24
Mar

 Day 1 in Brussels:

At 8:00 am the alarm clock began blaring loudly. I swiped sideways.  With the sun still not completely out yet and the rain pattering on the outside of my window, I slowly made my way out of bed. There was no time to waste because today was the long awaited day for the MIR program’s annual Brussels trip! With a quick shower and some last minute adjustments, I was out the door and on the way to the airport. At the airport I was greeted with 22 other excited, yet not fully awake MIR students. Before we knew it, we were on the way to Brussels, Belgium.  After a brief 2.5 hour flight, we had finally arrived at our destination. We checked into our hotel and had a quick one hour break before having to meet for our first event of the day.

We had the chance to meet with Director Doru Frantescu of Votewatch Europe, an NGO whose goal is to gather information on the EU Parliamentarians via data mining, compiling, and then finally presenting the information on an easy to understand platform on their website. Their goal is to provide accountability and transparency within the EU Parliamentary processes and to overall provide information to curious people and other organizations. In 2014 during election season, the NGO offered a free phone app that allowed users to answer and to share their opinions on 20 critical issues. Afterwards, the app would display matches with EU Parliament members and political parties that matches their views by matching data from the past 5 years.

After the very interesting meeting with Votewatch Europe, we went to a local bar for “Beers and Foreign Policy,” for an informal event to listen to and to discuss with Mr. Nereo Peñalver García. The hot topic and focus on the night was the situation in Iraq and Syria with the emergence of the Islamic State/Daech. Over cocktails and snacks over an informal setting, we got to hear about Mr. Nereo’s unique perspective and insights from his recent return from the region. Such an informal setting was a very different and fun way to engage in an exchange of ideas.

Tomorrow we will be up bright and early for a trip to the European Commission. It’s very rewarding to be able to not only learn in the classroom in Madrid, Spain but to see the actual institutions and talk to the actors that we have been studying about these past few months.

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This is part of a series where current Master in International Relations student Calvin Nguyen will share with us updates about the Master in International Relations yearly trip to Brussels.

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[…] can read more blogposts on the Brussels trip here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day […]

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