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THE POWER OF DIVERSITY interview with Toon Van Assche


international schools in Belgium

Corporate Relocation Conference 2012 am&pm relocation in London

Master of Science Vesalius College






CRC London


Master of Science


The Power of Diversity Feature Interview with Toon Van Assche


A Rise in Popularity International Schools


Members’ News


Society Pages Dates for your Diary

10 - 11 12

We see 2012 as a year of growth. For ABRA as a professional body, for our associa�on, for our membership, which con�nues to flourish, and in the ways in which we manage to reach new and interes�ng people each and every day. We see growth with our members too: am&pm reloca�on are expanding their offices, - which will become twice their original size - and The Bri�sh School of Brussels is investing €20 million to expand their facili�es. We’re proud to bring you a sneak preview of their plans on our cover. As far as we’re concerned, our members’ success stories are a source of pride for us. We’re proud to have such crea�ve and energe�c members that are dedicated to being the very best in what they do. Elementary student 9-year old Mia Taylor of St John’s International School has been selected to take part in the World Education Games this March. She’s only one of two ambassadors for the whole of Europe and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing her lots of luck on her upcoming challenge. In fact, international eduction is becoming increasingly popular and our member schools are enjoying excellent results. More than enough reason to find out a little more about international education in Belgium today. We also caught up with Toon Van Assche, a man with much to say on the power of cultural diversity and even more experience to back it up with, he is also our guest speaker at the March meeting - Toon, thank you for your valuable insights. And last, but certainly not least, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Andrea Howard of am&pm relocation who has joined the ABRA Board. Andrea, your bright and inquisitive mind and kind but no-nonsense nature are an asset to us all, thank you for joining us!

Eddy Bonne President cover image: ar�sts’ rendi�on of the new BSB atrium architect’s drawing of am&pm new offices editorial: Fiona Klomp



CRC London 2012


The Corporate Relocation Conference Monday 6th February saw the Corporate Relocation Conference & Exhibition take place in London. Agnes Vierendeel of am&pm relocation was invited to defend the am&pm colours at the conference and reports back to us on the various seminars of the day. “The ‘Third Culture And Cross-Cultural Kids’ seminar was very interesting; as relocation specialists we know just how important it is to find the right schools for our clients’ children, but it was really good to hear a fresh point of view on the subject. Not just the parents and educators need to understand the benefits, challenges and long-term effects of international mobility on third culture and cross-culture children, but also educational consultants, HR managers and others who influence important decisions, such as school selection and language learning, need to understand how these choices have a lasting influence on learning, academic outcomes and the formation of personal identity.” “The presentation by FOCUS entitled ‘Relocating Successfully’ was fascinating. The speaker talked not only about the pitfalls in relocating people but also on setting realistic expectations and tailoring communication to meet individual needs of the expat. It is vital to communicate what cultural changes both the expat and the employer can expect, creating awareness on the changes that come with an international assignment.”

“I also found the Deloitte survey ‘The Next Move for Global Mobility’ interesting, especially since some very surprising results came out of the survey. Their recent global survey of HR and business leaders of Fortune 500 businesses sought to establish the extent to which global mobility is aligned to business strategy. The survey found that the increasing challenges that international organisations are facing, from both a business and talent objective perspective, call for a more strategic approach to Global Mobility and the function as a whole. The big question is ‘Is your Global Mobility function ready for its next assignment?’ “ “In the current economic climate governments around the world are reviewing and amending their immigration rules. This compelling seminar – enticingly titled “All You Wanted To Know About Corporate Immigration But Were Afraid To Ask” – and hosted by Emigra focused on UK corporate immigration and provided a useful and interesting guide to the current UK immigration system. Recent changes were reviewed along with the challenges faced as a result. Some practical solutions were also provided to help companies work effectively with the new system. Although the seminar focused on the restricted UK immigration laws, I found many regulations were comparable to the Belgian rules. It was very interesting to see these questions in a different light.”

