27
Mar

Day 4 in Brussels:

It is 1 am and I am absolutely exhausted from the day! Today was the long awaited NATO trip. We had some logistical issues with NATO since they sent their transport bus to the wrong hotel, but after a few phone calls, the problem was resolved and we were on our way. The compound is quite guarded with barbed wire surrounding the perimeter. To enter the compound, we had to surrender any recording devices, including our cellphones, and pass through security. After entering, we had a series of speakers come in to talk to us about the organization. The room that we were placed in had a unique character about it. It was painted in a light blue pastel color with a long rectangular table that stretched throughout the length of the room. The table was covered with microphones and headsets that were neatly placed in front of each seat. One particular speaker was a retired military officer in the British army especially captivated us with his chummy and witty humor and his willingness to answer questions without dancing around the issue. We also were able to have lunch in the NATO facility which was quite delicious! I had a French inspired duck dish with croquets and vegetables.

After the NATO visit, we had free time until 9 pm that night which was when we would have our program dinner with everyone. A few of the students and I decided to use this time to explore downtown Brussels and to get some tourist traveling done. Despite the cold and rainy weather, we had a blast navigating the city. Once we returned to the hotel, we headed to our dinner. The menu was absolutely delicious! The venue was very nicely decorated and had a very unique character about it. Everyone was having a great time with the delicious food, wine, and good conversation. Tomorrow we have one more seminar before having the official field work portion of the trip be over. Time to sleep! Good night!

Calvin

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

26
Mar

Day 3 in Brussels:

Today has been an incredibly long but interesting day. We started off at 9 am today by walking to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to meet some of the staff. The IOM has offices worldwide with regional offices in Manila, Panama, and Brussels. It works quite closely with the UN on migration matters and has ongoing projects all over the world. What struck me as the most interesting was the fact that one of the speakers and employees there was an American and not a European. I think for the North Americans (including myself), it made us think about the potential opportunities for us in Brussels. Due to the time constraint, we were unable to go more in depth about certain issues such as the humanitarian projects, human trafficking, and other nitty gritty issues, but we left with an overall idea of the goals and work of the organization.

Soon after, we had a lunch break before having to reconvene for our EU Parliament visit. For lunch, a few of us went to a restaurant called the Grape Vine with the intention of just drinking hot chocolate or coffee and talking. Upon arriving, we found an incredibly reasonably priced Indian lunch buffet for only 16 euros. After stuffing ourselves silly, we regrouped with everyone to head to the EU Parliament. The most interesting speaker was a quick Q and A with one of the Spanish parliamentarians. After learning “seminar style,” we went and actually were able to observe a plenary session. Most of us were really entertained to see how parliamentary procedures were debated and carried out. We had to use headphones and could change to different channels to hear the debates translated live. It was interesting gauging the performance of the translators as well. It was clear that some translators were much more adept at their job than others.

Afterwards, we had a two hour break before our next event. A few of us decided to finally head to central Brussels to explore what the city had to offer. We indulged in delicious Belgian waffles and chocolates and also explored the Grand Plaza area, including the famous fountain of the peeing little boy. With chocolates in our bellies, we raced back to the hotel to meet the rest of the group for our scheduled young professionals networking event at an Irish Pub. I was able to talk to a few young professionals and learn about what brought them to Brussels which was quite interesting.

I better get to bed because we have to meet tomorrow at 7:30am for our much anticipated NATO visit.  Until then!

Calvin

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

25
Mar

Day 2 in Brussels:

Today the MIR students and I woke up quite early to enjoy the complimentary breakfast served at our hotel. We’re staying at the lovely Radisson Blu which is conveniently located in walking distance to most of the EU institutions. After satiating my growling stomach with french toast, eggs, bacon, and sausages, we began our walk to the European Commission building. We arrived during the middle of rush hour with a line coiling around the lobby to enter the first security check. After a quick briefing, we were led into a meeting room to participate in a very interesting series of seminars covering a range of different topics.

Topics included information about the EU and the European Commission, EU and Russia relations, Banking Policy, the EU energy union, and the EU enlargement policy. It was quite surreal to see the civil servants walking around going about their daily work life. Various languages could be heard as I walked around each corner of the Commission. One of my favorite parts of the day was the lunch in their cafeteria. The food was diverse and delicious and most of us left happily clutching our stomachs with satisfaction.

One of the other students and I got to catch a glimpse of the EU Water Conference by accident while getting lost in our attempt to wander back to our meeting room. There was a large room with seemingly important people and booths filled with translators in the back. People were rushing around with papers seemingly preparing for something important.  We were really lucky to have briefly seen the proceeding.

After a long day of seminars, most of the MIR students and I went for dinner. We had to try the famous Belgian fries and local foods! The food was plentiful and delicious. Tomorrow we will be attending a seminar with the International Organization for Migration and also the European Parliament.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Calvin

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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

 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

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