Leuven – KU Leuven

Reasons people went to this university /place

  • I chose this university because it is very prestigious and the classes offered were enormously interesting. Leuven itself is a vibrant student city, but at the same time it has kept its historical charm. It only has about 100.000 inhabitants and you can get around easily by bike. Furthermore, the location of Leuven makes it very easy to travel in Belgium and its neighbouring countries such as France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Recommended semester to go there

  • I chose the summer semester because of the weather, but to be honest, it does not really matter. Both semesters start approximately at the same time as they do in Vienna (winter semester starts in the second or third week of September and the summer semester in the second week of February); this means that you can still do exams and finish classes in Vienna and also start new classes on time when you are back.

Before going there

Accommodation experiences

  • During my exchange in Leuven I lived in a student residence. I had my own room with my own bathroom and it cost about 550€ per month. I had to share the kitchen with my hallmates (in total we were 14); everybody had his/her own cabinet (with a lock) and a fridge shelf. Every week the kitchen was cleaned by a cleaning company. In the ground floor of the residence there was a ‘common room’ with a TV, sofas, a laundry room, a ping pong table, a kicker and a billiard table. My kot (this is how you call a student residence in Dutch) was one of the more “fancy” ones (it has just been built three years ago) but I have seen several others and to be honest mine was in the best condition and most other students have to share their bathroom with 6 people or more, and the rooms as well as the kitchens are in a questionable condition.

Special items to pack

  • You don’t need a special adapter for sockets in Belgium, they have the same as we have in Austria. The only special items I advise to pack are an umbrella and a raining coat.

How people who went there handled their finances

  • Since Belgium is in the EU and has the euro, I did not have to open a new bank account. Both my debit and credit card worked without any problems.

University Information

Rough semester schedule

  • The winter semester starts in the second or third week of September and the summer semester in the second week of February. During the exam period (last three weeks of the semester) there are no classes. There are two weeks of study holidays before the exams.

Holidays during the semester

  • I had two weeks of Easter holiday and two weeks of study holidays. Besides that the usual public (catholic) holidays were also free (1 May, Corpus Christi, Ascension day, Whitsun).

Number of ECTS the university expected former exchange students to do

  • KU Leuven advises you to do 30 ECTS per semester.

Course restrictions and when the university informed students about those

  • KU Leuven has a specific course catalogue for exchange students and additionally you can take regular classes. You can check in the course catalogue if you are allowed to attend them or not.

Did the university actually offer the classes students originally planned to do?

  • Yes, they offered all of them.

Recommended  courses/modules

I can recommend the following courses for Wahlfächer:

  • The low countries at the crossroads of European history
  • International relations and European integration since WWII
  • Dutch class
  • Tandem: Dutch – German

The following class was also interesting:

  • Engelse literatuur III: grondige vraagstukken: Engelstalige wereldliteratuur

Although the title is in Dutch, they class was held in English. Most titles are in Dutch, but the classes are in English.

Exam period

  • In the last three weeks of the semester.

How exams look like

There are four different types of exams and it depends on the class which one you have.

  1. Take home exam
  2. Open book exam
  3. Closed book exam
  4. Oral exam

I had only closed book exams and one oral exam. The structure of the exams is comparable to exams in Vienna. However, the grading system is completely different. In total one can achieve 20 points and from 10 points onwards you are positive.

Other information

Recommended restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping centers ect.

  • Restaurants: Because Leuven is a real student city, most restaurants have student discounts or are even just student restaurants. My favourite one is De Werf on the Hogeschoolplein, where you can eat pasta, wraps, soups, and sandwiches. You can even drink Almdudler there.
  • Cafes: You can find the best coffee in Leuven in Koffie Onan in Parijsstraat.
  • Bars: Oude Markt is the place to party in Leuven! There are 80 bars next to each other and everybody parties there. The best bars are: Ambiorix, de Rector, Café Belge, het Archief and Vesper. Additionally, there are FakBars (faculty bars). My favourite one is Recup but there are several more to explore.

Recommended secret spots in the city/town

  • Definitely check out Arenberg castle and the Begijnhof.

Recommended day trips

  • Leuven is literally in the middle of Belgium, you can go everywhere you want to! I did daytrips to: Oostende, Brugge, Gent, Brussel, Antwerpen, Liege, Genk, Hasselt, Mechelen, Köln (only 2 hours with the train), Maastricht (only 1:30 with the train).
  • You should get a GoPass10, if you want to travel around in Belgium. It costs 52€ and includes 10 travels. You save approximately 2€ with every ride then and several people can use it.

Recommended places or events to meet new people / make new friends

  • If you want to meet new people, you definitely have to go to the events in the beginning of the semester. The orientation days are perfectly organised and offer tons of opportunities to meet new people. Additionally, you always meet new people at ESN events and parties.

Public transport offered in the city / area of the University

  • Bike is king here in Leuven. You basically need a bike and everybody has a bike. You can rent a bike from Velo or you can buy a cheap one online via Facebook (Second-hand shop Leuven).

Other recommendations

  • You should definitely take a Dutch class when you are here. Dutch is a really nice language and similar to German; so it is not hard to learn it for German native speakers. Speaking Dutch enables you to get to know locals and the Flemish culture.

Is this University the right place for me?

You should spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • If you like to study, party and travel
  • Because in Leuven you cannot only find one of the best Universities worldwide, but also the best parties and on top of that from Leuven you can travel around whole Western Europe.

You should not spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • If you are not very fond of rain, because it tends to rain a lot during March and April, but it gets better in May!
  • If you do not like beer.

(all information provided is based on 1 filled out questionnaire)