With the end drawing near, students reflected back on some of their most memorable moments. When questioned, the buzz of "Belgium!" began to fill our ears.
Catching the train last Wednesday morning came with a bit of practice. By then, students had already made a visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Pre-alerted to the likelihood of platform changes and fitting forty of us into one train car, students came caffeinated and prepared for the challenge. The almost three hour ride was somewhat rural and tranquil, which made the contrast of a large train station in city center an obvious marker to our arrival in Brussels, Belgium.
From the train, students dropped bags and went onward to the EU Parliament, where a speaker gave a detailed 101 of the institution's functions, and examples of the people who keep the space occupied and running on the day-to-day. Following a morning of focused exploration, were some taste-tests at a local chocolate museum. Students critiqued the nature of the tour, maintaining their critical analysis and awareness with chocolates and pralines in hand and stomach. After a sweet treat, and exploring the unglamorous history of things we call simple pleasures today, students were ready to transition into tourist mode.
On the account of one student, Tigerlily Warner said:
"... the course of the trip... included a tour of the EU parliament, a beautiful dinner at an open air French restaurant, a Belgian waffle taste test (10/10), and a fascinating tour of the European history museum."
She came into Brussels already toying with a quote by Anthony Bourdain that reads “Travel is not reward for working. It’s education for living.” This quote led her to challenge the lens through which she normally experiences life, concluding with the idea that:
"It is far too easy to fall into the trap of traveling through only your own experiences. It’s far too easy to push each experience into your worldview instead of expanding your perspective to fit each experience. It’s far too easy to miss out on everything you could be learning because you are caught up in everything you think you already know. If I have learned anything from this short excursion to Brussels, bookended within the larger trip, it is this: if I continue to move through world concerned with how each experience reflects onto me instead of what I can learn from reflecting on the experience, travel may be an enjoyable ‘reward for working’ but it will never be the ‘education for living’ that it can be."
Tigerlily is just one of the many World Government students who has taken this experience as an opportunity to challenge and expand upon their worldview, to be open to learning from what they don't know, and adjusting or cementing what they do. Their curiosity and zeal for interacting with new people and new systems revitalized the group midway, and has been an energy that's maintained itself through to the end.
If students have made one thing clear, it's that their experiences here in Brussels and Amsterdam are something they will carry back with them as individuals. So whether they arrive with souvenirs or empty-handed, they have some gems and gifts to share with those back home.
Copy by Alana Zick (they/them)