Scott - What does the European Council do? How do the nations overcome their language and cultural barriers?
This is what we learned today at the European Council. The Council is not far from our hotel, but we still took the metro. It was a good time, and we were able to sit in the actual rooms where policy decisions are made daily in the European Union. I sat in Italy’s chair, as they are my “country of interest” so far through this course.
The most interesting part of the Council was hearing our presenter talk about the issues in a non-official way. We have had some great presenters so far, but all have been in official positions. This was just a reporter from the Netherlands, who’s favorite memory of working for the Council was when George W. Bush came to speak. His opinions and stances were genuine, and that was neat to experience from a true “European”.
Today we also visited Waterloo. The students had to plan the trip, so that made it fun. But I am writing this blog soaked because apparently we aren’t very good planners! It was raining the whole time, and then it started pouring. We had a five minute walk to the bus stop, and everyone got drenched. It was neat to see the Lion and the battlefield though so it was worth it.
This has been a great trip. I have learned a lot, but not just about the European Union. I have learned a new way of life, experienced another part of the world. For that I am and will be eternally grateful. In the words of Dr. Mikek: “thank you Rogge Fund”!
I am finishing up this blog at a Congo restaurant. It was great food and the people were a treat to meet.
Tune in tomorrow to find about our day at the European Commission!
DeVan - As I know these little charms add to this amazing experience. Today began like any other day: early. We were off first thing to visit the European Council and in the bustle of the daily happenings of the European Union bureaucrats, journalists, etc. we had the honor of meeting with an organizer of the news conferences that happen after the Summit meetings of the EU Member State Heads. Sit here drying out after a long afternoon navigating through Belgium in pouring rain to Waterloo, I can’t help but think about that we sat in the meeting room of the European Council and listened as he explained how a normal meeting would be orchestrated and updated our group on some of the recent meetings that have happened in the last week and will happen in the next few weeks as well. I sat where the Portuguese Prime Minister would sat while Dr. Mikek represented his native Slovenia to my right. I was blown away by how informed he was of American politics past and present and while we continue to be challenged by the complicated integration of the European Union’s institutions, his personal insights added more context on where some view the European Union is headed in the future.
After our visit we had some time before our adventure to Waterloo in the afternoon. Surprisingly, Waterloo is not as marketed as you might expect. You’d think that the battle brought peace to Europe in the 19th century would be a hub of tourist attraction and vibrant area. While it was busy with people, it was very clear how infrequently “foreigners” visit these parts. After we left the museum and trekked up 226 steps to the top of the hill constructed about a decade after the war in honor of those that fought and died on the battlefield, we began the walk back from Waterloo getting drenched in none other than good old fashioned Belgian rain. Took no more than 500 meters for us all to be soaked and trying to figure out when the bus would come to head back to the train and then Brussels. The bus came and an air band composed of myself, Carter, Connor, and Sky were in the back of the bus jamming to Journey and at least the people in the back of the bus found it entertaining. A girl about our age found us so interesting that she followed us for a while and asked what Americans were doing Brussels. She also recommended that we might find better work than a traveling air band.
I’ve been around the world a bit, and every time I am more appreciative of these opportunities. These experiences will stay with me and we have a great group of guys and two great professors who have continued to open our minds and challenge us in and outside of the classroom. By the end of today several of us were ready to work for the European Union and the prospect of going home, at least for me, is bittersweet. Going back after living this life and immersing myself at every opportunity will be difficult, but being able to afford this opportunity to students in the future once I graduate this year will also be just as cool. If you ever, and I mean ever…ever, get the opportunity to go anywhere in the world, take it. Whether it be Germany, Kenya, anywhere; because the beauty of experiencing a new world, a new way of thinking, and always meeting new people never gets old and affects you in ways that can’t be articulated.
I would like to give a special thanks to Drs. Hollander and Mikek for taking on this amazing journey and to the Rogge Fund for donating the capital to continue this tradition of European immersion. Au-revoir!
