GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Author: Daniela Beatriz Barrientos Treminio


On Friday we had our last scheduled visit in Paris, and it was not even in the city. Our day trip to Normandy was supposed to look like this: we would leave the hotel by 7:45 get to the Normandy beaches and cemetery by around 11:30 and after exploring the museum we would head back to Bayeux France and see the oldest tapestry in Europe. Finally, we would have some extra time to explore Bayeux and head back just in time to make the Euro Cup match.

Again, this was only what the day was supposed to look like but because the train had mechanical problems and we had to stop for repairs for what seemed like hours, so our plans had to be adjusted. We missed our connecting bus from Bayeux to the Normandy beaches so instead we stayed in Bayeux first.

We visited the museum for the Tapestry of Bayeux, which is 1,000 years old, the oldest in Europe. The tapestry depicts the Norman invasion of England telling the story of William the Conqueror. I was surprised by how well preserved the tapestry was and how long it was (68m). We all had audio guides that explained the story the tapestry depicted and it is amazing to see how precise they were and techniques they used to show importance or symbolism throughout the tapestry. My favorite part was when during a battle scene the horses fell so they are upside down in the tapestry. To end our visit in the museum we saw a short video that explained more about the technique and symbolism instead of the story it was telling.


We had some time to wander around before we took the bus to the museum.

Lucy and I toured the museum first, and watched a small film that told the story of four soldiers who are buried in the cemetery. Afterwards we headed out and walked only around the cemetery because the entrance to the beach was closed. We saw the wall with the names of all the soldiers who were never found and spent some time inside the chapel. It was shocking to experience how peaceful and safe it feels to be there today. Finally, there were no problems on our way back and the people that wanted to see the game got there in time, but unfortunately Belgium was eliminated from the tournament.


Welcome to Copenhagen!

I was lucky to have the first post in Brussels and this time I have the first post in Copenhagen, our first trip with the program! Before I even started this program pretty much everyone I know told me Scandinavia was going to be my favorite place out of the whole trip, and so far it has lived up to what everyone had said. In a way it is how I expected it to be but at the same time it is not like anywhere I have been before.


On Sunday I had to get up around five to make sure I did not miss the bus that took me to the airport because I had to get there by 7:30, and the only bus that would get me there on time left from Schuman at 6:50. Lucy and I got to the metro station and were nervous when we saw that the next one was coming in twenty minutes. Fortunately, out of nowhere another one appeared and we managed to make it on time. Once we got to Copenhagen and saw that not all of our rooms were ready we decided to go for lunch. Dr. Birchfield found an amazing restaurant that served Danish specialties. To say it was amazing is an understatement, we ate for hours, our lunch consisted of two courses. The first one consisted more of fish and the second one consisted more of meat. I still don’t know what part was my favorite because everything was delicious. After our huge meal, we all needed a nap, but then we decided to go out and explore. Part of the group and I decided to walk around without looking a specific place to go first. We wandered around a lot and eventually ended up close to the river were we decided to hang out for a while, then we got diner and called it a day.

Danish Food

Our first site visit in Copenhagen was to the Danish Refugee Council, and in my opinion it was one of the most comprehensive and informative briefings we’ve had. The speaker explained what was happening with the migration crisis, gave her perspective, the Danish perspective and sometimes she even included a Copenhagen perspective which is different than the Danish in some situations. She explained how the migration crisis was a political problem, and began explaining how it all began in 1956 with Hungary. Then, she told us that the Danish Refugee Council is present in Africa, Middle East, and a little in Central Africa. Their newest camp is in Greece. They are legal advisors through every stage of asylum seeking. Some of the activities they do to integrate them in Danish society with volunteers that plan activities, help with the language and getting a job. The biggest groups that get asylum status in Denmark are Eritreans and Syrians because they have the strongest case for asylum right now.

Danish Refugee Council

One of the most interesting things she mentioned, which I feel people are not really aware of is that many of the people leaving these countries are well educated. Their children have been out of school for maybe two years and they leave having lost hope on themselves but still seeking a better future for their children.

The speaker shared a quote that helped explained her point for the need of a joint solution, “It seems we have left on war to enter another”. She explained that the resources are there but there is a lack of political will. She explained the different systems in place to help asylum seekers and how they have evolved in time and this really put into perspective how hard it is for people to get in especially when every country has a different idea of how they should be treated and also different amounts of resources available.

