This summer I am interning in Brussels, Belgium at the European Parliament. As an International Relations major and French minor, I could not have asked for a more fitting location and internship. I am working for Bill Etheridge, an MEP (Member of European Parliament) from the United Kingdom. At the office, I have researched a variety of topics such as: women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, imprisonment of European dual nationals in Iran, Somaliland seeking its independence and just today, I wrote my first ever press release! My day is always bustling with political interactions: from a debate in my office about Trump, to discussing cultural differences between Belgium and the US, to sitting in on the Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
Living in Brussels has also given me the chance to explore other parts of Europe such as the Netherlands, France, and the UK. In Maastricht (above), I was reunited with friends from both my high school and my elementary school in Abu Dhabi. We used rental bicycles to explore the city in true Dutch spirit. Last week, I travelled to Strasbourg for a business trip to the official seat of the European Parliament (below). Every 4 weeks, the MEPs travel from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week of voting and intense debates. From 9:00-23:00 the day is fully packed with a variety of issues that MEPs make speeches on as well as take the opportunity to ask questions on. In the middle of each day, all 751 MEPs convene in the hemicycle for a period of voting where the topics of the previous day are voted on. One of the most heated debates was the recent Aquarius boat of refugees turned away by the Italian government. MEPs were shouting at each other and criticizing one another, and you could truly tell how much devotion they have towards their own country as well as the future of the EU.
In Brussels, I’ve been able to visit Manneken Pis, the Atomium, Mini-Europe, and the Comic Book Museum (Brussels is most famous for the Smurfs and Tintin). I’ve also tried Belgian chocolate, waffles, fries and clams.
This internship has been a great way for me to figure out exactly what I want to pursue after my undergraduate career and understand what steps I need to take in order to achieve these goals. I’m slowly, but surely understanding what topics truly motivate me as well as what I can see myself pursuing for the rest of my life. I’ve had a wonderful time in Brussels so far, and I can’t wait for what lies ahead!
Kyoko Imai , University of Rochester (Brussels, Summer 2018)