The Cathedral and the Mission to the EU
Whether it was gathering the best beer in the world or visiting the beautiful and medieval city of Bruges, most of the group spent our first day in Europe outside of the city of Brussels. Monday was our first real full day in the city; thus it was only natural we we’re given the first half of the day to explore the town. Alex Avgis ’11, Aaron Abell ’09 and I wandered with little direction and were amazed at what we found.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the city we saw was the Cathedral. In our list of items to see, Professor Mikek rated this one as one of the top sites – and Alex, Aaron and I concur with this assessment. The Cathedral of St. Michael was wonderful. Beautiful stained glass images let light shine in to highlight all of the other magnificent portions of the Cathedral; the organs that hung from the side of the gothic ceiling we’re simply amazing.
This cathedral reminded two of us of another immersion trip we we’re fortunate to be a part of over Thanksgiving break. Aaron and I we’re in Dr. Michele Rhoades’ French History of Memory course that visited Paris for a week. As a major portion of our trip, we we’re supposed to visit important French sites and examine what they’ve evolved into over the years. We saw many amazing French churches in our time in Paris, and exploring this cathedral reminded both of us of this other incredible class.
After our morning exploration of Brussels, the group traveled to the United States Embassy complex to visit with Ryan Bowles, a Political Officer for the European Union. (we were not allowed to take pictures at the State Department complex). Bowles’ job had been very busy recently – he was the primary coordinator of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first meeting with the European Union.
Bowles made sure the group knew the importance of the relationship between the European Union and the United States; he called it the closest and most economically important in the history of the world – and with good reason. There is $2 trillion in investment between entities in the United States and the European Union; the two group account for 60% of the global GDP and 40% of all global trade. While the Unites States is not a member of the EU and may seem at face to have no connection to the entity, in reality the relationship between the two institutions is vitally important.
In addition to the general discussion of the EU-US relationship, Bowles also talked at length about what it is like to work in Foreign Service and the extensive process one must undergo to be selected to work for the U.S. as a diplomat. For those in the course, more than a couple we’re interested in this career trajectory. The opportunity to work in other countries, learn different languages and experience cultures for a long period of time is an enticing possibility.
Tomorrow morning we will visit the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union; they will attempt to explain the decision making process for the EU, and the colossal challenges they have to overcome in order to create substantive policy change. In addition to this meeting, Wabash men we will meet with an individual from EurActive, a solar energy organization Brandon Mitchner ’87 is involved with.
Top Left: The interior of the Cathedral of St. Michaels. Top Right: Aaron Abell '09 and Patrick McAlister '10 standing outside the Cathedral.