In Denmark the package they receive includes Danish language school, job and training if necessary, education, and a house in the municipality they are assigned. Finally, she concluded by explaining that the prevalent reason in Denmark to not want more immigrants is fear. Fear of the unknown or the different, like religion, because this can change the society they are used to; in other words there is a fear of integration because of the difference in culture, when in reality this should be seen as an asset.

After our briefing we went to the rooftop of the building we were in and had a good time taking pictures of the beautiful view. When we left the group split up for lunch and then met up again to have our second scheduled activity which was a lecture by Ian Manners. His lecture was extremely interesting and in two ours managed to talk about everything we have been talking about for the past month in an entertaining but still educational way. I really enjoyed that at the end he mentioned possible scenarios of how Europe would look depending on how strong or weak the Union is.


Finally, to end the day we watched two Euro Cup matches, first Sweden versus Ireland, which ended up as a tie; and then Brussels versus Italy, which ended as a victory for the Italians.

Welcome to Europe

I think I speak for everyone when I say our first week in the program flew by. For our first day in Brussels, all that was planned was meeting our host families. My future roommate, Lucy, and I had spent time in London before the start of the program and thus did not take the same flight in as everyone else. As we walked into the cafe where we were meeting everyone it became very clear; half of the table looked up as we came in and used their last bit of strength to smile or wave and the other half just continued sleeping. The upside of this was because we were not jet-lagged we walked around with our host family to see what was close to their house.

The next morning, our first full day in Brussels, Lucy and I made tourist mistake #347, or as we like to call it the laundromat incident. Since we had spent the previous week in London we needed to do our laundry, we went to the nearest Carrefour Express, a grocery store and the only thing open on Sundays, to look for detergent. Lucy insisted on looking for Tide Pods, and soon we found a box of Tide Pod-looking cubes that had the words “laver” and “lave-linge”. After one year of french we bought these “Tide Pods” without hesitation. As Lucy read the instructions clearly written in the wall in French and Dutch, I soon discovered our beloved “Tide Pods” were cubes used to wash the washing machine itself and not to do laundry. Luckily for ourselves, there was a detergent vending machine. This was just the first of our problems, we spent nearly half an hour putting coins into the machine not understanding why it wouldn’t start. Eventually a lady took pity on us and walked in and decided to show us how you are supposed to put the coins into another machine that gives a coin that the washing machine uses. After what felt like an eternity we got our laundry done and decided to call it a day.

The following week flew by, packed with learning both in and out of the class, whether it was touring Brussels on Monday or sitting in lecture the other days. After our afternoon lecture on Tuesday some of us decided to do something together and we decided to go to some of the places we had been to the previous day on our tour. After what seemed hours of walking, and not finding what we were looking for in the first place, we called it a day and headed back to our houses for dinner. Brussels was more confusing to navigate than we had previously expected, but what we didn’t know is that it was only our first day and in the days to come we would become experts on the metro and tram systems.

One week later, filled with more trips to Parc du Cinquantenaire than we should be proud of, our second week began with a visit to the Parlamentarium and a conference on “Brexit or Bremain.” To say there was a lot of out of class learning would definitely be an understatement. I hadn’t known what my expectations for the Parlamentarium were, but they were exceeded. There was constant visual, auditory and hands-on learning which made every type of learner benefit. The Parlamentarium began with a history lesson, covering decades of events all of the EU’s member states witnessed. The lower room focused solely on the European Parliament. One room played a video about the Parliament which helped me visualize how the sessions look. Also in this same room, while the video was playing, each seat had a touch screen for more information and a different presentation.


After the video room, which looked like the Parliament itself, there was an exhibition focusing on the job the parliament does both in Europe and outside. Some of the close projects being developed with Latin America really surprised me because I wasn’t aware of them before, especially seeing as I am Salvadorian.

europe roome

Finally, the museum had a display of all the MEPs currently elected and a touch screen that gave further information on every member of parliament. After the Parlamentarium, however, our day was far from over. Dr. Birchfield invited us to eat pastries at Le Pain Quotidien.

When we finished our snack, we walked back to our classroom in ULB to listen to a conference on the United Kingdom’s referendum on “Brexit or Bremain.” Points were brought up on both sides but it is safe to say that the panel was definitely hoping the vote on June 23 is to Bremain. An analytic discussion on the advertisement and what is lacking on the Bremain campaign was particularly interesting to me as a foreigner. I just assumed most people knew more than they actually do about the costs of leaving the EU. In conclusion, this day like any other in Europe was full of learning and new experiences.

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