Master of Science Vesalius College

At Vesalius College this school year has brought some exciting changes with the inauguration of its graduate degree: a Master of Science in European Union Policy (MSc EUP). Organised in coopera�on with the Ins�tute for European Studies (IES), the MSc is specifically designed for BA graduates, allowing students to upgrade their working knowledge of the EU via a unique series of high-quality, interdisciplinary, policy-focused modules on EU policy making. “Our new programme combines the 25-year teaching experience of Vesalius College as an ins�tute for higher educa�on, with the broad research experience in European Studies of the IES, a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence“, says Bert Mosselmans, Dean at Vesalius College. In fall 2012, the first cohort will begin the intensive, one-year (60-ECTS) programme designed to provide students with a unique opportunity to follow this Master of Science degree programme in Brussels, the heart of Europe. The MSc is divided between taught ‘keystone’ courses in the first semester, the Brussels based Graduate Internship and the wri�en thesis in the second semester. Keystone courses lay the founda�on for an advanced understanding of the EU, and

include cover theories, poli�cs, legal founda�ons and economics of European integra�on. Students are prepared for their thesis wri�ng via a specially-designed module on ‘Tools and Methods for European Policy Analysis’. The second semester con�nues this course, assists students in an incremental fashion to prepare and complete their thesis, whilst successfully undertaking their chosen the Brussels Graduate Internship. “In addi�on to offering high-level courses, the MSc is uniquely posi�oned to enhance the career poten�al of our students by offering high-profile internships at European ins�tu�ons and related organisa�ons (representa�ons of private or public interests at the EU, NGOs, think tanks)”, explains Academic Director, Prof. Michel Huysseune. The MSc also features in its offerings the IES Lecture Series, focusing upon issues of relevance in the EU policy sphere by bringing together leading academics and prac��oners.” The programme has received accredita�on from the DutchFlemish Accredita�on Organisa�on (NVAO) and will enhance and draw from the thriving poli�cal environment at Vesalius College and in Brussels. Find out more at: RELOCATE


The Power of Diversity Toon Van Assche

With senior HR roles with big names such as InBev, Interbrew, Procter & Gamble and GE Interlogix behind him, perhaps it is not surprising that Toon Van Assche would eventually set out on his own. As Owner and Managing Director at Astraya Management Consultancy, he now offers training and advice to companies that would like to get the most out of their international mobility programmes. RL: You graduated as an Electromechanical Engineer, consulting on human resource issues seems quite a change in direction. TvA: “Perhaps, although it’s been quite a natural progression really. Most of the companies I worked for put a lot of emphasis on their managers being able to deal with any issues on the job, to be people managers as well as manage the product or project. You can’t just say you have a problem and then leave it with HR, you have to be able to effect solutions yourself.”

I’m not the kind of person to look back and wonder what might have been different “I found I enjoyed the people and organisational sides of things; it seemed to come quite naturally to me. After a number of years I started asking myself: What’s next? That’s why in 2000 I made the step into the HR field after the operational management roles I had before. Early last year, sharing my personal experiences and expertise as a consultant became the logical conclusion. I’m not the kind of person to look back on the past and wonder what if I’d done something differently... I enjoy a good challenge, am happy with where I am today and the opportunities that present themselves to me.” RL: Working all over the world must have been an influence on your work today. You’ve worked in Western- and Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin- and North America: a rich background to draw from.

don’t just travel, experience TvA: “Absolutely, as consultants my business partner and I offer advice on systems and processes, all rooted in strong personal experiences that you can rely and build on. I think all consultants should really be able to offer such strong and diverse experiences to their clients. To be able to advise, you have to be able to expose the background of a situation. When you’ve travelled and really experienced different places, people and situations, that’s when you’re able to offer what your client needs.”


RL: There must have been some learning-curves along the way... TvA: “Many! For example, about 15 years ago I was working in Russia for P&G and of course the first few months are spent supported by a translator. Someone who will come with you to every meeting, look at every contract and project and explain what it says and you really rely on them. But you lose something in translation, perhaps not literally, but something. I’d already started learning Russian and although it was still very much at schoolboy level, after a few months I decided I would take meetings on my own. My language skills certainly weren’t perfect and I made many mistakes, but I tried. I told everyone to let me know if I made a mistake or had misunderstood something and what I found was I was getting much more respect from the people I was sitting around the table with.”

don’t be afraid to make mistakes you’ll gain respect “It was one of my biggest intercultural lessons: by learning a local language you are respecting the culture you’re in and in turn you get a lot more respect back from people. Having a direct link with the person you’re talking to, communicating and doing it yourself opens ten times more doors than when you have a translator at your side.”