Ben – Today we went to Bruges, Belgium for our first full day in this country. We visited the College of Europe, which was founded after World War II, much as the European Union was, to create cooperation and a sense of European Citizenship between the once factious countries. We listened to a lecture by Professor Chang at the college that was entitled “Reconstructing Economic and Monetary Union”. The focus of the lecture was the European Union does not have a political union which hurts the credibility of states, such as Greece, that are involved in the EU. If they were more integrated than many of the problems of the Euro Crises could have been solved a lot sooner. Her conclusion was interesting because the representative from the European Central Bank that we talked to early this week said that credibility is its greatest asset. But why is integration so hard for members of the European Union? This is hard to accomplish because of their sense of nationality and the fact that each of the members are their own sovereign countries. We have also heard this textbook answer in class, but until I walked around Bruges after the lecture I finally began to understand why there are so many problems with integration in the European Union.
The architecture of the city is breathtaking and everything is historic. I walked in a church that was located downtown that has been serving parishioners since the 1500s. We took a boat tour through the canals in the city, and the tour guide explained the city takes great pride in preserving its history. Satellites are prohibited on the rooftops and all of the basic services, such as electricity and cable, are buried underground to preserve the medieval feel of the city. We ducked under bridges that are currently still functioning. but are over six hundred years old. Everything from Chocolatiers on every corner, to the metal boot scrapers that are embedded in the walls outside of each house next to the thresholds is still original. We could never be able to discover the emphasis that Europeans have on these customs and traditions without actually witnessing it first-hand. Learning the “European Culture” in this way has had an extraordinary effect on my understanding on the problems that are facing the European Union today. This immersion trip has opened my eyes to so many things that I thought were completely normal to me before I was able to experience from a different viewpoint. I sincerely thank that Rogge Fund for continuing to fund this trip and I hope that students are still able to be exposed to these vital realizations for years to come.
Jim - Today we went to the College of Europe in Brugge (Bruges). It is a grad school that focuses on the European Union and European integration. The program lasts 10 months which is faster than any grad school in America. We got a presentation from one of the professors at the University, Michele Chang. She is a friend of Dr. Hollander’s, so we were lucky to receive a presentation from her. She offered more in depth analysis of the Economic Monetary Union happening in Europe currently. One area of note is that the EMU had a saying, “If everyone obeys the rules there will be no problems”. This turned out to be false because Spain and Italy followed the rules of the Maastricht Treaty and still ended up in bad shape.
After the presentation we were allowed to visit the city of Bruges. When we arrived off the train I felt I had left a time machine because of its architecture. The city is so beautiful with old churches and cobble stone streets. To say it is scenic would be an understatement. I feel Bruges is the perfect blend of modern times with renaissance buildings. The only time I had ever heard of Bruges was from the movie In Bruges starring Colin Ferrell. The best part of the city was an outdoor market. The carts sold meats and cheeses, some I have never heard of until today. Bruges is not as big as Frankfurt is, but it has a lot of twists and turns. Another European factor I discovered today was the idea of space. Many of the buildings were cramped together. In the US it seems the buildings are more spread apart. I wish I could spend more time in Bruges for its wonderful shops and exciting atmosphere.
I am excited to walk around Brussels tonight for two items: Fries and Waffles. The fries are served in cone shaped paper and what seems to be 30 different sauces and toppings. Last night I did not have the chance to get either of these items, so I have lost time to make up.
I would like to thank the Rogge Fund for allowing me to take a trip like this. The only times I have been out of the country I visited Matamoros, Mexico and Toronto, Canada. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I was lucky to be a part of because I get to discover new lands, people and language. I finally started to understand German, and now I am in French speaking Belgium. Tonight I am going to find my surroundings here in Brussels and rest up. Tomorrow we are going to the European Commission which should be awesome.
