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Living and working in Belgium from Ethiopia

Habtu Shumoy Abraha is a researcher in Belgium, he came from Ethiopia and was granted a scholarship and PhD position in Belgium, read on and learn about his experiences and advice for those who want to move abroad.

In 2014, I moved from Ethiopia to Belgium to start my PhD at Ghent University. I first heard about Ghent University and Belgium in general from many fellow staff members at Mekelle University, Ethiopia, who did their postgraduate studies at Ghent University. I applied and was granted a full scholarship from Erasmus Mundus. Being granted this scholarship and the Ghent University academic admission as a PhD student are among the major successes in my life. My research focus was on ‘traditional and novel tef based food products with improved health properties’. Tef is an ancient cereal crop native to Ethiopia and currently getting high global market status due to its gluten free nature and high nutritional profile.

Ghent University is heaven for PhD students
As you can meet with outstanding international students, have the opportunity to take countless life-changing indispensable specialty- and transferable skill courses. But also have the opportunity to work with some of the world-class professors, with limitless access to specialised research facilities within your own research group and beyond in an extremely organised way. On top of that, Belgium is a quite peaceful country and I never felt like a stranger during my stay.

Grocery shopping
Almost every Belgian speaks English and people are willing to help if you ask for it. However, knowing some basic Dutch is a plus to at least understand grocery shopping as most product descriptions in Belgium are written in either Dutch, German or French.

What are the main differences
The main differences with working in Ethiopia is the better quality of education in Ghent, such as the professors, the access to journals and laboratories. Then there is also the financial aspect. Here at Ghent University you can easily order what you need for your research and a few days later the items are on your desk! In Ethiopian universities, because money is a serious problem, it is not easy to order at all and delivery can take a long time since many of the resources are imported from abroad. Sometimes, these challenges can be more difficult than the research work itself.

The Belgian work ethic is impressive, I have the impression that Belgian people are extremely hardworking and respect their jobs. They are also very punctual and accomplish tasks according to the set rules and regulations.

I would like to share some advice with those who would like to move to Belgium or elsewhere
» Make sure that you have neat and feasible plan of work
» Stay focused on your work all the time and accomplish things with good efficiency
» Have an independent lifestyle (be able to cook, house cleaning, etc.)
» Be ready to mingle with local and international people
» Be able to drive or at least ride a bike
» Always be ready for the fluctuating weather and stay healthy!

Written by Habtu Shumoy Abraha


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