RL: You say you are a big believer in the power of diversity; you’ll have to elaborate on what that means to you. TvA: “Of course, you can’t make such a strong statement and not expect the question!” Toon laughs. “I think diversity equals enrichment in every shape and form. You take different ideas and put them together. If you only consider your own opinion and find it hard to accept someone else’s take on things, then it can be really difficult to take on a different approach. But if you can find the courage to say ‘Who am I to know it all?’ and welcome someone else’s ideas and input, that’s how you get challenged and start seeing new avenues or solutions. Ones that you might not see on your own. As man and wife you offer each other views that the other might not have considered but that does make a big difference in coming to a decision. The same is true for colleagues in the workplace as well as for people with different cultural backgrounds. There is always something you can add. You could never contradict your boss in somewhere like China, and of course it’s certainly difficult here as well, but if you’re asked for your opinion then you are given the opportunity to see a different side. To view different aspects that might influence a certain decision for the better rather than if just one vision was taken into account.”

RL: With such rich experience as an expat you must have invaluable advice to anyone considering working abroad or bringing an expat into their organisation?

hold that mirror up TvA: “Look around you, see what information is already available, see how you can help your expat settle in. A lot of programmes focus on what to expect when you go abroad, look at a transfer from your point of view only, but they don’t ask any questions about the parameters of your own background and culture. What you will be bringing with you. How will your new host country experience you? How will your new colleagues understand and see you? If it hasn’t been done already, holding up a mirror to yourself and your own culture is a revelation and a really big help.” Toon Van Assche is the keynote speaker at the March Members’ Meeting, find out more about his organisation via .

“Of course you can’t go around asking people’s advice on everything, you’d get nowhere. You have to be able to manage your assignments and make your own mind up, but another person’s input can suddenly offer a new and different view, and with it come solutions. That’s what I mean when I say I’m a big believer in the power of diversity. Place this in an intercultural setting and you have an even richer experience pool from which to draw.” RL: Do any specific situations spring to mind? TvA: “I’m currently consulting with AGC, you can see the Japanese influence and can tell that they have a completely different view on things than we do. But you also get the ‘Aha’ moments where you learn something and think ‘we could really use that’. It works the other way round too: they get to see a different side to things as well. How you cope with this is of course the whole context of successfully integrating different cultures into an organisation. You have to ask yourself ‘How can we work effectively and efficiently across the border?’. If you’re the kind of person who thinks their way is the only way, and I’m sure it works sometimes, you run into many cultural conflicts when working across borders, but if you know what to look out for and understand what triggers work in different cultural context, that’s when you suddenly find you’re really making headway. You have to build competency in different ways and look at it from both sides of the table. You take specific experiences that are in one place and then move them to a place that needs work. If you want to open your very first factory somewhere then you really do need the people who have that technical experience and can help you get your factory off the ground. It’s important to get the right people in the right place when you’re talking about international mobility.”



A Rise in Popularity international schools in Belgium

From new programmes to new websites and new buildings, international schools in Belgium are experiencing unseen growth. Perhaps somewhat less surprising when we remember that Belgium was voted to be one of the world’s top education destinations. This Spring ReLocate decided to visit with ABRA’s member schools and get their thoughts on what the coming year will bring. “It is difficult to “predict” what will happen, especially in a country that has gone 18 months without a government, however, the international schools are seeing an exceptional increase in popularity,” says Tom Hawkins, Director of St John’s International School. “What I can say is that St. John’s is exactly where we predicted to be this year… 900 students preKindergarten through grade 12 and counting.” The British School of Brussels for one has started on some very ambitious expansion plans, as shown on our cover. With a €20 million re-development of their site, including a swimming pool and other state-of-the-art indoor sports facilities, it is fair to say that the school has a positive outlook on the future. But it’s not just BSB that is growing in size and stature: in September 2010 World International School (formally only a middle school) amalgamated with BEPS Waterloo (a primary school) to form the new World International School.

