This morning we all jumped on the tram in Brussels and headed over the brand new NATO building with Dr. Markley. It was a great way to celebrate the United States and its contribution to peace in the world.The beautiful architecture depicts two hands coming together and symbolizes unity as well as cooperation of sovereign states in the world working together for a common defense. After walking around the perimeter, we took a picture in front of the building and returned back to Brussels to enjoy the rest of our free day. Everyone then went their separate ways for one last waffle or fries, to visit any last museums and/or to relax in one of Brussel’s many lovely parks and soak up the sun.

After going home to pack up, we all regrouped at 7pm for our Fourth of July party at Kwint in the city center. We had a beautiful view overlooking the Park Mont des Arts, especially when the sun started to set, which made for beautiful pictures that many took with their host families to remember this great experience by. The venue was also located right next to the Royal Library of Belgium which I got the opportunity to visit earlier on in the day.

It was an interesting experience to celebrate a holiday not as widely recognized  as it is in America. It gives us as Americans a new global perspective as every country has its own unique history that has great importance to its citizens. Given this experience I am excited to celebrate Bastille Day or Fete Nationale in a couple weeks which is the French equivalent and compare how the French celebrate their national holiday.

After all host families, special guests, and students had had the chance to have a bite to eat and get refreshments Dr. Birchfield honoured us with a speech. She spoke of the importance of unity in a time where it is seeming easier and easier to pull back the hand of friendship and hide behind borders. She also touched on the importance of a program such as this that aims to educate young Americans in the hopes of continuing the transatlantic relationship and supporting peace projects through partnerships and cooperation. And last but by no means least, I was touched by her emphasis on loving our country regardless of the fact that some might not support our current administration. I believe political rhetoric and the current media sometimes make it easy to forget that the United States has also done so much good throughout history to safe guard democracy and help others. We shouldn’t lose sight of the hope and opportunities the United States continues to generate despite bumps along the road and setbacks.

After our fearless leader’s speech, we then proceeded to sing the Georgia Tech fight song loud for all to hearand continued to mingle around until we all sadly had to go our separate ways once more around 9:30 PM to get ready for our early train to The Hague that next morning.

I will end with a quote from an article I read this afternoon: “I will celebrate not because I’m ignoring the stains in America’s past, but because I have an undying faith in those who struggle to weave a new fabric, one where families are cherished, and diversity is celebrated.”                    – Hannah Nguyen

Happy Independence Day!