Politics and Policies of the EU: Internship Program in Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Visiting Parliament

        Having come to the end of my third week of interning I have been able to experience a variety of different tasks to work on – none of which I was surprised to discover involved making coffee or working the photocopy machine. This worked to my advantage as I was fairly certain that any attempt by me to make a cup of coffee worthy of (or perhaps safe for) consumption would get me fired. So instead of being assigned the typical tasks that could otherwise be completed by a fairly bright hamster, I was asked to research a variety of hate crime examples which were to be included in a training manual, find proper contact info for NGOs who track hate crimes across the spectrum and call the offices of a number of Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to convince them to meet with us about our upcoming Conference on Antisemitism.
         After two and a half weeks of these types of tasks, in addition to attending a two day partner organization meeting, I was deemed safe enough to release out into the world. Meeting with two others at the European Parliament I was handed a large stack of invitations to our Conference and three pages of room numbers and MEP names. Armed with this, the three of us split up and began our siege of Parliament, wandering hallways, knocking on doors and inviting MEPs to come to the conference. After having spent two hours wandering the floors and halls Parliament, including a nearly ten minute elevator ride, I began to wonder who had designed the building. While very impressive with its sheer size and architecture, the layout seemed to defy comprehension – not even a map and compass were going to help here. Informed at our weekend seminar that we needed to find a puzzle concerning issues concerning Europe I wondered if the thought process behind the design of the Parliament would be acceptable. However, I was later told (though have not verified) that the building had been designed by committee. Puzzle solved. Darn. Guess it’s back to the drawing board for a paper topic.  However, after five hours of knocking on 60+ MEP doors spread out over three “buildings” and nine floors I thought I was getting the hang of the layout. Not that it made any better sense, only that figuring out that some elevators went to some floors and not others and that there could be multiple floor “8’s” but you had to use the appropriate elevator to be in the section you wanted to be, helped me get to the right place. While this could easily become an irritating task, the bar located in the middle of the whole rat warren kept me loaded with caffeine and able to keep a sense of humor about myself. Additionally, it was a great opportunity to get a good, self-guided tour of the Parliament that not a lot of others will have the chance to do as well as meet a lot of interesting people. That being said, I’m perfectly happy to return to my office which does not require a security check to enter and has a very reasonable set of stairs that I feel confident will always deposit me on my desired floor, rather than feeling a bit like I was playing Russian Roulette, as on the elevators at Parliament, and might instead end up some where’s east of Mars.

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