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Taking Brussels by storm – the EUS 2023 study trip

Every autumn EUS students take the train down to our southern neighbours to learn the secrets of European Union institutions. They get to hear tips about landing a job in Brussels, learn things about EU institutions that cannot be found in the textbooks, meet important contacts, and get inspiration for their thesis topics.

Day 1: Meeting the alumni

On the evening of the first day we met in a trendy downtown food court with former students of the European Union Studies programme who now work Brussels. Trainees and officials at the European Parliament, lobbyists, researchers and civil servants at the European Commission – our slightly older colleagues shared valuable insights on starting one’s career in the city. Combined with a walk around the historic city centre and a tasting of famous Belgian beers, this first day was a great introduction to Europe’s capital!

With some of our alumni

Day 2: Everyone needs people in Brussels

The EU’s decisions impact us all, which is why representatives of public authorities as well as private firms flock to Brussels to hear firsthand about important new policies and to help shape them. We started the second day with a visit to Logos, a Brussels-based public affairs company, and VNO-NCW, the Dutch employers’ association. In different ways, both support private companies in their efforts to anticipate and adapt to the EU policies, and our students got to learn about the ins and outs of lobbying, corporate research and communications in the EU environment.

We then headed to the British Mission to the European Union for lunch and insight into broader European politics. After Brexit, the United Kingdom and its Brussels-based staff are finding new ways to stay close to the centre of the European policy-making. The emphasis is on values-based communication and soft diplomacy, and a panel of five policy officers of the British Mission demonstrated how these are used to deepen cooperation on issues such as energy policy, migration, trade, and the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The final stop was the Dutch Permanent Representation, where we got some frank insights into the ways member states negotiate their way in the Council of the EU. How do you translate your countries’ preferences into arguments that will be heeded by other member states? What happens when a government suddenly changes its mind? How to build coalitions and maintain contacts even when the relations among the states are cooling off? Answers to such questions are exactly why the Brussels trip provides such a unique addition to the EUS Masters programme.

At the UK mission to the European Union

Day 3: The EU institutions

On the morning of the last day we headed to the Schuman roundabout for the visit to the European Commission and the European Parliament. At the Parliament the students got a tour of the famous hemicycle, learned about the history of the institution and met a policy officer from the Greens/EFA group in the Parliament who also offered some hands-on insights about the skills one needs for a successful career in EU institutions. Do you need to be a specialist in your field, a networking shark or an activist in a political party? Depends on the job!

The visit ended at the European Commission where we got more practical insights into the way the legislation is prepared and negotiated and how the Commission experts develop their proposals. Seeing the officials in the flesh and hearing them speak about their work really makes it easier to imagine oneself following in their footsteps.

Thanks to the generosity of our hosts we managed to complete all our visits despite the storm Ciaran gathering above the city. We only had to skip a visit to the House of European History – an excellent excuse to return very soon!

Enjoying the night life in Brussels

Special thanks to Vera Scepanovic, Laura van der Vleuten, Matthew Broad and Daniel Schade for organising and supervising this year’s Brussels trip, and to the Faculty of Humanities and the Alumni Office for their generous support. We would also like to thank all our alumni who joined us on this trip and the representatives of all organisations and companies we visited for their valuable insights and tips.  

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