Now that I’m back into the swing of things with classes, I thought it would be the perfect time to fill everyone in on my travels to Belgium and the Netherlands. My short study tour a few weeks ago was really just a precursor to the unforgettable week of my long study tour. We flew into Brussels last Sunday morning and took a guided bike tour after having lunch at the Grand-Place… what a way to start, right?? Despite the somewhat lousy, typical Belgium weather, the bike tour was one of my favorite activities; we were able to get an overview of the capital city and saw the exteriors of many of the government buildings that we visited later in the week. I traveled to Brussels about seven years ago with my parents, and I was stunned by how much of the city I still remembered! The four-hour bike tour included a pit stop at one of the more famous French fry stands in the city and we were each given an extremely large portion of fries and a choice of dipping sauces, which allowed our group to bond over trying each others selected condiment.
|Biking Group Photo|
|Chocolate Factory Workshop- Dressed to Impress :)|
After dinner, some of my friends and I made our way back into town to see the famous Manican-Pis statue and try the famous Belgium waffles at a nearby stand. Ironically, the waffles were almost as big as the particularly small statue!!!
|So many choices... how is one ever supposed to choose?!?|
Me and two of my St. Lawrence & EU classmates
at the European Commission
After several early mornings, it was nice to be able to sleep in a little on Wednesday before meeting in our hotel’s conference room for a presentation by a Political Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU. This informal discussion allowed each of us to get a glimpse into the life of a foreign service officer and hear from two interns about their work in the Brussels office. We had our second round of interviews on Wednesday afternoon; my group was fortunate to meet with an extremely interesting permanent delegate from Turkey. Our class has been discussing Turkey’s role and its position/stance with entering the EU since the first day of class in January. It was fascinating to be able to hear a firsthand perspective of some of the struggles and frustrations that the country has been facing for the past sixty years as they have continually tried to be accepted into the union. We were greeted with a pretty significant rainstorm as we left the Turkey embassy, and we had to walk across town to meet up with the rest of our class at the Magritte Museum. Despite our drenched selves, the guided tour of the Belgian artist’s surrealist works was quite interesting.
Before leaving for the Netherlands on Thursday afternoon, we had a lecture at The European Union Council and the Council of Ministers. We were seated in a conference room with a large circular table and were able to mimic some of the logistical procedural routines of the actual ministers during our question and answer session.
After our final free hours in Brussels, which included one last stop at a chocolate shop appropriately called “Mary’s,” we departed for the Hague by bus. We made a planned pit stop at La Trappe brewery where we learned about the process of making beer and were served a delicious family-style meal in their beautiful tasting room. There are only 7 Trappist beers, each made under the control of Trappist monks.
|Our EU Class and Professor Jacob Buksti at the Council of Ministers|
|Me and some classmates at the La Trappe Brewery|
On our final day, we had a PowerPoint presentation of the Netherlands’ position in the EU at the Danish Embassy, followed by a visit to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia). Having never learned the details of the wars in Yugoslavia, it was both fascinating and disconcerting to hear about the conflict and the court’s proceeding measures to establish justice.
We then made our way to Amsterdam and had a final group lunch before we were given the choice to have a guided tour/lecture at a Prostitute center or free time. Because this was my first time in the Netherlands, I wanted to see some of the city and decided to go to the Anne Frank House instead—one of the most somber, yet inspiring museums that I have ever visited.
|Anne Frank House & Museum|
As you can probably tell by my long, detailed account the long study tour was a week filled with amazing experiences, opportunities, and plenty of Belgium culture. Being a government major, it was incredible to meet with the formal EU institutions and gain private access to their office buildings. And overall, there was a nice balance between educational experiences, cultural activities, and free time. At the same time, with my luggage filled with various free programs/portfolios that we received from our visits and some chocolate as well, it was definitely nice to return to Copenhagen and spend a relaxing weekend with my host family.