Rashid – We left at 6:25pm on Tuesday for Brussels via the high speed Inter-city express (the German version of the Bullet train) The ride lasted for three hours, but the breathtaking scenery along the way ensured that it was far from mundane. There were lush green meadows and farmhouses, and each city married modern, cutting edge architecture with stately, historical architecture that showed national pride. For example, Cologne had glass and steel buildings on one side of the track and had the gigantic gothic Cathedral of Cologne that was built over a hundred years ago.
We would be in Brussels for three days, courtesy of the Rogge foundation, and will be going to the European commission and European council buildings during our stay here. However, our first event in Belgium happened to be in Brugge at the College of Europe where we would be lectured about the EMU (European Monetary Union).
The college of europe is a graduate school which is designed to help educate people about the policies and structures that exist within the EU. The school is not only open to EU citizens and openly welcomes students from other regions in the world. We arrived at the institution about an hour and thirty minutes before the scheduled time. This gave us a few minutes to familiarize ourselves with the town, enjoy the city briefly and make sure that we do not get lost on the way out!
The City of Brugge is very culturally rich and beautiful settlement. There was a waterway that swept through the town’s medieval looking brick houses, horses drawing carriages through the city’s brick-tiled streets and, of course, chocolate and waffle shops at every corner. There were boat tours on the waterways that started from one end and ran down to the other end of the town. The college was right in the middle of the town, overlooking the waterway.
Our event started with a brief history of the European college and is objectives, and then moved on to a lecture on the EMU. We had discussed the EMU in class and the lecture summarized (and confirmed) all what Dr. Mikek and Dr. Hollander had been teaching in class. The lecture also spoke about Europe’s current sovereign debt crisis and how further European integration would go long way to help solve the issue.
The lecture ended at 1 pm and we had about two hours to explore the city. We got to Brussels at 6pm and we are now preparing for our trips to EU commission and the EU council.
Tadhg Hannon ’15 – Greetings from Germany! I am sitting on a train, waiting to depart Frankfurt for Belgium. Today we had the pleasure of visiting the European Central Bank. A highly intelligent and well-dressed Polish man gave us a presentation about ECB monetary policy and how the Euro currency is administered on this incredibly diverse continent. We also had the good fortune to have our seminar moved into the conference room on the top floor of the EuroTower, where we were able to sit in the same seats as the European Central Bank Board of Governors. This was a rare treat for any tour group, and something that we certainly could not have replicated in Baxter 212.
After our informative visit to the Central Bank we took to the streets of Frankfurt where we were treated to thousands of German mothers demonstrating against German educational policy. This afforded us a live look at European politics. Apparently the mothers of Germany are quite upset.
Frankfurt is a fantastic city. The Main River runs through the center of city and provides a beautiful place to walk as the sun rises every morning. The best thing about Frankfurt is that although it is a major financial center and an important city within the European Union it is not a major tourist attraction. This has allowed us to get a better look of what actual German life is like. Frankfurt also has a large immigrant population, which exemplifies the freedom of movement and integration the has been a hallmark of the European Union. In Frankfurt you can dodge Germans riding bicycles while choosing between Turkish street vendors or an Italian bistro.
This is not to say that there is not anything to see in Frankfurt. Today I went and visited St. Paul’s Church, which was the seat of the first united German Parliament after the 1848 Revolution.
I would like to use this forum to thank the Rogge Fund for their generosity. Without the Rogge Fund this wonderful trip would not be possible. I have learned so much here in Europe that I could not have in Indiana.
Ramsey Bradke ’14 – Today was by far the most informative and culturally exciting day I’ve had on this trip so far. Although I woke up not feeling well, the morning and afternoon were great experiences that gave me great perspective from a lot of the topics we covered in class.
