Lay low in Bruges. Computer Science student experience in Belgium

Young, developing university

Howest is not a giant in the field of education, but in its rather short history it has already attracted public attention. This university ranked first in the list of the best educational institutions in the world in the direction of Game Art and Development according to The Rookies and Grads in Games. There are really many interesting and developing areas at the university.

The final decision to enter the aforementioned educational institution was to communicate with a lecturer on the subject of information security during an online open day.

Applied Computer Science – major Cyber ​​Security training lasts 3 years. The graduate receives a Bachelor’s degree equivalent to 180 ECTS.


Belgium is an interesting country in terms of language. However, this does not apply to Howest. Education for international students takes place in English. For admission, the B2 level and the FCE certificate, which I received back in 2016, were enough for me. Some of my classmates feel like they have a lower level of knowledge of the language.

Education system

This university attracted me primarily because of its training system, which is aimed at obtaining practical knowledge. Every morning there are two 1.5-hour lectures on different subjects. This is followed by an hour’s lunch break and two 1.5-hour practice sessions on what happened in the morning. You can practice as much as you like, but the teacher will be present and help the students only at the time specified by his schedule. In general, you can do anything, it is not necessary to do exactly what others do in the time allotted for one subject.

It is also pleasing that absolutely all lectures are broadcast and recorded, and if you are absent during the practice session, but want to do assignments at home, you can always contact the teacher or his assistant in Microsoft Teams to ask a question or get an explanation of the material covered. … Practical tasks are given with the head, so it is not possible to keep within the allotted time for often. Fortunately, deadlines are not critical. The minimum deadline for the completion of the work is 3 days. In many subjects, time is given until the end of the week. If the task is voluminous – 7 days for delivery.

The downside of this system is the heavy workload. Many students cannot cope with such a pace, and according to statistics, about 50% of students do not go to the second year of study due to poor progress. Last year was the first for the international information security program. Out of 10 students, only two passed the second year. In this academic year, about 50 international students were enrolled in the first year. There are about 200 of them in the Belgian group.

The university claims a low entry threshold – no prior knowledge is required. Actually this is not true. Learning really starts from the very basics, but there are many subjects and the amount of information is quite large. At one point, you can find yourself in complete prostration from what you have seen, heard and read. Many of my classmates are currently experiencing exactly this. I am also not completely sure about my knowledge of some subjects.

Cost of education

For EU citizens, tuition costs € 1000 per year. For everyone else, the cost ranges from € 7000-9000. The cost of filing is € 75. Upon admission, the amount for the submission of documents is returned either in cash or credited to the student card. You can use it, for example, to buy lunch in the canteen.

Learning environment

In addition to Microsoft Teams, the university has its own electronic environment, where all presentations, PDF documents, assignments, and so on are posted. There are also notifications and letters that are duplicated by e-mail. For subjects for which you need to write code, GitLab is used. Each student has a personal repository for their own projects and assignments. The lecturer uploads solutions and additional materials to his repository.


In the first year of study, there is an emphasis on general knowledge in the field of Computer Science. Subsequently, the focus shifts to information security. List of first-year subjects:

Programming Fundamentals

If you want to roast your dog in the microwave, it’s your fault, not the developers of this very microwave.

This is a quote from our Lecturer on Fundamentals of Programming. In lectures, he loves to joke while writing Python code. The first semester is dedicated exclusively to him. Next, we will study Java. Most likely because the lecturer is an ardent fan of him, since he explains in almost every lecture that an error in his Python code is just a habit of Java syntax. He’s definitely a cool guy! There was a public holiday before the midterm exam. He suggested arranging an hour session if we wanted to, so that we could be better prepared and ask questions. He is the co-founder of an investment analysis platform and taught an online machine learning course at Stanford for 6 years.

Web Development

I usually go by car, but today I chose the train and how I regretted my decision! Sorry for the half hour delay.

At this point, we have finished learning HTML and CSS and will start learning JavaScript next week. In the midterm exam, it was necessary to recreate a page with products from Ikea in 4 hours. Many, including myself, did not complete the task to the end. This subject is the most voluminous – a lot of tasks, a lot of practice. Lecturer, past fullstack and ios developer at Belgian companies, and co-founder of conferences for JavaScript.

Hardware & Operating Systems

I want to cut a Raspberry PI right in the lecture and see if it works. I hope my boss doesn’t find out.

Not much is known about the lecturer. When you enter his name in a search engine, the first request appears a site containing his name in the domain. The page opens and greets you with the cute phrase “Nothing to see here move along!”. One thing I know for sure, the phrase: “It seems the sound was not recorded, next time it will be better” is his favorite. Up to this point, we have studied Windows, Powershell, and also the device of the computer. The midterm exam tested Powershell knowledge. From next week we will be doing something with Raspberry PI and learning Linux.

Cyber ​​Security Fundametals

My Belgian students love to write the word “cheese” instead of a dash for any question. No question, now “cheese” will be one of the solutions for each question.

An information security lecturer is one of the most experienced professionals. For 10 years he worked at McAfee, and before that worked at Intel and Microsoft. In lectures he likes to repeat that work is a huge component of success, and also gives many cases from real life. For example, how he encrypted messages for his girlfriend so that his parents would not find out. In the last hands-on session, we got acquainted with SQL injection. Very interesting!


SQL is Excel at maximum speed. For now, that’s all there is to know.

While we’re on the subject of SQL injection, it’s time to talk about Databases. During lectures, we study SQL queries, and during sessions we perform tasks like “take all x out of y …”. Not the most interesting subject, at least for me. Maybe this is until the moment when you have to apply the knowledge gained to solve a real problem.

Problem Solving

In a word, mathematics. The first two lectures were aimed at updating the school material, and the subsequent ones at the study of set theory. The lecturer also teaches data analysis at another faculty and is a fan of AI and machine learning. I could not find quotes 🙁


Do you want to know how the sales department or HR department works? Or how important is it to combine the work of all departments? Or play around with a CRM system? Then you are here. The lecturer is reminiscent of Matthew McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street. He is like a guide to the life of the university. Constantly communicates with someone, asks questions, makes acquaintances. The lecturer himself is more interesting than the subject taught.

Assessment system

Belgium has a 20-point grading system. The lecturers immediately warned us that 20 is a rarity, so there is no need to be upset if the score is not the maximum. The main assessment criterion is the exam at the end of the semester. According to Databases, it is 100% of the rating. For other subjects 60-70%. For Web Development, a project is of great importance, for which several students unite and demonstrate their knowledge within 4 days. Hardware & OS, Programming Fundamentals, Web Development and Problem Solving have passed midterm exams this week, which carry a 30% value on the final grade. A bonus is the delivery of correctly solved problems on time.


I am satisfied with the chosen higher education institution. It is interesting to study, you are not overwhelmed with a huge amount of theory. In the third year of study, there is a compulsory internship in one of the partner companies of the university, however, some students are trained after the end of the first year.
Thanks for reading the article! Have a nice day!

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