2019 Study Tour to Brussels
Monday 8th April to Friday 12th April 2019
At TEAMGlobal we organised another study tour to Brussels for students, teachers and those who would benefit professionally.
The group visited the Council of the European Union, European Commission, European Parliament, UK Permanent Representation to the EU, Irish Representation to the EU, US Mission to the EU, European External Action Service, Council of Europe, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Headquarters and East of England European Partnership Office.
As usual it was an intensive programme, which gave participants an in-depth understanding of the institutions of Europe in Brussels. It is more than just a visit. It is is a chance to meet the people behind the headlines, engage with them and ask searching questions to get an inside insight into how they operate.
Jasper Haywood reports on an inspiring and hopeful trip
Taking part in the TEAMGlobal Study Tour was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience. On an administrative level, the organisation of the trip was exemplary, with a huge thank you to Antony Frost for his charismatic and enthusiastic leadership, as well as his ‘get-together’. Reflecting on the trip, I am still amazed at the sheer amount of talks and visits each day involved, all of which were enlightening and interesting. Specifically, I came away from the trip having advanced my learning in three important areas.
Primarily, the access to expert policy-makers on such a wide range of important topics was something I have never experienced. None of the talks felt like student-teacher presentations, and at all venues, I felt comfortable to question and challenge all speakers. Admittedly, some speakers did ambiguously answer questions, but even in such cases, what they did not say was as valuable as what they did. I was able to gain a greater depth of understanding into a policy-area I am familiar with. In particular, I have an interest in emerging, human-centric security threats, a focus of one of my modules. Indeed, being able to question important figures at NATO about how complex issues can be distilled so as to be relatable for policy-makers was invaluable to my studies. This opportunity brought to life the content of my studies and identified that topics integral to academic study may not carry the same weight in regards to practical policy-making. However, I also learnt a great deal on this trip. Of note, was the focus on Russia and the threat it poses to the European Union. I came away from the trip with a fresh insight into the strategies employed by the EU and NATO toward Russia. Both of these areas of understanding aided my research for assessments upon my return.
Secondly, this trip was also an opportunity to build networks with influential people. Despite considerable nerves, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities to network at the East of England Partnership Office. Having never networked in such a setting before, I quickly learnt how to sustain an interesting conversation whilst gaining the information or insights I wanted. Indeed, I followed up a number of these connections upon returning home, potentially widening my opportunities post-university. Of note was the assistance that the UK Permanent Representation offered since my return to the UK, with informative follow up emails of opportunities in Brussels.
Thirdly, I am currently studying an MA in Public Policy. Having watched events unfold in the UK since the unfortunate referendum in 2016, I have increasingly lost faith with party politics. Both sides of the political divide seem unable to compromise and reach consensus. However, seeing the institutions of the EU, in particular, the European Parliament as well as the smaller institutions and representations, has given me some much-needed hope! Specifically, it has demonstrated the sheer scale of power held in Brussels. Indeed, the close proximity of the institutions, both large and small, has shown me how well the EU works and how efficiently it operates in contrast to the somewhat archaic British system. This has reaffirmed my belief that for any nation or institution looking for influence on a global scale, representation in Brussels is a must. Secondly, seeing the curved chamber in the European Parliament, as opposed to the diametric sides of the House of Commons, was a visual symbol of the consensus approach to politics that we should be striving toward. Whilst somewhat bittersweet in the context of the UK’s withdrawal, this visit gave me hope to believe that a common-sense approach politics is possible.
Overall, the Study Tour was an unforgettable experience. It combined specialist knowledge and access to experts with practical networking to offer a brief, hopeful respite from the chaotic state of politics in the UK. This trip has demonstrated the importance of the EU, and the power of Brussels in the world. Finally, it broadened my horizons beyond UK politics and set my sights on a career in Brussels. For these reasons, I cannot thank, nor recommend, the Brussels Study Tour enough.