This morning we headed to the European Central Bank, the youngest central bank in the world. Although the European Central Bank is a lot like the Federal Reserve in some respects, it hasn’t made a lot of the same monetary policy moves that the Fed has because of its relative youth. We got the opportunity to sit in the same room that the General Council of the Euro Central Bank does and were able to listen to the Senior Press s Secretary of the Central Bank from Poland.
We talked primarily about convergence criteria to be able to join the Euro Area. In order to meet these criteria, member states had to establish price stability, interest rate convergence, exchange rate stability, and public finance discipline. One of the more interesting topics we talked about was why a central bank would choose to aim for an inflation rate of 2% instead of a perfect rate of 0%. His conclusion was that it gives countries and central bankers the option of changing interest rates; at an inflation rate of 0% some countries may run the risk of negative interest rates.
After we left the central bank we were free till our 5 pm train departure to Brussels to roam the city. Jake Schild and I decided to head off and pick a restaurant we thought would diversify our pallet. We found a great little café called Conrads where we were able to sit outside and eat. We ended up sitting there for at least 90 minutes, if not more, just eating and talking about a range of things from school, career plans, economics, and girls. This type of experience was something I know I’d never see or do in America. We were able to sit with other people doing the same thing as us and not worry about the time or our other obligations. It was nice and relaxing to just have good friendly conversation.
On our way back to the town center we noticed there was a huge rally of some sort in the square so we walked over to the large crowd to try to figure out what was going on. At first we couldn’t figure what was happening outside the fact that there were probably 600 people blowing whistles with their children listening to a speaker. When we asked the native Germans what they were doing they told us they were holding a rally because the German government was trying to cuts costs for education by increasing the number of children per classroom. It was really fun to get to see this “protest”, especially since I would support what they were doing as well.
Currently I’m sitting on a high-speed train en route to Brussels. It’s pretty cool how much the Europeans take pride in their train transportation; it seems like a great mode of transportation that is environmentally friendly. I look forward to the rest of our trip and I sincerely thank the Rogge Fund for supporting our time in Belgium and Germany.
Sky King ’15 - From what I have seen Germany is an amazing place. It breathes struggle and redemption, the infrastructure that was able to make it past World War 2 is full of pride while the architecture that has been created in wake of the destruction nurtures hope. I have always been amazed at the power and beauty of hope. I believe that is why I feel such a strong connection to the city of Frankfurt and the country of Germany. From the minute we stepped off the train at the Frankfurt station we have seen traces of past death and destruction. Traces of a war that tore away the flesh of the city just as it tore away the flesh from the German people until almost only bones remained.
The human condition is a difficult one and there exists much tragedy, but as the German population and cities have shown us, all we need is one more spark, one ounce of will and life will move forward. Germany has turned that spark into a wild forest fire that has spread throughout Europe. It went from hugely responsible in almost tearing Europe apart and now it is hugely responsible in pushing for a United Europe.
This speaks numbers to man’s strength and endurance. Germany is living proof that people can change; all they need is hope and opportunity. Frankfurt is a garden whose soil was tainted by evil and prejudice, but because of the purity of the river that runs through the city and cleanses its soil Frankfurt has blossomed.
This afternoon we traveled to the Money Museum where we saw currency from its birth in the form of cattle to its transition to numbers on a screen. One major focus was the significance of currencies stability and the stability of the Government it is attached to. Before I had the opportunity to see firsthand the culture of hope and strength that is Germany, I was unsure about the Euro. I was worried for the EU of the possibility of a Eurobond that would deepen the ties between the Union members. After walking the streets of Frankfurt and seeing the skeletons left behind from the war and the love of life that has risen from the graveyard I do not worry. Germany is strong and it is getting stronger. It is a country that has seen death, felt its grip, cold, hard and unforgiving, yet it has escaped. The resilience that Germany contains has given me faith to its ability to not only survive, but to excel. If I were a member state I would place my bet in this countries scarred, but strong hands.
