Discover why France is more than the city of Paris by exploring small towns or villages, regions with a different look and feel. Immerse yourself in the culture famous around the world for its food, architecture, philosophy and painting. The beautiful countryside from the Atlantic to the Alps and from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea offers many opportunities !

Home to the European Union and NATO, Belgium has been influenced by the French, Dutch, Austrian, and Spanish, to make it a unique combination of cutting edge and traditional cultures. Your program will be in the south of Belgium, Wallonia where most people speak French.

Belgian teenagers usually enjoy sports, especially soccer and cycling, going to concerts, cinemas and scouting on weekends. Your social life will probably center on the family and a small group of friends.

People & Community

Belgians tend to be tolerant, flexible, modest, and open-minded. They value privacy, enjoy a safe and comfortable life, work hard and are self-disciplined.

You will be staying in the southern part of Belgium where people speak French, most likely in a suburban or rural area. Public transportation is well organized and safe, which will enable you to explore the host community whenever you get the chance.

School

You’ll likely be enrolled in a general (academic) secondary school, but you might also attend a vocational high school. Most days classes run from 8 am to 4 or 5 pm, with Wednesday afternoons off. Studying hard and focusing on academic success is common in Belgium. Most common subjects in Belgian schools are Flemish, math, history, geography, sciences, religion or ethics, and physical education.

Language

People in this part of Belgium commonly speak French. Many people also speak Flemish or German, and are quite proficient in English. You should be able to speak basic French before your exchange, and to help you master the language, AFS will give you access to an online Rosetta Stone language course to study French on your own before and during the intercultural exchange. AFS will help you find language classes during the first weeks of the program, and knowing English will be helpful to you in the beginning.

Food

Belgian cuisine is much more than good chocolate and beer – this is where you can enjoy waffles (wafelen) and fries (pomme-frîtes), mussels and carbonade flamande (beef stew) along with potatoes and bread. Belgians take their time to eat, so even with all these options you’ll have the chance to savor each new flavor. Most families consider eating together very important, especially at dinner.

COUNTRY HIGHLIGHTS
– Try the famous croissant and other delicious pastries
– Shop around the little boutiques
– Visit very old castles
– Discover the French countryside
– Learn how to cook French gastronomy
– Become fluent in French
COUNTRY OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
French
RELIGION

Many applicants mention that they would like to have access to church during their program. In France, we have few families with a regular religious practice. It won’t be a problem for student to go to church on his/her own since there are churches about everywhere in France, as long as it will not take over family activities. However, be aware that most of them are CATHOLIC churches. We have very few protestant churches, especially outside big cities, and if we do, they are definitely not Baptist/Episcopal/Evangelist churches. Given that these are very rare religions, they are not really represented among the French population. Among teenagers, very few are religious, especially in public high school, and your student might want to keep his/her beliefs for him-/herself if he/she wants to be accepted at first. In general, in France everyone is very very attached to the separation of church and state. Hence, people who talk about their faith openly and all the time might be perceived as people who try to convert others. Jewish students: We don’t really have synagogues outside big cities and synagogues are really different here: it’s very traditionalist, with a major separation between girls and boys. We only have a few liberal synagogues in Paris.

For Muslim participants: There aren’t any mosques outside big cities. Pork is one of the main meats eaten in France, but it is generally accepted by families not to eat pork for religious reasons. However, please mention in the application if you cannot eat pork at all. Religious signs are forbidden in public schools: kippah and veils are forbidden in school and might not be very well accepted by host families. More generally, very religious students from any religion should maybe reconsider France as his/her first choice.

DIETARY CUSTOMS

Vegetarians are rare in France. Most families cook meat at every meal and very few restaurants offer a veggie dishes. More generally, it is difficult to secure a placement for veggie students and even more for vegan students. We are open to receive some applications of veggie students but have a limited capacity to place them. We do not recommend students who must eat exclusively halal or kosher to come to France as we cannot provide a placement where stu would have access to halal or kosher food. However, we can accept students with dietary restrictions for religious or medical reasons. These reasons must be detailed and well explained in the application. Mealtime is a very important for French families: The whole family sits together around the table for diner; there is little chance that host families will accept student to cook a special meal for him-/herself.

HEALTH

Candidates must be in good general health. Students must be immunized against diphtheria, poliomyelitis and tetanus (French schools requirements) => 3 injections required for each. Measles immunization recommended (current epidemic in FRA) but not mandatory. If candidates have serious allergies/disease, we will need detailed information about the symptoms/consequences and what medication (dose and frequency) is taken (an aditional allergy form would be very much appreciated). The students must take care of themselves of not being exposed to the allergic component(s). They should be autonomous in following their treatment/medication/diet. The candidates should not need any medical follow-up/psychological treatment during their program. In case of a history of a health condition (physical or mental) the candidates must be stable for 2 years before departure.

SMOKING

Many candidates require non-smoking host families. It is true that less and less AFS host families smoke, or they do, but outside the house. Indeed, mentalities are changing thanks to governmental campaigns; however, France remains a country where smokers are tolerated and some teens smoke as well (however, it is forbidden to smoke inside the high schools). Smoking is prohibited inside any public area; though the stu will probably be in contact with friends who smoke. Concerning host families, even if they do not smoke, if they have friends who smoke over for dinner, it is unlikely that they will ask their guests to go outside to smoke. All in all, even if we do our best to place students with non-smoking requirements in a non-smoking host family, this will not be a guarantee that they will be in a completely non-smoking environment for the whole duration of their stay in France. We prefer to host non-smoking students, and if they do smoke, they should not ask their host family to be allowed to smoke during family time. French teens are generally not allowed to openly smoke in front of their family.

ENVIRONMENT AND GEOGRAPHY

80% of our placements are in rural areas/small communities!

It is very unlikely that students will be hosted in a big city. Participants who come to France must be prepared to live in a small town, village, or even in a very rural area, with possibly no or limited transportation.

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

Go abroad with AFS to discover who you really are, make new lifetime friendships and immerse yourself in a fascinating intercultural experience.
TEEN PROGRAMS (UNDER 18 YEARS OLD)

Our learning program will prepare you for an amazing AFS intercultural experience. The program begins at your home country with a pre-departure orientation and continues with orientations and other supported learning activities and facilitated conversations will help you maximize your experience, cope the challenges of navigating a new culture and community and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding, throughout your time abroad, and as you return to you home country. AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you and your host family through your learning journey abroad.

ADULT PROGRAMS (18 YEARS OR OLDER)

The Global Competence Certificate (GCC) program will support your intercultural learning experience. This state-of-the-art program prepares you to successfully navigate new cultural environments—during your AFSNext experience and long after you finish the program. Online intercultural learning modules combined with in-person sessions help you develop practical and global skills, knowledge and attitudes that employers need and mission-driven organizations believe will help achieve their social impact goals. You will receive your certification upon completion of the training program. 

Explore the Programs Available in French Belgium