This past week, my cohort went to Paris and Brussels as a part of a formal study trip. Here are some of the highlights from Brussels!
Day 1: Sunday
On Sunday, my cohort made the 6-hour train journey from Geneva to Brussels (with a brief stop in Paris along the way). One of the advantages of living in Europe is the easy train travel. Not only does the train system usually run smoothly, but it also allows me to look out the window and see the passing towns. When not completing my usual selection of sudoku and logic grid puzzles during the ride, I spent time looking out the window and admiring the scenery.
Upon arriving at the hotel, me, and a few other students, set out to explore Brussels. We made our way to the Grand Place, where we walked around for a few hours, found some great food, and even made enough room to eat a waffle along the way!
Day 2: Monday
On Monday, we visited the European Commission, which is headquartered in Brussels. While there, we listened to European Commission staff members talk about EU-China Relations, the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, and EU-External Trade Relations. After the discussion, I spoke with the speakers about their advice on breaking into international affairs. They gave me some great tips on how to best navigate my last year at Hope, and even how to put my best foot forward during my first few years in the professional world!
After leaving the European Commission, I and a few friends walked around Brussels. We ate more waffles…and more french fries, and even found remnants of old city walls! That night, our cohort ate dinner together. This meal was extremely special because we could talk more with one another and reflect on the trip thus far.
Day 3: Tuesday
Tuesday morning, my class had three lectures on Belgian-centric topics, including: Historical, Political, and Socio-Cultural Aspects of Belgium; Religion, Politics, and Society: Islam in Belgium; and lastly, The Geopolitics of European Energy Security. The scholars who gave these lectures are professors at Belgian universities. While in these classes, I learned a lot about Belgian identity and values, especially with regard to their impact on domestic and international politics. Already informative, these lectures were also extremely helpful in supplementing what I had learned in Monday’s lectures about Belgium’s involvement in the European Union.
After class, a friend and I walked around Brussels some more. We explored the Church of Our Lady of Victories at the Sablon, the Royal Palace, and even saw the exterior of the national courthouse (Palais de Justice).
Later that evening, my friend and I visited the Grand Place again to get our last waffles of the trip.
This was my first time in Brussels, but I truly enjoyed it. I loved the architecture, learning about the European Commission, and the food, but also the ability to continue practicing my French.
It’s safe to say that I hope to return, soon!