Trip to Brussels with International Relations and International Development

The home of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, which was visited by international students from Sussex

Written by Danielle Ellam from South Africa, who studies International Year One in International Relations and International Development. 

Earlier this year I embarked on my first ever trip to Europe. My persistence had landed me a coveted spot the on the annual International Relations Societies trip. Destination: Brussels.

As a South African expat who’s spent the past six years living in Singapore, I’ve done my fair share of travelling, but Europe has always been out of my grasp. I was so excited to visit Brussels, as it’s a hotspot for international activity.

During the trip, we had a self-guided city tour to take in the beautiful buildings and amazing food. We also visited the European Commission, where we were fortunate enough to hear 3 hours of talks from various speakers. We learnt about the lifestyle of a Commissioner and what to expect from an international career, such as the lack of routine and constant travelling.

The following day we had an appointment with the EU Parliament. We were greeted warmly and had the opportunity to spend a few hours with a very knowledgeable speaker hearing about the history and role of the Parliament. We also had some insightful discussions regarding future outcomes of the Brexit decision and how the policies will be created in the next few years. This was a very relevant discussion as we happened to be at the Parliament on the same day the letter was delivered to 10 Downing Street!

Following this, we were given a tour of the building and got to see the Hemicycle, which seats all 751 Members of the European Parliament. We took some photos in front of the member flags - taking the opportunity to do so whilst the Union Jack was still present!

Throughout the trip, we also had the opportunity to explore Brussels on our own, which was a very exciting and liberating experience. Because of this, I was able to make new friends from Germany, Iceland and Italy.

I found Brussels to be beautiful, vibrant and full of possibilities for someone aspiring to an international career. I enjoyed the experience so much that I’ve secured a place in the IR community for the next academic year. I am hopeful that I will be able to participate in the next trip, possibility to Geneva or even The Hague. At Sussex, anything is possible.