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‘The best of both worlds’: Earn UKent’s international studies degree in the capital of Europe
While many college campuses strive to connect with their communities, the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) doesn’t have to try very hard. There is no more fitting place to study international policy or law than in the capital of Europe.
“We often talk about it as Brussels being the campus,” says Michael Sewell, admissions manager at BSIS. “The students come here to the school for their classes, but everything else is happening in the city.”
BSIS is part of the University of Kent in Canterbury, which means that students have access to the resources and perks offered by a major university campus. At the same time, they enjoy the intimacy of a small school. “It’s a very different experience,” than going to a university like Kent, says Sewell, “but I think if you are studying at master’s level in international relations, you are much better off here than in the UK.”
This sentiment is echoed by students, both current and former. Ines Moreno earned a master’s degree in political communications and strategy from BSIS in 2018. A Spanish national, she did her undergraduate work in France and the UK.
“I still wanted to be part of the UK educational system,” she explains, “and I thought it was a great opportunity to come to Brussels, where the EU institutions are and where there is such a political landscape.”
She thinks people considering where to study international policy and relations often overlook the fact that BSIS is part of UKent. “You get the small campus, but you are part of a big brand. There is so much support and academic resources. I got to go to China and Cuba because there are so many scholarship opportunities. We have access to the Kent library online. Usually small campuses just don’t have resources like that.”
And yet Moreno, who now works as a policy and communications officer for a trade association in Brussels, appreciated the campus in Etterbeek for its personal approach. “It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. “The fact that it is so small – and purposely kept small – allows all of our professors to know us by name. That creates a really close relationship between academics, teaching assistants and students.”
And it makes much more sense, she concludes, to study international policy in Brussels than anywhere else in Europe. “Two of my professors worked in the EU institutions,” she says. “You are building a network from day one. Anyone who has been to BSIS will tell you that the European parliament being 10 minutes away, and the ability to go to any conference there, is just invaluable.”
Beijing or DC?
Moreno’s trip to China was to complete a second master’s. BSIS offers students the chance to attend a partner institution in Beijing or in Washington, DC. She studied foreign affairs in Beijing.
“It was a radical new world,” she says. “It is amazing how much perspective that gave me on how the world stage functions and that culture is a hugely important element of that. It was really enriching.”
While a large majority of BSIS students come from outside of Belgium, internationally minded Belgians are also keen to walk through its doors. Henry Jacobs is currently working on his master’s degree in international development.
“It’s a field of study that’s not easy to find in Belgium,” he says. His experience has been greatly enhanced by the international character at BSIS. “The multidisciplinary classes are an incredible experience, being able to discuss inequality issues with students who have backgrounds in communications, law or economics is such an added value.”
Ines Moreno and Henry Jacobs
BSIS offers the opportunity to add study modules to degree programmes, so that students can create individualised specialisations. You might be following the master’s programme in EU external relations, say, and combining that with modules to specialise in conflict or security.
Jacobs, who serves as the treasurer in the student union, has a secondary specialisation in international relations. “The professors are very insightful, with diverse backgrounds, which makes it even more interesting,” he says.
Students can choose to go to BSIS full or part time, but a full-time student will finish in one year. Sewell points out that many students appreciate that as international studies master’s often take two years. And of course, students are in a city with a wealth of relevant internship opportunities.
In the end, it’s tough to find a student who doesn’t appreciate what BSIS has to offer. “BSIS is just a brilliant place,” concludes Moreno. “I feel very fortunate that I got to be a student there.”
University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies
Boulevard Louis Schmidtlaan 2a
Telephone: +32 (0) 2641 1723