I would like to thank the Rogge fund and Wabash College for the opportunity to walk the streets of this city that was born out of the ashes of destruction and learn from its livelihood the true power of humanity. What I have learned from this experience in the first two days of this trip will far outlive the knowledge I have gained from the semester long class. The lessons that we learn on these trips are ones that do so much more than teach us Econometrics or the ability to analyze poetry, they inspire us. Inspiration is a lesson that is often hard to come by, but always welcome and one of the most conducive gifts to progress and change.
Thank you and I look forward to the opportunity to continue growing throughout the remainder of this trip and my tenure at Wabash College.
In spreading the fame of her lovely name …
Jake Bolinger ‘ 14 – Wabash College has provided an abroad immersion trip opportunity for 16 students. For some students, like me, it is their first time overseas, and are enjoying every second of it. I want to start this by thanking Wabash College for giving students these opportunities, and also the Rogge Fund. These trips are once in a lifetime opportunities for students, and are much appreciated.
Today was our second day in Frankfurt, Germany, and we started out the morning by going to the Frankfurt stock exchange, which is the largest of the seven in Germany. We were able to see and take pictures with the bull and bear outside (these are terms used to describe good and bad markets). As we entered we were given a presentation teaching us about the stock exchange and the people trading. The coolest thing I learned at the exchange is that their software can verify a trade in less than one millisecond. Technology has become truly amazing. We went to the trade floor after the presentation, which was not what I was expecting. Most think of the trading floor as a chaotic, stress filled room like it is portrayed in films like “Wall Street.” This was certainly not the case. Because technology has grown, the trade room is now a quiet room with the employees sitting at computers.
Our second portion of the day was visiting the money museum. We were given a tour and were able to see many interesting things. My favorites were the first forms of money, including a giant stone, bricks of salt, and miniature axe blades. We saw the first coin with a face on it, which is one of two left in existence. The coin is worth 500,000 Euros! After the tour we played games that taught us more about money and how it functions in the economy. It was a very structured museum, and a wonderful experience.
Another great experience is the food. Although they do have Burger Kings and McDonald’s, we have been exploring more cultural places to eat. I have had the Turkish form of a gyro, currywurst, and an Italian pizza. Tonight we are going as a group for dinner at a place that is referred to as a “carnivorous feast,” so it should be very delicious. Frankfurt has been a great time, but I must admit I am very excited to head for Brussels tomorrow evening. Make sure to look for blogs the rest of the week discussing our experiences in Belgium! It has been a great time so far and there are more great times to come.
Jake Schild ‘ 15 – Finally we have arrived! It was an early morning and a long flight, but we all survived. Some of us though are in serious need of a quick nap. Sadly, when we arrived at the Youth Hostel our rooms were not ready. We are forced to postpone our much needed rest. So we disperse and venture out into the city hoping that the energy of the town would keep us going. There was just one problem. The city was dead. The only parallel I can draw is to any classic western when the hero rides into the town and there is no one in sight. What we thought might be the beginning of the zombie apocalypse turned out to be just a regular Sunday in Europe. We were warned by our professors that Europeans take Sundays off, but we were not ready for the town to be completely shut down. So after exploring the deserted streets and peering into closed shops we made our way back to the hostel. Our rooms were ready and we could finally take that much needed sleep.
Upon awakening we ventured back out. To our surprise the town had woken up from its slumber as well. A few shops and cafes had opened and people were out front having coffee and tea. The feel of this Sunday afternoon is so much different than what we are accustomed to in America. Everyone is always rushing, always trying to get something done. Here the pace is slower, more relaxed. This was expected though. You hear that life in Europe goes at a much more leisurely pace. Some of that is lost in translation though. It is something that cannot be fully understood through discussion or reading. It needs to be experienced. This – I expect – will be applicable to the rest of our trip as well. We have discussed and read a lot about European politics, culture, and economics but without actually experiencing it our understanding is incomplete.
I want to conclude by thanking the Rogge Fund for funding this trip and giving us this unique experience.