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.

24
Mar

Hi everyone! Saludos a todos.

I’m sitting here in my apartment in Madrid, munching on the famous Spanish mandarins and Canarian bananas, writing this post after finishing the notoriously difficult 2nd term of the program. I feel mentally and physically exhausted, but very accomplished, accompanied with a sense of excitement for the MIR program’s upcoming Brussel’s trip. We will visit key EU Institutions and even NATO and have the opportunity to attend an EU Parliamentary session. I’ve officially passed the half way point of the program and it’s crazy to think that I’ll be done in just a few months. It is within this context that I begin writing to you all today.

My name is Calvin, a student of the Masters in International Relations program at IE. I’m from Sunnyvale, California, USA in the heart of all things technology-related in Silicon Valley. Most of my friends and family work in technology, many as engineers or programmers. It seemed natural that I too, should pursue a career in tech. After starting my undergraduate as a major in Computer Science and taking my first programming course, I immediately knew it was not for me. I noticed I lacked the enthusiasm and interest that my classmates had as they typed away on their laptops and spent weekends holed up in the basement level computer lab.

At age 20, I went to participate in a summer Japanese intensive study program in Kyoto, Japan because of a strong recommendation from a friend. That trip really changed my life by opening up the world to me. I felt like a fish that had finally left its fishbowl and had discovered the ocean with its vast unknown, yet exciting possibilities.

That event spurred me to begin to pursue further international opportunities during my undergraduate and post-graduation through interacting more with international students at my home university and also via studying, volunteering, traveling, and working internationally.

By the time I was applying for the IE School of International Relations, I had lived in several countries already. I was sitting in my Japanese tatami style room in Taipei, Taiwan with the table was covered in Chinese books and piles of papers with sketches of Chinese characters. My laptop was on the table with an application open for the MIR in Madrid, Spain. I felt that an International Relations program would have been the perfect match for me.

Fast forward 9 months later and now I am living in Madrid, Spain.

On a concluding note, I will be keeping a running blog of our Brussels trip so stay tuned for updates!

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Best Wishes,
Calvin

20
Mar

Written by Meghan O´Farrell, IE Master in International Relations Student, 2014/2015 Intake 

2. Mario Esteban

For IE Professor and China expert Mario Esteban, moving to the other end of the world is eventually what led him right back home. What started as an interest in China and Chinese culture grew into something much bigger and took him places, both literally and figuratively, few Spaniards have been. He has since emerged as one of Spain’s leading China experts with a mastery of the language and unique cultural and political perspective of the rising global powerhouse, granting him the opportunity to introduce Spain, the country he calls home, to China, the country he grew to love.

Mario was raised in Getafe, on the outskirts of Spain’s capital city, in a house only 5 minutes away from where he currently lives with his wife and children, ages 2 and 5. His family was working class- his mother was a housewife and his father was a blue-collar worker in the Airbus factory. 25 years ago, a sizeable Chinese population had yet to take root in Spain. However, he traces his interest in China back to his childhood precisely when China was just a place most Spaniards read about in books. Like so many other children, Mario practiced martial arts and became intrigued by Asian culture. He also befriended a young Chinese boy who sat next to him in primary school, exposing Mario to his first brush with Chinese culture when going to play at his friend’s house.

As a junior in high school, Mario found his way to Middlebury College in Vermont on a French language scholarship. But 10 days alone in New York City made it very clear that, although a strong Chinese presence hadn’t quite yet arrived to Spain, Chinese people were numerous and thriving in other major cities around the world. “I got the feeling that the Chinese were on their way to Spain. This was a huge window of opportunity to merge teaching and research with Chinese culture. First it was an interest, then it became a career move. So as soon as I got back to Madrid, I started learning Mandarin.”

Read more…

12
Mar

Written by Meghan O´Farrell, IE Master in International Relations student, 2014/2015 Intake 

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A handful of students represented IE on Friday, February 27th during a debate with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, the Spanish Minister of Economy and Competitiveness, Luis de Guindos, and Pablo Zalba, Member of the European Parliament for the Group of the European People’s Party.

Vice-President Katainen debate_pics (6)At a rather critical moment for the EU in the wake of the financial crisis, 50 students convened from several universities to listen to Vice President Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, elaborate on President Juncker’s investment plan. The idea is to close the massive investment gap (€434 billion fall from 2007) crippling Europe’s employment and long-term growth. The Commission has chosen as its plan of attack a trifecta consisting of the mobilization of public and private funds, a transparent pipeline to identify viable investment projects, and the removal of sector specific and other financial barriers to investment in hopes to improve the overall business environment.

Still having not recovered from the financial crisis, Vice President Katainen reinforced the importance of this plan at a time of devastating and stubborn unemployment figures across much of Europe and concerning levels of economic inequality among Member States. But its enforcement cannot only be top-down, said Mr. Katainen. He emphasized the role of each EU country assuming national responsibility and personal accountability in upholding the plan and doing its part to contribute to overall growth and investment. Together, he says, the EU can raise €300 billion over the next 3 years in additional public and private investment by supporting local businesses, upgrading transport, funding broadband in low density areas, and expanding R&D.

Vice President Katainen admits the lack of demand is indeed a real problem for Europe, but bolstering confidence among its citizens in financial institutions again is key. Whether it be Greek debt, Spanish unemployment, or the host of other challenges facing EU Member States, Mr. Katainen calls for increased financial, political, and social integration to overcome them. With the unprecedented degree of integration that Europe has achieved comes unprecedented cooperation, cohesion, and solidarity. Only with one voice, says Mr. Katainen, can the EU reach a truly influential role in the world.

 

You can watch the full video of the debate here (in English and Spanish): http://www.ec.nirestream.com/

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IE Students representing IE during the debate with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, at the Representation of the European Commission in Spain.

10
Mar

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On March 6th IE hosted Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, who examined the challenges facing EU trade policy with students and professors of IE University’s Bachelor and Master in International Relations. The EU Commissioner was received by the President of IE, Diego del Alcázar, and Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations.

The talk formed part of a series of initiatives launched by the European Commission aimed at informing citizens about advances in negotiations on international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and to hear opinions from different collectives on EU policy issues. Commissioner Malmström and her team are heading European negotiations related to the TTIP, an agreement aimed at enabling free trade with the US.

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Malmström explained how one of the EU’s key challenges is that of “connecting with citizens”, listening to their opinions, and debating with them on European policy.  She recognized that there is a major debate surrounding the TTIP negotiations, the completion of which would have a very positive impact in terms of job creation. Malmström reminded those present that 30 million people in Europe work in positions related to export, 4.5 million of which have a direct connection with exports to the US. She explained how Swedish policy has centered around the idea that trade agreements are not only aimed at large companies, but at smaller firms as well, pointing out that in Spain alone there are 70,000 SMEs that export.

The European Commissioner for Trade underscored the fact that the signing of the TTIP agreement does not mean that consumers will have less protection or will face a change in regulations. She explained that the agreement is about providing European firms with greater access to the US market, citing as an example how the safety tests to which the US and European automobile industries are subjected to when exporting from one region to another are of a similar, very high standard, which is a major cause of inefficiency in the sector.

Participating IE University students were able to exchange views on key subjects with Cecilia Malmström, including European trade policy, and the main agreements currently being negotiated in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Africa, as well as reflecting on the challenges facing the EU in this field in the coming years.

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Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, is interviewed by Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Europe-US Relationship.

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