Hello, hello! Long time, no post am I right? For those of you who follow me on social media, you probably noticed I had quite a busy week in Belgium. At DIS we have long study tour in which we travel to a country other than Denmark with our core course that relates to our studies. Since I am in a course about the European Union, it made sense that we traveled to Brussels AKA the capital of Europe. While a very long and busy week, it was such a rewarding (and yummy) experience. I just got home to Copenhagen and am munching on some Belgian chocolate as I prepare to share my week with all of you!
** Apologies in advance for the length of this post**
Sunday: We were all up bright and early, as we had a 7:00am flight (thanks DIS). After a quick flight to Belgium, we journeyed up to Ieper and had a tour of a WWI museum. This was a great starting point because it gave us some background as to why the EU was developed and why it is so important to Europeans. After WW I and II, Europeans needed stability. The EU serves as a source of stability so that Europe does not enter another major world war. After the museum, we arrive to the hotel and we were all so exhausted so we got some falafel from across the street and called it an early night!
Monday: Monday was our first full day in Brussels and it was absolutely wonderful. One of my assignments for the week was to interview two major political actors within the EU. Monday I had my first interview with the Antici from the Permanent Representation of Belgium. I had the opportunity to receive his insights on the EU as well as learn about the inner-workings of the EU. After the interview and some meetings, my friends and I set out to explore the city and grab some Belgian waffles! We started at Grand Place (bottom photos) and it was absolutely gorgeous. We then made our way to the waffles and they were TO DIE FOR. We ended up having the 1 Euro waffles every day (sometimes twice a day). Think that was enough food for us? WRONG. We also tried the famous Belgian fries with spicy mayo. Fun fact: here people use mayo instead of ketchup on their fries. I’m officially hooked and am saying goodbye to ketchup! In addition to cinnamon rolls, waffles and fries are now on the list of foods I can no longer eat in the United States. Tragic, I know.
Tuesday: Tuesday was arguably our busiest day, as we had meetings at the European Parliament and European Commission. The day was filled with meetings with members of the Parliament, a tour, and meetings with Commission members. A lot of information was thrown our way that day, but we had some wonderful conversations about EU-Denmark relations, EU-US relations, trade deals, the refugee crisis, the Eurozone crisis and climate change. Call me nerdy, but I thought I found each conversation so extremely fascinating and my notebook with pages upon pages of notes can prove that. This day in particular also exposed me to what working in politics is really like and I must say, I’m now inspired more than ever to pursue a political career! I’ve still got a long way to go and who knows where I’ll be in the upcoming years, but I know I want to be a part of these conversations!
Wednesday: Our second round of interviews was Wednesday and the person I met with that day was my favorite. I met with the head of European Affairs for Danske Industries. His organization represents over 10,000 Danish companies in Brussels. His job is to lobby members of the EU Parliament and Commission on behalf of the Danish business industry. Now I know what you’re thinking, big business guy looking out for corporate interest only. I had the same thought, but oh man was I wrong. His group is very focused on sustainability and making the industrial sector more energy efficient. Also, Denmark differs from the US in many ways, including the fact that they take sustainability and efficiency very seriously. Every sector is doing their part to make their activities more eco-friendly. We then continued talking about the difficulties of a small country lobbying in the EU and how it is extremely difficult to get Parliament members to listen to representatives from smaller states. Lastly, we ended up discussing how immigration could effect Danish businesses (positively and negatively). As a reward for participating the interviews, DIS arranged for our class to make our own chocolate! It wasn’t as hard as people have said and my goodness, the chocolate was INCREDIBLE.
After chocolate making, Taylor and I went out for dinner and beer. Now, for those of you who know me, I am not a beer person. I much rather have a glass of red wine over beer ANY day. However, I figured I was in Brussels and I had to at least try the beer. And guess what? I actually enjoyed beer. When I had had beer in the past, I’ve tolerated it but never really enjoyed it. Well, Belgium changed everything as I started to order beer on my own free will! America, I am coming back a changed woman… so long as I can find some quality Belgian beer…
Thursday: Our last day in Brussels was SO MUCH FUN. We started out in meetings at the European External Action Service, learning about EU-US relations. We also had a really interesting lecture on Russian propaganda and the EU’s relation with Russia. We discussed what propaganda is, how to identify it, and how to combat it. Following that, we had some free time and I was ready for some alone time, so I ventured out to a museum. I ended up at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and it was fabulous. I’m not a huge art connoisseur, but I was really intrigued by the exhibit. I then grabbed a waffle, walked to the peeing boy statue (a classic tourist spot in Brussels), and met up with the gang for our next activity. DIS had us participate in a 60 minute escape room games. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was SO hard. You don’t receive many clues and have to just figure things out as you go along. My team included some friends and one of the professors, and our professor was definitely the most aggressive team member — he wanted to get out quickly! My team and I managed to escape the room with a solid 4 minutes remaining, QUITE the accomplishment.
The day ended with a final group dinner and then our professors took us out for a few beers! Yes, you read that correctly. At DIS and in Denmark, it is not uncommon for professors to join their students for a few beers outside of class. I actually really enjoyed this part of the trip because we had the opportunity to get to know our professors outside the classroom in a relaxed setting. I know feel as though I have a better relationship with them and I think it will make our class time more comfortable and engaging.
Friday: We had one meeting with a journalist on Friday and that’s about all! After that meeting, some of the class was heading back to Copenhagen, but I took a bus to Amsterdam to meet up with some friends. I’ll give a full report in another post 🙂
If you managed to make it to the end of this post, THANK YOU! I know it was a lot, but I had so much fun on this trip, I couldn’t bear to cut anything out. I learned so much about the European Union, but also about myself. I learned about the areas of politics I need to become more educated on, what issues interest me, and how much I enjoy traveling. Every week I grow even more thankful for this opportunity to study abroad. Special shoutout to my parents and friends back home for supporting me!!
Stay tuned for an recap of Amsterdam (it’ll be shorter, I promise)