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Wallonia shuts its doors to foreigners

Published on 02/08/2004

2 August 2004

BRUSSELS – The French-speaking part of Belgium is one of the least welcoming parts of Europe for foreign students seeking a home abroad for a year, it emerged on Monday.

Information released on Monday by the AFS intercultural exchange body reveals a strong reluctance by many Wallonian families to open their door to a foreign student, La Libre Belgique reported.

AFS has been running study trips abroad for 17-19 year olds and a social action programme for 20-25 year olds at the start of their careers.

The organisation, which arranges schools and families for each student, charges between EUR 4,200 and EUR 6,200 per person.

“The south of the country is clearly one of Europe’s bad pupils,” Anne Sokal, responsible for external relations at AFS told La Libre Belgique.

“We are still looking for ten families for the coming school year, and a further ten for the social action programme,” she added.

Only 20 out of 140 candidates are now still looking for homes, compared with 83 at the start of the summer.

But the figures are put into perspective when compared to other European countries in the month of June.

At the point when 60 percent of Wallonian host families had been finalised, there were already too many Russian families opting to put up a student.

At the same time, 94 percent of host families had been found in Austria, 84 percent in Flanders and 72 percent in France.

According to Sokal, French-speaking families are too hesitant to take the final decision to accept a student.

This results in a less than ideal start for the candidate in his or her new country.

“Sending the details by fax just a few days before the young person leaves is not sufficient,” said Sokal.

Wallonians’ hesitancy to host foreign students is attributed to the costs involved, and the fear of allowing a complete stranger to enter their homes for a whole year.

Changing family circumstances, with the rise in single mothers and increased work pressures, are also to blame for a 20 percent decline in host families.

But it is also attributed to a falling curiosity about foreign students, who in recent times have been seen as less and less exotic.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian News