Genevieve - KU Leuven

M Architecture
Semester 1, 2019
A rich period of my life that was full of fun, friendship, culture and new experiences.

Academic experience

The Gent campus for KU Leuven specializes in sustainability subjects so it was very interesting for me to have a strong focus on ecology and climate design in my course program. The enrolment system was made very simple for exchange students, some courses are mandatory and on the first day of orientation we were asked to select 3 preferences electives. A similar process was followed to select design studios. The entire cohort attended an information morning where the studios were introduced and were then asked to select 3 preferences. Before official classes had begun we were emailed our preference results or told in person which studio we were in. The university is very friendly and the international student staff were very eager to help. The only challenge I faced was that the university wasn't open on the weekends which surprised me but actually led to a much more balanced work-life experience in Gent.

Personal experience

The International Masters of Architecture program at KU Leuven was a wonderful experience that allowed me to socialize with a mix of both Belgian and other international students. The community was very strong. I was also given the opportunity to take a design course that was set in Morocco and attended a week long field trip to the site in south Morocco. This was a wonderful opportunity to not only visit an amazing and interesting country, but also gain friendships from within the course. The experience I had a KU Leuven taught me many life skills particularly regarding communication skills and teamwork skills. However, the best part of my experience was definitely the people I met and the social and welcoming atmosphere of the faculty.


I chose to stay in a share house situation. I found my accommodation on a Facebook page advertising sub-let rooms for students. Overall my experience was very positive with this arrangement- I met new friends from outside of my course and enjoyed having my own space alongside a big kitchen and living space. If I were to give any advice to prospective students, I would say to make sure you at least skype or call any future housemates. This is firstly to ensure you are not being scammed (it is quite common), and secondly to see if you mesh well with your future housemates. Even if you love your housemates, there is always going to be some adjustments living with new people so I think it is important to make sure your housemates want to live in the same way you do.


Cost of living was quite similar to in Brisbane. My rent was 400 euros per month, however in the summer months when we were not using any heating, the reduction in electricity meant my rent was reduced to 335 euros per month. Transport is very cheap in Gent if you can ride a bike! Bike rental for students is very affordable (35 euros for 6 months) and the city is so tight there is no need for public transport once you have your bike. Depending on how much travel you want to do- I spend approximately $12000 for the 7 months I was away. I believe you could spend a lot less, (there are heaps of housing options that are a bit cheaper, around 350 euros per month, and a I did travel a lot), however I am a sucker for second hand shops and Gent has a very good market of them!


Belgium does have a lot of bureaucratic boundaries which I found quite difficult. The visa process was very demanding and required a lot of administrative time. For an Australian citizen, things like criminal history checks and blood tests have to be completed before receiving a visa. I would recommend starting this process as soon as you have been accepted by KU Leuven. When you are accepted, KU Leuven will email to let you know they have sent the acceptance letter to the Belgian Embassy in Australia, I recommend you try to send the rest of your application as soon as possible after hearing of this confirmation. The process, once you have submitted the application is quite quick (maybe 2 weeks?) however, this is very dependent on how busy the embassy is, it could take up to 3 months. While this was a huge challenge for me, once your visa has been approved, the residency process in Belgium is quite relaxed for students.

Professional Development

The greatest skill I learnt on exchange was the ability to clearly communicate to people of various backgrounds and cultures. Learning alongside a class from around the globe means strong communication is key and I learnt it is very much a skill that can be practiced and improved.


The highlight of my experience was definitely my class field trip to Morocco. This was such a fun and exciting experience that opened my eyes to new people, cultures and architecture. It was invaluable.

Top tips

My advice would be: 
1. Stay organised with your admin: There are so many fun experiences waiting for you, don't waste time fixing enrollment issues you could have avoided. 
2. Be open to new people: Your new classmates might not have the same style as you, or seem like your friends at home, but be open to new unexpected friendships.
3. Choose who you want to be: This is a very rare chance for you to put yourself out there in a new community- be brave and decide what sort of person you want to be. It is a very rare chance for you to be free of your typical friends, family, work etc and their expectations, and while that can be daunting, it can also be really fun! If you see someone you want to be friends with- go say 'hi'. If you want to go to a punk concert but would never dare in Brisbane- just go. This is your opportunity to pursue your own identity.