Wednesday September 23rd. 8:oo am. Middelburg.
Cue the Rain.
At 8am, I put on my rain jacket, and I hopped on my bike to go to school. Now, classes at UCR start at 8:45, so it was earlier than usual, but, this Wednesday was particularly special. Wednesdays at UCR, like Fridays at Glendon, “no one” has class. Our European Union Politics professor decided to take advantage of that, and planned an excursion to Brussels to visit some of the European Union Offices.
We took a bus from Middelburg to Brussels which took around two hours. I think that it’s fantastic that you can casually plan a day trip to a DIFFERENT COUNTRY to gain a practical understanding of the material you are learning in class. It’s also pretty great that you don’t have to wait hours to cross the border (shout out to the Schengen Treaty for allowing the free movement of persons)
The first office we visited was the Dutch Consulate, where we met with the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands, Dirk-Jan Vermeij. The Permanent Representation is responsible for the external communications of the consulate. They are in constant communication with their national offices (for the Netherlands, their office is in Den Haag), as well as national and international news media to share information on any and all proceedings that involve the Netherlands. I found this part of the visit particularly stimulating because media is one of my areas of interests and it was fascinating to hear, first hand, how the government and the media interact.
Our next stop was the Parliamentarium, the visitors’ centre of the European Parliament. There we interacted with Bas Eickhout, an MEP from the Greens – European Free Alliance party who told us about his experience as an MEP. We also had the chance to meet a UCR Graduate, Lukas Vesely, who is now a Policy Assistant Advisor for a Portuguese MEP. After that, we had a bit of time to explore the Parliamentarium exhibit, which showed the history and influence of the European Parliament.
It would have been nice to spend more time in the exhibit, but we were off to our next stop, the European Commission Directorate-General of Home and Migration where we learned about EU Migration Policy (a very fitting topic due to current events), and heard from another UCR Graduate, Annieke Lotenberg, about the processes that the Directorate Generals carry out regarding Better Regulations.
We ended off our day with some welcomed sunshine, and a trip to a Frites Courte where we indulged in some frites et mayo – and I got to practice my french, you know, making sure the fries were not going to kill me (#peanutallergylife). On the way back to the bus, we walked through a park and saw the beautiful buildings and monuments of Royal Museums of Art and History.
Overall, the trip was quite enjoyable. I really enjoy experiential learning, and this trip was a great way to learn more about the European Union, and see where the magic happens.
I’ve decided to add a new bit to my text posts to add some humour to my posts. It will be know known as the Bicycle Chronicles.
As you may know, the Netherlands is FULL of bikes – it’s an essential part of Dutch life. All my Dutch friends think that it’s both strange and hilarious that I don’t ride a bike at home (tbh, I’m not brave enough to ride my bike in Toronto). My lovely neighbour Matthijs put air in my tires last week, so I was able to ride to school, the grocery, and volleyball. This past Thursday, I rode to school, wondering why it was so difficult… and why my bike was making a weird noise… my back tire was flat! So Friday afternoon, I asked another friend to help me fill up my tire, and within 2 minutes, I had to turn around and leave by bike at rez because it was flat again. Thankfully class is only a 10 minute walk from my building (so I was only 3 minutes late to class). I have to sort out how to fix my tire so I can have a functional mode of transportation. Walking is fine, but those extra few minutes of sleep you can get when you have a bike are very valuable.
Song of the Week: Oceaan – Racoon