M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies

Zoom to Brussels

Virtual Brussels

By Morgan Raymond


One of the biggest selling points when I was deciding to enroll as an EUPS Master’s student, was the academic trips to Strasbourg and Brussels. Travelling to the center of European politics is a unique opportunity for students to experience first hand the functioning of the European institutions studied all semester. I was eager to explore cities I have never been to and to meet with knowledgeable politicians within the institutions. As an undergraduate student, our academic experience was fully contained in lecture hall walls and I saw these trips as an important part of my academic experience.  

Unfortunately, the fall trip to Brussels this year, like many other plans, got derailed by  COVID-19 regulations. Initially, I was disappointed that we were unable to make the trips, but after two weeks of virtual meetings with stakeholders throughout the EU, I realized these experiences are so much more than a trip to a new city. 

In the fall, our cohort had the opportunity to meet with the people who work within the primary EU institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the EEAS. Each presentation explored topics most relevant to the institution at the time of the meeting. For example, a member of the Directorate-General for Budget explained the current negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework in the midst of a European Council Summit meeting debating the budget. A representative from the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, unpacked the European Commission’s new migration pact proposal that was announced just a few weeks prior.

We met with staff in the EEAS the day after I had given a presentation in class about how the institution itself functions. It was exciting to ask questions about topics that we had spent hours studying just days before. These meetings allowed us to gain knowledge we would not have found in our academic readings. We received first hand insight into how the people working in the institutions view topics such as current events, the transatlantic relationship, and the functioning of the institutions. 

As we kicked off our spring semester, we met with stakeholders throughout Brussels. This round the focus was on career development and exploring areas that we may find a future career in. This was especially useful for students like myself, still trying to navigate potential career paths. We met with transatlantic focused stakeholders such as US foreign service officers based in Brussels, European public affairs firms, NGOs, European media networks, think tanks, and interest groups. We were able to ask questions about their experiences and how they got in their current career position. That ability to network with both Americans and Europeans working in the transatlantic sphere is as inspiring as it is useful.

This year has shown so many of us how to adapt to virtual rather than in person interactions. While I didn’t get the trip to Brussels I had hoped for, I was excited by the close interactions and knowledge I gained first-hand from experts within the European Union. I found insight into the EU institutions, discovered career paths that I would not have otherwise thought to consider, and improved my confidence in interacting with stakeholders in a professional setting. I am looking forward to having more experiences like these throughout the semester. 

Morgan Raymond is a student in the Class of 2021 EUPS program. She graduated from James Madison University as an International Affairs Major with Economics and European Studies Minors. She hopes to find a career in Washington D.C. after graduation working in the transatlantic political arena.

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Published: Monday, February 1, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 3, 2021

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