AFS - Gap Year High School Program in Belgium

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About Program

Year & Gap: Spend the academic year living with a host family, attending a local high school, and learning the regional language. As the home to NATO and the European Union, Belgium is proud of its culture of intellectualism and pragmatism. Social life for teens often centers on family and small groups of friends. Belgian youth enjoy attending concerts, going to the movies or a lecture and sharing a drink or meal together. Attending high school in Belgium will be quite demanding as the country holds high educational standards. You will likely be places in the 5th or 6th grade (the 11th or 12th year) of what are called “general secondary schools.”

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Program Reviews

7.5 Rating
based on 2 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 50%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 50%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Housing 6.5
  • Support 6.5
  • Fun 9
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9
Showing 1 - 2 of 2
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

1000% Worthwhile

I found that one of the biggest benefits of AFS was its super supportive staff who are willing to help students no matter what. I had a really bad host family experience initially, but as soon as I let AFS know I was unhappy there, they moved me. I spent 8 months with the most welcoming, loving host family I could have hoped for. AFS is in incredible organization, with a very well-established support system (at least in Belgium). I'd recommend it to ANYONE.

What would you improve about this program?
Because of my bad first host family experience, I do think that AFS Belgium could be a little more discriminating in who they accept as hosts (I know that's impractical, but it's the only improvement I can think of to suggest). I found out that there were several red flags in my host family's interview, and that the AFS representative who interviewed her had strong reservations about accepting her as a host. However, that was certainly made up for by the fact that AFS switched me (and several other students who needed it) very quickly!
2 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

A review from a study abroad year

My year abroad in Belgium through AFS was full of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Full disclosure, I went abroad at 16, a mere junior in high school, 10 years ago. With these 10 years of hindsight, I can give the full report, and how it has affected me all these years later. The AFS program, while set up to help each student succeed, failed on a few accounts. I was explicitly told that the host families were not paid to host the participants. The host family in which I was placed was unable to provide adequate food and the family was extremely hostile towards me and Americans in general. I understand this is not within the control of the program necessarily, but when I complained and asked to be switched, I was unable. The country is divided into districts where you are not able to move freely. There was not another host family in my district, and so I was out of luck. My host family was informed (without my consent) that I was unhappy and that made the situation even worse. I feel that AFS put me into a potentially dangerous situation with regard to my host family.

On the other hand, I loved the other people that participated in the program. I was able to learn a great deal about myself. It was a year that was truly full of growth and learning. The experience itself, while difficult at times (especially with my host family) was ultimately transformative. It enabled me to become a stronger person and trust myself. I would highly recommend study abroad as a teen, but I would be wary of the difficulty that could arise with the structure AFS uses to place their students.

1 person found this review helpful.

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