Ever since I arrived in Brussels on the morning of May 11, I have been both perplexed and fascinated by the city. In other words, I have not been able to get a feel for it and there is something that is going to drive me to come back, a puzzle in my mind if you will. I am not sure whether I like the city or not because I have not gone far outside of EU and tourist Brussels. I therefore feel that I should have seen more of the city outside of the Schuman, Merode and Maalbeek areas. To me, Brussels possesses a distinct and strange feel to it that no other city in Europe or the US that I have visited has. It is quite modern and elegant in some parts, while looking quite unattractive in others, i.e. the area around Gare du Midi (Zuidstation). This is more than likely due to its status as an international city in a divided country. Thus, it is hard to get a feel for what is truly "Bruxellois" or "Belgian" because it is questionable as to whether such an identity has ever existed. Another reason why I have not been able to explore Brussels as much as I would like to is because I, like most in the program, live outside of the city in Wezembeek-Oppem.
Wezembeek-Oppem has pleased me a lot. It has a green, quiet, friendly and suburban feel to it that reminds me of the subdivisions in my small Midwestern hometown. The neighborhood and town look especially nice when the sun is shining. The trees are beautiful when the sun shines on them. My host was also great. He was always patient with me in helping me get to know the area and showing me how to use appliances such as the washing machine correctly. The meals were also good. I found a new favorite dish in Spaghetti Bolognese combined with hot sauce and soy sauce ( a strange combination I know). In short, the scenery in Wezembeek-Oppem and the hospitality of my host made me feel enthused about being in Belgium and adapting to the Belgian way of life.
I have been lucky to have had the experience with my internship that I have had so far. I am interning for Czech MEP Zuzana Roithova in the European Parliament. Ms. Roithova is a member of the European People's Party political group (center-right) and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. I have gone to public debates, voting sessions and done research on matters ranging from ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), the Alignment Package, EU-China trade relations and Spain's sovereign debt crisis. There has been a lot of data poured on me over the past six weeks and I believe that I will know how much I learned a few weeks after returning and allowing that data to soak in. As with my host, my supervisors have been patient with me and always take the time to explain things to me so that I can understand them. For that I am grateful. In addition to being surrounded by understanding supervisors, I opine that I have used my time wisely throughout the course of the internship and gotten every thing out of it that I could have. Interning at the EP has made me feel like I am a part of Europe and has given me the desire to follow what is happening in the EP and EU more.
Living in Europe has allowed me to become a better consumer and feel motivated to take care of things, i.e. the environment and keeping my apartment back home clean. I have had the desire to do things such as buy what i need for a week or so from the supermarket since studying abroad in Germany two years ago. I have therefore become rather inspired by the Green Parties. Their policies are progressive and have the attractiveness of Europe in mind. Concerning my green practices, I take 5 minute showers, only turn on the lights if I am going to use them and unplug my cell phone charger as soon as it is done charging. The environment needs to be protected in American and European cities and no city, town or village should be dirty or neglected.
The above has served as a general overview of how my time in Brussels and Europe has been. I will post my final thoughts on leaving and the final week in a couple of days.