July 14 – Celine
Today all of us woke up very early in the morning to take two trains to Luxembourg. On the first train, I and many others noticed the vast amount of castles sitting on the sides of mountains, alongside cottage-style homes that lined the Rhine. The beauty and historical richness of the artifacts amazed me and my peers, and during this moment we noticed something. To many people in Europe, the castles and little homes along the river are a norm; they do not think twice about the scenery that lies outside the train. But for me, never having been to Germany, have a newfound wonder for the countryside views, but don’t care for the beaches and the concrete jungle in LA. I realized that everyone has a different perspective, and the environment one grows up in changes the way they see the world.
July 14 – Zach
Today we arrived in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, getting to the second of the three countries we’ll stay in on this trip. Following our arrival at the train station, we went on a grand walk through the surprisingly large hills and valleys of Luxembourg, Luxembourg, during which we wound our way through cobblestone streets, over and under bridges, and through a tunnel going under part of a former castle, to finally arrive at our hostel. Settling into our rooms, we went again over more cobblestone roads and narrow sidewalks to get to a large park in the middle of the city, where we transitioned to dirt paths to make our way up to the former fortress-turned modern art museum, the Philharmonie de Luxembourg, and the Kirchberg Plateau, where our tour guide was waiting for us.
Our roughly two and a half hour walking tour, during which we allegedly clocked 6 miles of distance on the aforementioned plateau, brought us through the sector of the city where all of the EU administration buildings are located. We walked past the sometimes-used offices of the European Council, where ministerial meetings are only held in April, June and October. Next we checked out the European Court of Justice, where all transnational, EU-related matters are decided upon in French, and the triple set of gold towers filled with translators to take decisions from French into the other 23 EU languages. Across the street from that, we viewed the first and second buildings of the European Investment Bank, constructed out of entirely concrete and then glass to symbolize stability and then transparency. Finally, we walked towards and then into a or the sports complex for the city of Luxembourg, rounding out our tour by seeing other offices connected to EU administration and particularly translation. Then, after concluding our tour, we went down some super sick diagonal elevators, up an even more sick glass elevator, until we came to eat at a delicious brasserie right along a river, and enjoyed some unique Franco-Germano-Luxembourgish dishes.
While today was most certainly a jam-packed day, to be quite honest it was refreshing to arrive here and set ourselves up for tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday especially. I feel that learning about the many assorted EU agencies spread out between Brussels, Strasbourg, and here will accentuate the impact that or future activities will have on us, as we will have more knowledge to put what we’ll learn into context. On a connected side note, I also feel that simply being in Luxembourg, a country using both French, Luxembourgish, and German gives us even greater perspective on how both the EU has the navigate between its 24 languages, and how Europeans themselves are often immersed in not just their own, but the many, many other languages and cultures present in their continent, leading us to grow a greater understanding of what it means to be European.
July 15 – Marco
Today we went to a guided tour of Schengen. We took about an hour bus ride to the historic city and when we got there, the tour started. We learned about Schengens importance to the EU and its formation and finished the tour with a stop at a little museum on the history of the EU. Then after, for free time, we discovered (from the tour) that Schengen borders Germany and France, so some of us decided to go to the French border and take pictures. So I was in France for about 30 seconds with my group. Then we went back to our hostel in Luxembourg which had a Beautiful view of the historic city. All in all, it was a wonderful day!
July 16 – Adriana
Arriving in Brussels was so nice!! Seeing all of the diversity and walking around the city made me feel at home in a different continent. It’s just like Berkeley, people came up to me and would speak rapidly in French because since it’s so diverse everyone is just considered Belgian. The food was amazing as well, I had two waffles back to back, and they’re my new favorite sweet food to eat. American waffles just aren’t the same!! Personally, I had a lot of fun exploring the city and buying Belgian food (chocolate and waffles), and I hope to go back there again someday!
Juy 18 – Ava
Today we went to the Parliamentarium! It is the second part of the European Union that we have been able to go to. The day before we had gone to the European Commission which is equivalent to the executive branch of the United States’ government. The Parliament handles the legislation and debates and amends laws and proposals. We did a simulation where we were members of parliament and had to debate different laws and address different challenges. This simulation required us to put ourselves in a different mindset and pass laws based on our party’s ideals while also negotiating with other parties. I really enjoyed it and thought that it gave us a really good look into how their government works. Obviously we only got a small taste of what it’s like to be a member of the European parliament but it was a really engaging experience that my group got to have.
Celebrating Ava’s birthday with waffles