For history fanatics and off-the-beaten-path travelers, Belgium is the place to intern. This low-lying country on the North Sea coast sits comfortably at the crossroads of Western Europe. Belgium is the center of European politics, and political science and business majors alike will love the opportunities the bustling city of Brussels has to offer. Travelers come for the famous beer, chocolate, and fries, but it is the medieval towns and remnants of classic European life and world history that will keep you entertained during your stay. Have a seat, grab a Belgian waffle (with strawberry ice cream on top), and discover the cozy country of Belgium!
- Main Industries: engineering, metal production, space technology, biotechnology, culinary production (specifically beer and chocolate), business technology, iron and steel, agriculture
- Popular Destinations: The capital city, Brussels, is the administrative center of the European Union. This city also has a central square, the Grand Place, with many cafes, museums, chocolate shops, and the town hall. You can even visit the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts for its stunning collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures relevant to the history of Belgium. If you're interning over the summer, check out Ghent! This city is a charming university town with some of the largest cultural outdoors festivals in Europe. Go to the "Gentse Feesten" in July for the music, street entertainment, and food!
- Cost of Living: Sleeping in a hostel will cost around $17-35 per night, and private rooms are around $53 per night for a double room. Budget hotels start at $40 per night. City metro tickets are around $2.50 per ride, and will easily take you around the small country of Belgium.
- Visa: US citizens that have a valid US passport do not need a visa for airport transit, tourist, or business trips for stays up to 90 days within a six month period. Other travelers can apply for a Schengen visa, which allows them to enter Belgium for up to 90 days.
- Fun Fact: Calling all princes and princesses - Belgium has the most castles per square mile in the world!
- Civil Engineering: Some of the world's leading civil engineering firms are based in Belgium. Interning here will give experience in designing and implementing programs such as soil remediation, construction, and infrastructure.
- Beer Industry: Whether you're interested in working in a brewery or for beer associations, Belgium is the place to go! This country counts over 120 breweries and every major city has its own brand and family breweries. Some of the largest "beer groups" in the world are based in Belgium. Internships assist with daily activities in a brewery or help to promote various brands of beer, so touch up on your marketing skills!
- Agriculture: Whether you simply like nature or aren't afraid to get your hands dirty, you will find great opportunities working in Belgium. Internships in agriculture range from working at a Belgian eco-farm to defending the interests of the agriculture industry at an NGO or lobby group.
- History/Genealogy: Belgium's rich history makes it one of the few places in the world where anyone can trace his or her family back to the early 1600s. Interns can help manage historical artifacts and archives or work under a professor and perform research. Motivated interns can even pick up on some knowledge of Latin, French, or Dutch.
When and Where to Look for an Internship:
Internships are rather rare in Belgium, and it is most likely that if you do find placement, it will not be paid. Exceptions are placements within the European commission. The best time of year to apply for internships is during the summer, as many Belgians want to take summers off to spend time with their kids who are on school holidays! The three official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French, and German. Language requirements will change depending on the location you're searching to intern in, but in many roles English alone is sufficient.
Cost of Living in Belgium
- Cost of living in Belgium can be quite high unless you find housing in more rural locations and eat like the locals do! A meal for two at an expensive restaurant averages 60 pounds, but eating at a familiar local's favorite restaurant will only cost an average of 13 pounds.
- Rent in an apartment in the heart of a big city ranges from 670-1150 pounds per month (depending on 1-3 bedrooms), and rent in an apartment on the outskirts of the city will range from 570-970 pounds per month.
Work Culture in Belgium:
- Etiquette: Belgians are generally good timekeepers, and punctuality in business is greatly regarded as a virtue. Gift giving is not normally an aspect of business relations in Belgium, unless it is reasonably modest. It is normal to wear a jacket instead of a suit in most Belgian organizations. Women may wear trousers, particularly trouser suits. It is always better to be well dressed instead of under-dressed.
- Language: The official languages in Belgium are French, German, and Dutch. It is better to have a basic grasp of one of these languages when embarking on an internship in this country, but it is also possible to find internships that only require fluency in English.
A Street in Brussels
Work and Labor Laws in Belgium
Internships in Belgium are rare, and usually unpaid. There are no special laws regarding internships here. Belgian law fixes working hours at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week; both limits must be observed simultaneously. The maximum limits may be reduced by collective agreement.
Why Intern in Belgium?
Belgium is a densely populated country trying to balance the demands of urbanization, transportation, and agriculture. The heir of several former medieval powers, this country is filled with fascinating cultural traces that make it an intriguing place to go. Interning in Belgium will give you the opportunity to explore its rich heritage in depth while indulging in fine dining in its vibrant cities. Cheers!
Contributed by Sunny Chen
Sunny is an avid hiker, undercover techie, and travel enthusiast.
Photo Credits: Dennis Darvis,