Students from the University of Windsor and Western University pose in front of the European Commission’s Berlaymont buildingStudents from the University of Windsor and Western University pose in front of the European Commission’s Berlaymont building, in the heart of the European quarter in Brussels, Belgium.

Trip to Brussels sprouts insight into European Union

A trip to Brussels to learn about the European Union surpassed the expectations of fourth-year political science major Taylor Lafontaine.

He was one of 14 UWindsor students accompanying six from Western University on EU Study Abroad, a political science course taught by Stephen Brooks. The trip earlier this month was the 14th led by Dr. Brooks.

“The experience has been amazing in all respects,” Lafontaine said. “Although there was certainly a novelty to being in Europe, my trip was truly informative and worthwhile in ways that I did not expect.”

For two weeks, students were involved in the experiential learning program and immersed in the culture of EU politics, where they participated in briefings from policy-makers, administrators, diplomats, journalists, and non-governmental organization researchers at their places of work.

Overall, the students took part in approximately 40 hours of educational and cultural activities, including meetings with officials of all the major EU institutions and NATO; the United Kingdom, Chinese, German, and Turkish missions to the EU; and spokespersons for NGOs including International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, and the anti-human trafficking group Payoke; and Matina Stevis-Gridneff, the New York Times EU bureau chief.

Cultural activities included tours of Leuven and Antwerp, a visit to the House of European History, hiking in the Flemish countryside immortalized by landscape painter Pieter Bruegel, a tour of the Stella Artois brewery in its original location, and a sobering visit to the Nazi transit camp Fort Breendonk that drove home the original and continuing reason for the European integration project.

Misha Gagnidze, entering his fourth year in international relations and development studies, recommends the experience to future students.

“The program was an amazing experience which opened me up to new perspectives and insight into the workings of international relations,” he said. “It was great to meet new people and those who play a part on the global political landscape.”

Students received scholarships from the University of Windsor’s Go Global STEPs program to participate in this opportunity. Go Global STEPs is a Global Skills Opportunity project that is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada and administered jointly by Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada.

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