Immigrants in Belgium are sometimes required to follow an Integration program (Inburgering, in Flanders) which consists of a social orientation class, Dutch lessons and work guidance.
Some people are obliged to do it, some don’t have the right to it and some are allowed, like me. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. Why? I thought I could learn something. I also heard it’s an important requirement for the citizenship application.
So after months on a waiting list, there I went and sat through a three-hour class, twice a week, in the middle of the afternoon, for three months, and was taught how to sort my trash in Belgium, who is who in the Belgian government and nobility, where to go if I need to request welfare and how the school system is divided.
It’s all nice and interesting if you have just arrived here and have a lot of time to spare. Or if you are unable to find things out on your own. Some of my classmates have been living here for more than ten years, for god’s sake! What were they doing there? What was I doing there?
I do admit that I learned new things about social security, work and education. We also had an individual appointment with the teacher to discuss our chosen goal and the steps to take. Mine was to find work as a teacher and translator and she advised me to study more here in Belgium. Great.
Now that I’m done with social orientation, I have an appointment with someone from the VDAB for the third and last phase: work guidance. It’s what I was looking forward all along, but I’m not really that hopeful. I doubt she will have a solution for my situation.
My request for diploma recognition has finally been sent (another advantage of the Inburgering program) and it should take about six months but I’m not hopeful about that either.
All in all, I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s over. It’s the end of my second year back in Belgium, two years full of uncertainty and things to get done. People say the first years of immigration are always the worse but things do get better. I will trust that and hope 2015 comes with a feeling of “normal life”.