Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reflective/Retrospective Post

Sorry for the delay, I've been pretty busy and all over the place lately.

My overall impression of my Brussels experience was positive (despite the horrendous weather for five of the six weeks). I really liked that we had three day weekends, it gave me many opportunities to travel. Jerry's lectures were really great, and he was nice enough to give Cassandra, Emily and myself a private tour of the Battle of the Bulge, and he even drove us the hour it took to get there and back for free!

Although I like that the policy posts on the blog were all conducted over one weekend in one cluster, I thought it would have been easier to complete all the readings a week or two later, since we were still getting situated and had just completed a breathtaking week of travel, internship interviews, and internship orientations.

As for the homestay experience, it was O.K. From talking to the other 9 students, I would rank my family as somewhere in the middle. Some families made their student lunch and dinner every day, while others were forgotten about or had to listen to family fights at 4 AM every morning. My family was not particularly warm, but they were polite for the most part. They did forget my dinner one night, but I also received one extra dinner several weeks later, so I suppose this balances out.

With respect to my internship, again my feelings are mixed. I was frustrated that somehow I was the only grad student to not receive an interview with a member of parliament, while others who weren't even considering parliament received one or even two interviews there (though I'm happy for those that did wind up in parliament, and I know they did a really great job!). Also, the majority of the interviews I received were not fields I was interested in: I was hoping for something more directly related to the EU government. Though having completed this course, I now know how uncommon it probably is for EU internships to be granted to Americans. I think it would be helpful to tell incoming law students about the internships previous law students had received, to help them decide if they want to participate in the program.

With regard to my particular internship, I really like the work Social Platform is doing, and I was able to work briefly on a few important projects. I also thought the staff was very warm and friendly, and I do think this was a worthwhile work experience. However, the Platform seemed a little unprepared for how short the internship was (this was their first 6 week summer intern experience). The first week was nearly a waste, since they were in the middle of several important meetings, and no one had time to set me up on any projects or show me much, so I spent most of that time sitting in on the meetings. Also, on slower days I was doing mundane tasks such as making copies and setting up tables for meetings. Though I didn't mind doing this kind of work as an undergrad, I'm now looking for more substantial work as a second year graduate/law student, particularly since I've paid for the flight and course and in time to be there and was working for free. I think it would be helpful in the future to stress to the employers before the student arrives that there are differences in expectations between an undergraduate and a graduate internship. Still, my overall impression of Social Platform was positive, and I did get to do some work on substantial projects, such as my financial inclusion analysis grid. If they were more prepared for the short timespan, I think this would solve many of the problems.

Thank you for a great course and a great trip! This blog has been my favorite online classroom experience to date!