Question: what do you do when you cannot take students to visit Brussels? Answer: we bring Brussels to us.
Dr Sarah Lieberman has been bringing CCCU Politics and IR students to Brussels for years and was not going to let ongoing travel restrictions disrupt her teaching plans!
A bus tour of the city (enjoyed with coffee and Belgian waffles); invited speakers from European institutions in the morning; lunch of fries and mayonnaise; meeting officials from NATO in the afternoon; a pub quiz and Belgian beer in the evening.
We met a variety of Brussels inhabitants: Ambassadors currently stationed elsewhere; Council Secretariat members; NATO drone experts; Military Representatives. We also managed to catch an intern who was able to give our students an insight into internships in international institutions.
So, although we could not go to Brussels, we were able to bring a bit of Belgium to us, into our home offices and to our kitchen tables. Provided in advance with a shopping list to include Belgian specialities and instructions to ask questions and network as if in person, students benefitted from the day in ways that may not have been possible had we travelled to Brussels. We were able to see more people than would be possible travelling around the city, and could speak directly to Ambassadors currently in situ outside the European Union.
Student feedback was very positive, both on the academic and social aspects of the virtual field trip:
“I went on the trip last year to Brussels which was really good. Today was almost as good as going to Brussels – the talks were really informative and I loved it. (Hayley Pointon)
“Thank you for the day, it has been really good” (Jordan Selvey)
“It was really useful for my thesis on European security. Also it was a fantastic opportunity to speak to other people – officials in Brussels but also students in other years of study here.” (Thomas Knight)
“I just wanted to thank you for yesterday. It was the first time I felt I was actually a part of a class, a community of students here since we don’t have face-to-face lessons. I learnt a lot and I was really comfortable (since I barely speak in class because I’m worried about my bad English). So, seriously, thank you for bringing the people to talk to us, the things they talked about were very interesting. “ (Roxana Perez)
“As a first-year undergraduate student, I found the experience of networking with high level industry professionals invaluable, to be able to ask questions and have them answered by members of the European Commission and NATO was amazing. Overall, I really enjoyed the day and as somebody who has been considering doing the NATO internship the chance to speak to people who have just completed their internship there and ask for their advice was immeasurable.” (Aaliyah Fooks)
Dr Sarah Lieberman is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations with a research focus on European regulation and outer space policy. To find out more about studying with us on our BSc Politics and BSc International Relations and MSc International Relations please click the links.