SIS Intercultural Study Abroad Short-term study trip to Brussels, Belgium:
Exploring European Identity, Democratic Culture and Global Citizenship
Educational Goals for a 10-day experience:
- Gaining an understanding of the meaning of “intercultural competence”
- Exploration and reflection on “European Diversity”
- Understanding democracy and the challenges that it faces in Europe today
- Notable historic and cultural information about Brussels, Belgium and the European Union.
Program length: one week to 10 days. The ideal trip is 10 days, however adaptations can be arranged to shorten the experience).
Location and Highlights: Brussels, with visits to the European institutions, European NGOs and service experience with non-profit organizations.
additional excursions: day trip to Bruges and Gand.
Time of year: Winter Break, Spring Break, or beginning of summer
Accommodations: According to the number of participants, we propose two choices: JES Sleep Inn or Meininger Hotel. Depending on the choice of hotel, the tuition may vary.
JES Sleep Inn:
- 2 double rooms for 5 to 8 guests, with a room divider, a kitchenette, meeting room, 2 bathrooms
- Additional rooms for meetings 18p (for the course sessions)
- Full board option, in which case they serve breakfast, a picnic buffet and a hot meal (soup, main course, dessert). Catering is available on weekdays
- Students will be offered up 2 special dinners
- They will have the possibility to cook their own dinners in the kitchenette
- Type of rooms available: 6-bed rooms, Quad rooms, Triple rooms
- Breakfast buffet from 06:30 until 10:30
- Packed lunch includes a filled roll or sandwich, a muesli or chocolate bar, fruit and a drink
- Guest kitchen with modern facilities where everyone can cook
- Seminar rooms can be booked in all other locations in the central city close to the hotel
NOTE: In order to move around the city, we will mainly rely on the use of public transportation. This option may vary according to the number of participants.
Rough Program Structure
am – Arrival in Zaventem/Charleroi Airport, hotel check-in, debriefing for USA Schools
pm – Arrival in Zaventem/Charleroi Airport for EU schools
am – Brussels: Survival Guide (Course)
Students will be given a quick presentation and introduction about the city, which services are available, and what to expect in the coming days. Afterwards we’ll take a walk and see some of the things we discussed as well as some of the city’s highlights.
pm – Walking tour the city – Alter Brussels Tour
For each museum/tour there will be activities to do in order to make the tour more interactive and guided. After the museum/tour, there will be a quick debriefing to share the first impressions of what the students just experienced and learned during the visit. This process will allow them to reflect on the highlights.
am – Belgium and Brussels
The city of Brussels will be explained in detail and students will understand why it is a complicated city even though it’s not a one of Europe’s largest cities. In recent history, Brussels has experienced a huge variety of migratory waves that have shaped the city and given a negative connotation to some of the municipalities. “Multiculturalism” is, in fact, one of the words that better describes Brussels. We will live in the city as the capital of Europe and we would like the students to truly understand the key motto of Europe, “United in Diversity”, by making diversity stand out as a strength. Being in close contact with the diversity of cultures is one of the characteristics that makes Brussels the perfect European capital where to experience European citizenship and develop real intercultural competence.
pm – tour of Molenbeek with Alter Brussels (Tour)
Students will be guided around the streets of Molenbeek, which is one of the most highly discussed neighbourhoods in Brussels especially for the high concentration of people belonging to the Islamic religion and the unpleasant recent events that occurred in 2016. Migration has not only affected neighboring European countries, but also North African countries and former colonies. These Islamic and African influences have therefore widened the intercultural panorama of the city even more.
am – European Union: Who are we? (Course)
Students will receive an introductory course about the culture(s) of the European Union. During the course, students will reflect on Europe as an entity and Europe as a “puzzle” (In what ways is Europe a single unit? How can Europe be so split and differently organized at the same time?). Furthermore, we would like students to experience the meaning of “United in diversity”, as the European Union is the result of historical agreements among countries with different histories and cultural backgrounds, but which have also managed to transform their differences into the positive strength that characterizes the European universe. This willingness to constantly search for a point of agreement between different worlds is what best describes the meaning of European citizenship.
pm – House of European History (Museum)
The House of European History is one of the many European museums in Brussels. In particular, this museum is focused on the transnational phenomena which have shaped the European continent. This museum will introduce the students to the understanding of transnational perspectives across Europe and how the cultural background of each country has affected the history of the continent.
