Student Angèle*, 24, explains how the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund has
provided the support she really needed to continue her education and survive.

One day I will earn that PhD

Angèle has just turned 24 years old. She’s originally from Rwanda and came to Brussels in September 2020 to obtain a Master’s degree. Her dream? She would love to earn a PhD and has been working ever since to get that doctoral degree and possibly join one of the many research groups at the VUB in Brussels. But first, Angèle aims to obtain her Master’s.

Finding the money to come to Belgium

Before you come to Belgium as an international student, you need to have a person
to back you up financially. ‘In my case, that was my brother-in-law’, Angèle explains,
He’s the husband of my elder sister and he was the one who would pay off my tuition
fee at the VUB in Brussels.
’ Angèle’s brother-in-law had been working for a private company in Rwanda. But his company had to reduce the salaries of the employees to help the company survive the corona crisis that struck there too. Angèle had no money left. ‘I was basically living off of my savings and would soon run out of cash’, Angèle says.

How to survive the next month

Angèle has little financial support from her family in Rwanda. Even if they could send her money it would lose most of its value after the conversion to euros. Angèle: ‘I don’t want to put too much pressure on my family, they know about my situation but I also know about theirs, my father is retired so he can’t send me any money…’ That’s why Angèle tried to find a student job in Brussels but since her schedule means that she has to take classes from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening, there’s no time to have a job. The covid19 pandemic has left her without any money and no extra income.

Support from the Relief Fund

Angèle went out to look for help at the VUB and came across the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund. She applied and soon received a call from the support team at the VUB. Soon after, Angèle received a financial support and could continue her education. ‘I actually asked for two months of allowance to get through February and March, that is what I asked for and that is what they gave me. And in April I received a mail in which they proposed me to come every Tuesday to collect food. That’s great help’, Angèle explains.

Nobody knows

Angèle lives in the VUB dorm where she has one friend from Rwanda. That’s the only person who’s aware of her difficult situation. Angèle: ‘It’s really stressful because when you have to be focused on your studies it’s hard to think about how you can survive the next month. It makes me anxious; I worry all the time and I can’t talk much with my family about it.

The support Angèle received from the VUB Caroline Pauwels Relief Fund allowed her
to concentrate on her education. Without that help, she would have been forced to
quit. Angèle says the support team at the university was eager to help and that they
insisted she should get in touch if she needed anything: ‘That was really nice. I was
not expecting so much but I got it anyway and am very grateful I did.

*Angèle is a pseudonym to protect the student’s privacy.

Touched by this story? 

Support the VUB Caroline Pauwels Noodfonds voor studenten with a donation on the IBAN account number BE51 0013 6779 3562 of the VUB with the reference GIFTFO7. In Belgium, donations of €40 and above are fiscally deductible. Online donations are possible via this webpage.