People today need an anchor, and St. John’s provides that anchor like no other school in the world. Trust me, I have worked in numerous “great” international schools, and none can compare with St. John’s.” BSB is also experiencing an increasing mix of students which includes more local Belgians and more French/English speaking families that are applying for their bilingual programmes. “Of course the introduction of our French/English bilingual programme in Primary School last September has also played a part in the growth in numbers of students on roll.” explains Kim Burgess, External Relations Manager. Irène Flaherty, Director Middle Years at WIS, agrees: “Although our students have always been very international, we’re seeing an increasing number of students for whom English isn’t the first language. They require a special English (EFL) programme in order to access the curriculum. We’ve had to employ new staff members and reallocate existing staff for this purpose, but we feel it is important to continue to meet our students’ needs in every way we can. In addition and in parallel to this, in the last 3-4 years we have had more academically ambitious students whose needs are met by the IGCSE qualification at the end of Middle Years.”

“We now form one school that caters to students from ages 2 1⁄2 to 16 years. This has been a very positive change for both us as schools as well as the children. We joined forces as we found that parents tend to look for a school where the children can complete their primary education but also can stay on to do their secondary education, offering a sense of stability in a foreign environment.” explains Belinda Yates, Director Primary Years at WIS. St John’s has also seen an upward trend in enrolments: “We continue to experience great increases in our middle and high school programs because we deliver what people want… a programme with academic rigor and the instillation of values that make a difference in the lives of children entrusted to us at St. John’s. This year saw the initiation of our Strategic Plan “Living Our Mission”. We have also seen some increase in our Pre-Kindergarten program due to our Dual Language initiative.” RL: Has the profile of the student changed at all? Are there more expats arriving in Belgium or is international education becoming more popular with the locals? “We see more and more Belgians and Europeans coming to St. John’s,” Tom Hawkins explains. “Because the programmes we offer challenge each and every child to meet her or his unique potential. We continue to be optimistic with enrolment… we believe that people come to us for the right reasons. We offer something unique in international education… a programme based on Christian values!” SPRING 2012

RL: How do you see international schools in Belgium progressing next? Are you expecting this increase in popularity to continue? Kim Burgess tells us: “Although we continue to hear that companies are still very cautious about expatriate assignments, especially where fees for education are concerned, we are extremely optimistic about the future. Our expansion plans are a case in point.”


“Our enrolment has increased since the change and we’re expecting this trend to continue at all levels. Since amalgamating WIS and BEPS we received full memberships to organizations such as ECIS (The European Council of International Schools), and we have also received accreditation with the French community of Belgium.” says Irène Flaherty. “Exciting changes that offer us promising opportunities as a school. Our school provides an alternative to the big International and European schools. The seamless flow from primary to secondary education is also very attractive for students and their parents.” Tom Hawkins agrees: “We see nothing but increased numbers of students in the coming years as people begin to see the value provided by an international education. We have initiated a strategic plan here in my second year, and we have embarked on a Campus Master Plan and a Curriculum Audit to design programs moving forward that meet the needs of the internationally minded, progressive expatriate who wants something more from their international school. We launched a dual language programme in English and French in Pre-Kindergarten last year which has been very successful and will be extended into Kindergarten as well in the upcoming school year. At St. John’s, we “provide what the world needs” (Bob Devlin, class of 1980).“

RL: So out of all these positive changes, what are you looking forward to the most? “I am looking forward to a future that provides students with the skills, values, and attributes that not only help them succeed, but that make an impact on our world. Few schools in the world are truly “values driven”, but St. John’s is one of the few… really, everyone should come and see the difference “values” make in an education.” Tom Hawkins tells us. “Of course we look forward to continued academic success for our students, growth in bilingual offering and our new building developments.” says Kim Burgess, “And for our students one of the most exciting new initiatives is that they have set up their own charity called ‘Best of Both’ which works directly in partnership with 4 primary schools in Northern Ghana. Teaching staff have visited the Ghana to offer practical services to the schools as well as raising funds throughout the year. Our Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) activities have increased to include more local action, particularly for students using their French in homes for the elderly.” “We’re proud of the way that prospective parents recognize the unique character of WIS, see that small is indeed beautiful, and thereby choose our school for their children. We look forward to continuing to provide a quality education in English in a caring and supportive environment at an affordable price for the average family.” adds Belinda Yates. To find out more about Interna�onal Schools in Belgium, please visit us online at: www.abra-reloca� Our member schools are: Pre-school language courses - Kiddy & Junior Classes Primary & Middle Schools - St John’s Interna�onal School | World Interna�onal School |The Bri�sh School of Brussels | Antwerp Interna�onal School | Antwerp Bri�sh School |Interna�onal School of Brussels | St Paul’s Bri�sh Primary School Universi�es - Boston University, Brussels | Vesalius College

