, for practicing, I would like to settle in the south of France, in the sun!
Advice for prospective international students?
Jeremy: I encourage them to give it a try, and not be afraid! Living abroad, even if it is not far from home, broadens your horizon. You meet new people, new cultures, you leave your comfort zone. You do not have to be afraid! Personally, even though I was dreading my departure to Belgium, I do not regret coming!
A more practical piece of advice is to look for Facebook groups in the region where they live or their University to find help. This is a good way to ask for help in a less formal way, as you meet people who have been in the same situation themselves.
Thank you Jeremy!
Enjoyed Jeremy’s testimonial?