As I write this, our students are (hopefully) preparing for our first group excursion away from Brussels.  Next week, we will be in Athens, Greece, where the students will have an opportunity to see first hand the effects of austerity and think about the ties that bind the EU together (and ostensibly discover the Greek root of all words 🙂 ).

While next week will be a blast, this week was no slouch.  It started with a voluntary trip to Maastricht, Netherlands.  Our first stop was a gelato shop just 3 minutes from the train station door:

Gelato in Maastricht. How can one go wrong?

Afterward the students got to see a Dominican church converted into a most impressive bookstore and a limestone mine dating back to Roman times at Mount Sint Pietersberg (St. Peter).

The students had some classroom time this week, pretty much the last of the formal lectures.  On Thursday, they had a visit to DG Energy, where they heard from a wonderfully animated Jeff Piper on the energy supply and security issues confronting Europe.  On Friday, they visited the Committee of the Regions,

where Eric Leurquin, an expert on the financial underpinnings of the EU and the Euro financial crisis, hosted the group.  After a photo opportunity with the flags of the member states

and a visit to the outdoor lounge and its brilliant view of the European Parliament,

the students made ready for some serious learning:

After Eric’s lecture, the group had a chance to check out the impressive technology during a role-playing exercise in which they tried to find a solution to the Greek economic crisis (video).  It was a fantastic session!

After lunch in the Committee of the Regions cafeteria, the group made its way to the Council of Europe (which is not part of the European Union!).  There they heard about one of the broadest and strongest human rights regimes in the world, and asked some challenging questions. 

Our host said more than once: “That’s a great question.”  The students did us proud!