clockwise from top left: St John’s students in Brussels, BSB’s Nick Lavender and John Knight celebrate the inauguration of the well with a refreshing cup of water, schoolchildren in the Ghana at the opening ceremony for the well sponsored by BSB, St John’s school trip to Brussels



NEWS FROM OUR MEMBERS N��� ���� T�� B������ S����� �� B������� (BSB) St John’s International School is excited to let you know that one of their students, 9-year old Mia Taylor was chosen out of hundreds of applications as the only ambassador to represent Belgium in the World Education Games from March 6-8. Less than 70 students worldwide have been selected to serve as ambassadors. Mia is also one of only two ambassadors to represent the entire continent of Europe! The World Education Games began in 2007 as World Maths Day. Since then, World Maths Day has taken place each year on the first Wednesday of March. Back at the very first competition 286,000 students from 98 countries took part – the event has got bigger and bigger and bigger each year. In 2010, students around the world set a new Guinness World Record and in 2011, 5.5 million students from 56,082 schools from 200 countries and territories took part! All students participate live online with students of the same age and ability level from all over the world. During World Maths Day, students compete in 60-second mental arithmetic “Maths games” in which they have to answer as many questions as possible. Mia’s teacher, Paul Motwani or “Mr. Mo” as he is known, is an international chess grand master who regularly holds “Magic Math” assemblies for the entire Elementary School. Please see this blog to see how the students at St. John’s are excited about maths:

A new website The British School of Brussels (BSB) is delighted to announce its brand new website, featuring various films from the Principal, vice Principals and Directors of Drama, Sports, Music and Languages. Visit for our latest news. BSB goes bilingual To complement its English medium teaching, since September 2011 BSB has provided bilingual French/English classes for ages 4-8 and now extended across year 6 groups in Primary School, to include age 9 from September 2012. French will be significantly enhanced in the Secondary School from September 2012. In the Primary School all subjects are taught 50% in French and 50% in English. Visionary Education Facilities for the 21st Century The British School of Brussels is about to embark on a building programme that will see the campus expanded to create a learning environment fit for students of the 21st century. The renovation and extension of the School’s main building is the largest single infrastructure project that BSB has undertaken in its 40-year history. Works to be undertaken include the construction of a new building and which will contain a brand new gym, sports hall, café and swimming pool.

• Magazine Give (A)WAY!

For more information on the World Education Games, please visit these websites: and

AWAY magazine is once again pulling out all the stops for you, our faithful readers of ReLocate magazine. A free magazine is on offer to you un�l March 16th, for your free copy please contact: produc�

Brussels Metropolitan and ABRA Brussels Metropolitan is the ini�a�ve by BECI, Voka, UWE and VBO that aims to develop and promote Brussels’ unique posi�on at the heart of Europe. Strong compe��on from other European ci�es means that Brussels needs to highlight the many advantages to living and working in the capital of Europe, so that it may draw in more interna�onal organisa�ons and mul�na�onals, helping create more jobs and prosperity. Thanks to ac�ve Brussels Metropolitan member NOVA reloca�on ABRA now boasts visibility on their site: h�p://


You can also read the magazine online by following this link: h�p:// And to join the (A)WAY Facebook group follow: h�ps://


NEWS FROM OUR MEMBERS NOVA Relocation continues its China prospection am&pm reloca�on am&pm reloca�on is doubling in size this year. “The building works have started and we’re really looking forward to moving into our new offices by the end of the year.” says Anita Meyer. Natalie De File�e and Andrea Howard took part in the annual Leuven run Sylvester Leuven, bea�ng their own personal best �mes in the 4km run. Anita Meyer has been very busy in her new post as member of the board for EuRA. A�er returning from a reloca�on training day in Malmö to help prepare for the EARP training day in Brussels this June, she went off to London for the WERC European Conference on February 21-22. And last but not least, am&pm reloca�on will be welcoming a man to their team in March... watch this space!