am – European Union: What is it? How does it work? (Course)
Students will understand how European Institutions work harmoniously together and analyze the process to adopt and apply European laws. During this process, it is important to know how to make compromises between different needs. These dynamics, although sometimes purely political, make the system suitable for the development of democratic intercultural competences.
pm – Parlamentarium Museum (activities to be booked for a group min. 12 people)
The Parlamentarium is an interactive museum focused on explaining the path towards European integration and what Members of the European Parliament are doing to meet the challenges of today. Students will also have the chance to witness the variety of European languages. Multilingualism is, in fact, one of the points of pride of the European community, since the official languages are currently 24. In addition, to experience this variety, the museum itinerary contains a section where it will be possible to hear testimonies of some European citizens talking about their daily life in their mother tongue.
am – Parliament visit (Hemicycle)
Students will receive a quick introduction by one of the Parliament guides. After the presentation, the group will go to the plenary chamber where the debates and votes take place during the adoption process of European laws. In the hemicycle, students will once again have the possibility to count the diversity of the European languages. In fact, even if it is not always easy to translate, each member of the Parliament is allowed to express his/her own ideas in his/her own language. For this reason, the translation booths are clearly visible and allow members of Parliament to communicate despite language differences.
pm – EU Commission Visit
Within the framework of the European institutions, students will visit the European Commission, which is also based in Brussels. The European Commission develops the overall strategy and political direction of the EU. The mission is to turn member states’ priorities into concrete measures and set out a plan of action.
am – NGOs and their role in the European policies
Students will visit one/two NGOs based in Brussels. Each NGO has its own mission and they try to affect the policy-making process of the European institutions. The visit will then enable students to understand in practice what the European Union truly does for its citizens. Following the recent developments of the NGO projects that we will learn about, we will help students to understand that what is decided in Brussels is not something
Irrelevant to us but can actually affect our daily lives.
pm – Service Activity in partnership with El Kalima
“Multiculturalism” is one of the words that better describes Brussels. After living the city as the capital of Europe and as the home of beer and chocolate, we aim for the students to truly understand the key motto of Europe “United in Diversity” by highlighting this diversity as a strength. In order to go back to the local layer of Brussels, we would like to collaborate with El Kalima which is an organisation that aims to bridge the differences between Muslims and Christians. As it will be anticipated from the first days, the Muslim religion is represented in Brussels by the former migratory waves. Later on, the presence of these people became a reality that today enriches the cultural landscape of the city and invites citizens of Brussels to develop intercultural competences.
or/choice of activity
pm – Service Activity in partnership with Serve The City: Brussels
Here we invite the students back to the local layer of Brussels. We would like to collaborate with Serve the City which is a global movement of volunteers that partner with homeless shelters, refugee centers, orphanages, and other associations, offering help and support in simple ways. They organize weekly projects that allow volunteers to explore different parts of Brussels through engaging and serving the people of the city. It would be the perfect time to thank the city and show that giving back to the community is the most important feature of those who want to become global citizens.
am – Competences for democratic cultures (Course)
Students will be guided in understanding the competences for democratic cultures, a framework introduced by the Council of Europe. The discussion will be developed focusing on some key terms such as diversity, democracy, justice, fairness, equality and the rule of law.
The students will then be invited to revise their first thoughts on Europe and their first days in Brussels. This activity will enable them to better understand the vitality of the European environment and how much living in such a context stimulates these democratic competences and makes them feel more like global citizens.
pm – Service Activity in partnership with AlterBrussels
This time students will actively take part in a service activity organised by the non-profit organisation that guided the group through Molenbeek on Day 2. AlterBrussels is promoting and supporting the cultural diversity of the city through tourism and special tours around sensitive neighbourhoods. In addition, they combine this attention to the multicultural aspect with the care of the environment and they take charge of the solidarity gardens created in Molenbeek.
am – Exploring Belgium: Trip to Bruges
The last day of the program will be dedicated to visiting (possibly) two Flemish cities that will reveal to them that Brussels actually represents a bubble in the middle of Belgium. As Belgium is divided into three regions, students will be able to appreciate the differences and similarities between the Flemish region and the Brussels region.
pm – Exploring Belgium: Trip to Gand
Before departing, there will be a debriefing where students will be invited to share their impressions about the program and about their time spent in Brussels. What they appreciated or what they found uninteresting but to be deepened, what they carry with them from this experience and if their thoughts have changed since before arriving..
We hope that this experience, even if based on the European universe, will give them a taste of what it means to live in Europe and contribute to making them European citizens or even Global citizens.