Travel is, of course, an exciting and desired part of a study abroad experience. That is one of the reasons why the IES Abroad European Union program is so favorable for students. Although the planned travel into the city is a huge bonus for the program, it is not getting to the city but what you do once you are there that makes it worthwhile. These trips are more than just sightseeing and food tasting. Sure, those things make up parts of the trip, and there is no doubt that everyone enjoys the food and pictures, but there is something else that sets these trips apart from the rest.
On our most recent trip, we traveled to Luxembourg and Brussels. It was here that we had the ability to truly go inside the European Union. I mean that in more than the sense that we just step inside the Institution buildings. We had access to people who work every day in those buildings, doing important work, and creating important policy decisions for the entirety of the European Union. We listened to them speak and were then given the opportunity to ask questions. It is not every day that you are able to sit and have a conversation with an EU policymaker or ask a foreign diplomat the hard questions. Even though the responses to your questions were not exactly what you wished to hear from the people in high places, it was somewhat inspiring to see the potential career options for us studying political science, international affairs, economics, and more.
Walking through the halls of institutions such as the European Court of Justice, the EU Commission, The Council of Europe, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, and the German Marshall Fund felt unreal. We spend all our time in classes and lectures discussing these institutions; yet, it was hard to imagine physically being present in those spaces… until now.
Looking back at these trips one day, I know these meetings and visits will always be a part of the memories. The excitement of watching dozens of different motorcades come down the streets, guessing which heads of government were inside the cars will slowly fade but not vanish completely. It makes for a unique experience, one that not every person – especially not every undergraduate student - will have the ability to share with their friends and family for years to come. I am looking forward to having more of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences on the next IES Abroad program trip.
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<p>My name is Elizabeth Thies and I am originally from Medina, Ohio but I now live in Washington, D.C. as a rising senior at George Washington University studying International Affairs. I am passionate about traveling and learning foreign languages as I speak English and Spanish while learning Russian and German. I also really love staying active and am on GW's Women's Club Volleyball team and am an avid SCUBA diver. Spending time with animals (dogs are my favorite) never fails to make my day! Lastly, I am a huge book geek and am constantly reading my favorite genre of historical non-fiction.</p>