Monday, May 20, 2013

Internships, Tours, and Travels

     My interview experience this week in Brussels was a positive one. The metro was luckily not too terribly difficult or different from that of DC, so I was able to make it to all of my interviews on time. The interviews themselves were not that different from similar interviews I've had in the United States. The people I met with were all very friendly, which I think may have come from this internship program's AU affiliation. I did notice that as huge as some of my organizations sounded, they were always an office of only about 2-10 people. I think this will be a good thing, since I'll almost certainly have no shortage of work. The internship I was ultimately matched with, Social Platform, is an NGO that coordinates the similar interests of hundreds of organizations and 70+ other NGOs with respect to their common interest of basic human rights protections. They were my first choice, and I am excited to be analyzing and coordinating along with them. I am particularly excited because I will likely be attending meetings on their behalf within the EU. Overall the internship experience was a positive one, and I think we all really did hit the ground running here. The only aspect I was not particularly fond of was that we were not allowed to rank our internship preferences to our coordinator. I still managed to convey my number one choice I think through the length and enthusiasm of the internship evaluations I gave, but I wish I could have been more direct. Besides this, I am happy with where I was placed and am excited to begin.

     My impressions of Brussels so far are difficult to describe. I am thrilled to be within Europe again, and particularly to be so close to the EU parliament. However, I have had a bit of a struggle getting over my initial jetlag, and every single day has been very cold and very rainy. I would say I expected this for maybe the first few days, but now a full week later I have only seen the sun once and I'm really hoping the weather will clear up soon. Also, I've been surprised at the advanced age of the majority of people I've seen here, who have a tendency to keep quiet and keep to themselves. I think this may be because, as Jerry told our class, nearly all of the students are at home panicking and studying for their finals, which determine whether or not they may even stay enrolled. Other than these initial impressions, I really like how international the city is. Speaking English only (my spanish doesn't really apply here) I have had no difficulty communicating with anyone. 
This past weekend was my favorite experience so far. I loved the cities we visited, the tours and the architecture. Gent in particular was my favorite, I really liked both the people and the huge, aged buildings and structures.

     I think that the aspects of my academic program that will be most beneficial to me will be, of course Jerry's lectures and tours. The EU lecture filled in the gaps in my basic EU knowledge, and I really think that because I will be lobbying the EU, the more information I can gather on it's origins and function, the better. The tours have done an excellent job of connecting the modern attitude of Belgians today to their history. Again, this past weekend's trips in particular were great. I am looking forward to starting my internship, hopefully better weather, and more time to navigate and explore Brussels in the weeks to come.


  1. Ryan,

    I'm glad to hear that you've had a positive interview experience and that you're excited about your internship placement. Beyond Jerry's lectures, I'm curious about the way that the courses you've taken so far at AU may help prepare you for your internship. Do you have any specific connections or ideas here? What kinds of skills do you envision using in your internship?

  2. I agree with you that although the work that some of these organizations do sounds huge, the actual labor force is quite small which is amazing to me. I also believe that this will be very beneficial for our positions at these organizations as we will have integral parts in the function of the organization; unlike some positions in the US where interns are most times given menial busy work. Jerry's lectures and guided tours definitley helped me understand the Belgian culture and the EU much better than before coming to Brussels and I think they will be beneficial for all of our work at our internships this summer.

    And I hope the weather clears up soon as well!

  3. I have also found Jerry's lectures to be pretty invaluable so far. Judging from the first day of my internship, it looks like I will have to quickly pick up alot of the EU lingo and get a grasp on its overall structure. Having the early lecture about EU/Belgian politics in general gave me a good start. I was also a bit lucky because I took a transnational security class last semester where I had to represent the point of view of the EU multiple times so I was somewhat familiar with some of the acronyms and general challenges faced by the EU. Seeing this in action should be a cool experience!