Walter Vermeeren, Véronique Fauconnier and Dange Peng will be attending the ERC conference in Shanghai, combining it with a three week business trip to Shanghai, Beijing and Luoyang. On the agenda are numerous meetings with Chinese corporations and officials, and with Belgian representatives at our embassy and consulates, to help streamline potential business from China to Belgium. To be continued...

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE More news from NOVA Relocation with new appointments on their staff in Brussels and in the Netherlands. Esmée Mos will be joining the team as General Manager for its NOVA Relocation activities in the Netherlands, with a very close link to NOVA Relocation in Belgium.

• Expat & Co Interna�onal Mobility Insurances This February saw Filip Declercq of Expat & Co invited by SD Worx to train their account managers on the ins and outs of health insurance for expats. Expat & Co was also one of the main sponsors at the annual trade fair Interna�onal Job Days in Brussels this February. A hugely successful event that drew over 1300 visitors with keynote speakers from Deloi�e, Ernst & Young and Field Fisher among others.

Esmee Mos

Esmée has a long track record of successful activities within the NOVA Group in Belgium and will focus on the growth of the activities in NOVA Relocation in the Netherlands, as well as on the implementation of new services and products.

• AWCB Thinks Pink! The American Women’s Club of Brussels is delighted to annouce that they will be able to donate around �1.500 to three very worthy chari�es: Bordet Ins�tute, Think Pink and the Pink Ribbon Founda�on, following their very successful Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon on February 16th. For further informa�on on AWCB events or to become a member please contact:

Buidi Mundadi

Nim Pauwels

Mich Geyskens

Also joining NOVA Relocation are Buidi Mundadi, who will join the immigration team to support clients with their immigration needs at the Brussels office and Nim Pauwels who takes up the role of an additional account manager, with a focus on the Brussels based accounts. Mich Geyskens has joined the team as Account Manager and will be managing a number of key accounts.



Members’ Meeting - Wednesday 7th December 2011 ABRA mee�ngs always offer the perfect opportunity to catch up with our colleagues and of course our December mee�ng was no excep�on. Guest speakers were Olivier Simeon of Marrio� Hotels, Dave Deruy�er of ING bank and Fiona Klomp of ReLocate magazine. The presenta�on on Short Term accommoda�on was followed by a panel discussion that highlighted current trends in expat requirements regarding their accommoda�on. Thank you to the Marrio� Renaissance Hotel in Rue du Parnasse, Brussels for hos�ng the mee�ng and recep�on a�erwards.




If you would like to see your event listed in ReLocate, or for further informa�on on adver�sing, please contact relocate@abra-reloca� with the details. For any other enquiries contact admin@abra-reloca� ReLocate is published quarterly for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. www.abra-reloca�

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY: ABRA MEMBERS’ MEETINGS 2012 May AGM: Wednesday 16th May September mee�ng: Wednesday 19th Sept. December mee�ng: Wednesday 5th Dec.

For the digital version of ReLocate please visit our website to either view or to sign up to receive your quarterly copy straight to your inbox. Join us on Facebook and LinkedIn by following these links:

EuRA Reloca�on Congress Date: 25-27 April 2012 Loca�on: Stockholm Registra�on: www.eura-reloca�

EARP Training Day Date: June 2012 Loca�on: Brussels Registra�on: www.eura-reloca�

Don’t forget to sign up for your free copy of ReLocate!


At Hasenkamp we understand what you mean when you say “valuable”. tel : +32 (0)2 759 83 30 fax: +32 (0)2 759 83 37


ReLocate Spring 2012  

ReLocate magazine, specialist magazine for members and friends of ABRA - the Association of Belgian Relocation Agents