A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It was a cold early morning of end October when I left Leiden with my fellow colleagues to embark in a three-days trip to the Belgian capital. The European Union Studies Master programme at Leiden University offers us students the possibility to visit the EU Institutions and finally have a close look at the subjects of our studies. We all decided to seize this fantastic opportunity.
The trip by bus had itself something to do with the politics of the EU: we crossed the border between the Netherlands and Belgium without showing our passports and IDs; while today we take this freedom for granted, we should always remember that things were completely different only 30 years ago, before the Schengen agreement was signed. Border patrols would have stopped the bus and checked the passengers’ documents, most likely after a long and tiring queuing time.
The landscape visible from the bus varied a lot: from the cosy villas of Wassenaar during the first part of the journey to the industrial area of Rotterdam and the Belgian wind farms, exploiting with mechanical perseverance the strong winds of the North Sea. We first stopped at the hostel to drop our luggage and then walked to the European Parliament.
It was certainly exciting to visit the house of European citizens: with the noble purpose to represent the people of Europe, the Parliament is a unique institution with no equals in the world. After a nice presentation from one of the employees, we entered the hemicycle and spent a long-time taking pictures.
It was then the turn of the Committee of the Regions; we were lucky enough to meet a Romanian delegate, who explained to us the functioning of the institution.
The same evening we had a delicious dinner with former students and alumni from our programme; it was interesting to hear their suggestions, job experiences and insights.
The day after we visited the Council of the EU, the Dutch Permanent Representation and the think-tank Bruegel. It was a long and tiring day, so in the evening we decided to have a beer at the famous Delirium Cafè in the city centre and taste local ales. We could have never left Belgium without a stop at a beer house.
The last day of hour trip the European Commission was waiting for us. Despite the wee hours spent wandering around Brussels the night before, we arrived on time and attended an interesting conference; the engaging lecturers talked about the monetary union and gave advices on the job opportunities available at the Commission.
The trip was a really amazing experience; it allowed us to create stronger bonds with each other, see the European institutions with our eyes and visit an amazing multicultural city such as Brussels, the capital of Europe.
Have you ever been to Brussels? What do you think of the city? Let me know in the comments!