Belgium in a nutshell

How to explain Belgium? Ask any Belgian and there ’s a good chance you'll get a sigh as a first answer. And that ’s because even for the Belgians themselves it ’s not an easy task to explain their country and who they, the Belgians, are. You ’ll probably even find a different answer for every Belgian you ask! (That means about 10.5 million opinions to start with). Do as the Belgians do: consider it as part of its charm and enjoy!

The Kingdom of Belgium (only 30.527,9 km2), situated at the crossroads of both Germanic and Latin culture in the very heart of Europe, got his independence in 1830 after the Belgian Revolution which separated Belgium from the Northern Netherlands. As the territory of Belgium always has been under the influence of both Germanic and Latin culture it bears a cultural pluralism in its heart. Precisely these differences in culture and languages made it necessary to reform the unitary Belgium into a federal state during five stages of state-reform between 1970 and 2001. So Belgium as it is now and formed by its history, is by definition a multicultural and multilingual country: ‘a Federal State which consists of Communities and Regions and has three official languages (Dutch, French and German). In practice all this results in a rather complex state-structure with about six different governments! Furthermore, Brussels, our capital, is also the capital of the EU and holds the seat of both the European Union and NATO.

At first sight the Belgians may seem a little bit reserved, but everybody who makes the effort of looking a bit further than this first impression will soon find out Belgians are in essence very friendly and warm-hearted people who do not tend to take themselves to seriously. Belgians are well-known for their exuberant lifestyle (our excellent cuisine is known all over the world) and they take pleasure in their guests enjoying themselves the way they do.
Source: Greenwichmeantime


Leuven is a lively university city, situated in the Flemish region, nearby the Brussels Capital Region. With about 92,000 inhabitants, 35,000 university students and 11,000 students in the several other institutions for higher education, it should come as no surprise that the streets of Leuven are filled with young faces and that the city lives at a student ’s rhythm.
In contrast to most university cities, Leuven does not have a closed campus. The K.U.Leuven university buildings are spread throughout the city and there's no doubt that this contributes to Leuven's unique atmosphere where young and old, a rich history and young dynamics melt together. Combine this with the about 150 different nationalities and you get a lively, diverse and multicultural city!

Add to this a wide range of great restaurants, a dynamic and diverse cultural life, the old market square in the historic heart of Leuven (known as ‘the longest bar of Europe') which is turned into one big terrace from the first spring sun until deep into autumn season, a wide range of sports facilities, shopping streets and lot's of events throughout the year (a.o. the International short film festival, summer festivities, cultural and art festivals, all kinds of courses and workshops,...), etc. and you know that you won’t get bored easily!

Our public transport network is well-equipped. And because of the central location of the city within Belgium on the axis Oostende-Brussel-Leuven-LiÈge-KÖln there are also many and frequent train connections with the rest of the country and Brussels-Airport (a direct connection brings you from the airport to Leuven in 10-15 min.)


The Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven)

Situated in the heart of Western Europe, the Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven) has been a centre of learning for almost six centuries. Founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, K.U.Leuven bears the double honour of being the oldest existent Catholic university in the world and the oldest university in the Low Countries.

Not all has been trouble-free, though, in the nearly six hundred years of the university ’s illustrious history. It has had its share of difficulties during the various social and political upheavals in this region from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. More recently, the two World Wars of the twentieth century deeply scarred the university. In 1914, the University Hall with its precious library was set in flames and 300,000 books were reduced to ashes. Afterwards, an international solidarity campaign with a major American contribution helped construct a new University Library on the Ladeuzeplein. Unfortunately, this library was burned down in 1940 during the Second World War and this time only 15,000 of its 900,000 volumes were saved. Since then, the university library, and in fact the entire university, has undergone a thorough reconstruction.

The university is located in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium. With the Dutch language ’s steady rise to renewed prominence, 1968 saw the university split into two new universities. The French-speaking ‘Université Catholique de Louvain' moved to the newly built campus in Louvain-la-Neuve (at 25 km from Leuven). The Dutch-speaking ‘Katholieke Universiteit Leuven remained in the historic town of Leuven. During the past decade the ties with our sister university in Louvain-la-Neuve were gradually reinforced again, with this year joint presentation of the honorary doctorates as a temporary highlight of this intensified cooperation.
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The Arenberg Campus Library, host of the 2009 IATUL Conference, is situated just outside the city centre as a part of the green Arenberg campus. It is one of the largest and most modern science and engineering libraries on the European continent, housing a collection of one million books and reference works under one roof. Past and present meet as the Arenberg Campus Library offers an inspiring high-tech multimedia environment within the historical setting of the former Celestine monastery. You'll find today's functionality integrated with Late-Medieval aesthetic, forming one harmonious whole, according to the serene design of José Rafael Moneo.

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