Long Study Tour: Belgium

Wow, it’s been a minute! While I’m incredibly saddened that my time here in Copenhagen got cut short, I am so thankful for the memories, friends, and reflections I made. Now that I have my laptop back and finals are beginning to wrap up, I figured it’s as good of a time as any to share my experiences during the last few weeks I spent abroad at DIS Copenhagen.

Study Tours are an excellent immersive experience that helps students apply what they learn in the classroom to the world around them. In fact, this part of the DIS abroad program is actually what drew me in! The opportunity to travel with your class gives you an unparalleled perspective of the themes of your course, and you become incredibly close to your classmates. Core courses travel all across Europe, spending a week in a city or two learning about the unique cultures and applications of coursework.

My Study Tour for my core course, European Politics, was held during the first week. We were lucky enough to be heading to Belgium, where we’d be visiting Brussels and the European Union’s various institutions, think tanks, and media agencies. Our entire class was focused on the European Union, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the insutitions we were learning about firsthand. My class became very close during Core Course Week, and I was excited to explore Belgium with them.

Sunday

Our first day began early, arriving at Copenhagen Airport as dawn broke in order to catch an 08:00 flight to Brussels. After a short plane ride (on which nearly everyone caught up on some much needed sleep) we boarded a bus and headed towards the city of Bruges for a quick detour before we settled in Brussels for the week.

The city square of Bruges, a place straight out of a fairytale.

Bruges has been a city on bucket list for years, and it did not disappoint. My friends and I were stopping every few feet to snap pictures, much to the annoyance of our program leaders (after all, we were running late for our lunch reservation!). The streets were cobblestoned and the city seemed as if it had been untouched since the time of princes and princesses. Chocolate shops and pubs lined the streets, canals and bridges abound.

We ate an incredible lunch at a restaurant as a class before heading next door to the chocolate museum, Choco-Story, where we may have enjoyed one too many free samples. After that, we had the chance to explore Bruges ourselves. Even though our time was short there, I cannot wait to return one day! It was one of the most beautiful places I traveled to during my time abroad.

After a few hours and pieces of chocolate later, my class and I pi,ed back onto the bus and made our way to Brussels, where we’d be spending the rest of the week.

Monday

Brussels is a much bigger city than I had expected, and definitely had a more cosmopolitan feel to it than Copenhagen. Old-town was reminiscent of other European cities, but the part we stayed in reminded me of Washington, DC. Our location was excellent though, as we were in walking distance of all of the EU institutions, think-tanks, and media companies we would be visiting throughout the week.

On Monday, we headed to the EU Commission for our first official visit. Donning our professional attire, we listened to two really interesting presentations from Commission employees and representatives. The focus of the day was on the EU budget approval process and economic policy. It was extremely relevant, as they were actively negotiating the budget during our time there, and it was something that our class spent a lot of time learning back at DIS.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any pictures during this visit. We were on our own for the rest of the day, and we spent that afternoon and night exploring Brussels.

Tuesday

A major component of our Study Tour week was political actor interviews. We were split into groups and were assigned different politicians and lobbyists to interview in order to understand how Danish political interests fit in with EU objectives and other nation’s perspectives. We interviewed a Danish lobbyist for Central Denmark.

After that, a class on waffle-making!

The days that followed…

We got to experience a lot of incredible things in Brussels, so it’s difficult to outline everything. Here are a few of the highlights from the remainder of this incredible week:

These pictures are from our incredible tour of the European Council. It’s one of the coolest government buildings I’ve ever been in! Later that day, we visited EuroNews. This was a great experience because it showed us some of the careers we could pursue with our education. As someone passionate about policy and interested in communications, I really enjoyed this day!

Overall, Brussels and my Study Tour was a transformative experience. I got to interview the Turkish delegate to the EU at their embassy (a surreal experience that taught me a lot about geopolitics and the difficulties of diplomacy), take a cooking class taught by world-class chefs with my classmates, explore the beautiful archietecture of Brussels, and make life-long memories.

It’s interesting because all of this was happening as the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage Italy. I had friends being sent home, trips canceled, and there was a lot of discussion among my friends about it. The entire trip had a bittersweet feel to it as a result, but we learned so much in such little time. I know that the lessons I learned and experiences I had will continue to be of use for years to come.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Until next time!

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