The beginning of my study abroad experience was very similar to the typical freshman-moving-into-college-and-leaving-mom-and-dad-for-the-first-time experience. The only difference is that this time, I am in an entirely new country that has a completely different system for handling student housing! Unfortunately, Université Libre de Bruxelles does not offer their exchange students on-campus housing, so it was up to me to find the perfect home for September through the end of January.
All summer, I looked tirelessly for housing at every website imaginable. Let me tell you, it was not the most fun way to spend my summer! Starting out with the primary Belgian rental website was actually the worst option since most of the landlords gave special preference to people staying for at least a year. I also saw so much anti-student sentiment on these sites! Many landlords specifically stated that they want only young professionals, and the housing options for students were bleak.
I next resorted to some co-living companies around Brussels. There are tons of companies that buy big houses across the city, some with up to 12 bedrooms, to rent out specifically for students. The major downside was that these options were very expensive and out of my budget! The cheapest were booked rather quickly, leaving me with rooms nearly double my price range.
The place where I spent the MOST time looking for housing was on Facebook- there were plenty of Facebook groups specifically for students, for co-living, or for “kots”(student bedrooms in a big house or apartment). Facebook, however, was a nightmare. Not only do you have to be quick to respond to the posts (since a post can get upwards of 60 interested people in the comments in just 10 minutes), but many of them never even respond to your requests to visit/rent. I lost hope quickly with Facebook!
At this point, I was on my way to Brussels with no housing set up! Thankfully, I have a family friend here in Brussels with an extra bedroom who was kind enough to let me stay until I found a place. It was much easier looking for and responding to rental ads when I could provide the landlords with a day and time I could visit in-person, now that I was in Brussels. It became a struggle when most available places were for 6 months minimum (and at this point I would only be staying 4!), but FINALLY I found a place that is just perfect for me! I move in on October 1st, and I cannot wait!
My future home is in the neighborhood of Auderghem, which is a quiet residential area only a tram ride away from my university campus. I will be sharing with 5 other female students/young workers, all from different countries! I am excited to have a big kitchen and to share this kitchen with my international housemates. Hopefully I pick up some new recipes while I am here!
In between looking for housing, I found a lovely group of friends who I have been traveling around Belgium with! We took the train to Ghent for a day, and we have also tried a few interesting brunch places around Brussels.
Belgium is already starting to feel like home now that I am an expert at the metros and know my way around (mostly) without a map. And next time you hear from me, I will be all moved in to my new official home!