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Students explore European politics through Brussels Internship Program

Chelsey Dawson ’17 grew up reading about Europe, but until last fall, she’d never left the United States.

After hearing about Furman’s fall study away program in Brussels, Belgium, and the unparalleled opportunities fellow students had enjoyed, Dawson knew she had to apply. She found the trip to be just the challenge she was looking for.

“When you go to Brussels, you have the chance to stop reading about places in Europe and start experiencing them,” said Dawson, a political science and philosophy major from Media, Pa. “This is a trip for a student who really wants to become engaged in the world.”

The Brussels program, now in its ninth year, allows students to experience politics and policy making through academically rigorous internships. This fall, Furman students worked 20 to 25 hours per week in European Union (EU) institutions, for lobbying groups and for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the city.

The cost of participation for students is equivalent to the cost of tuition, room and board for a semester at Furman. The program is open to majors from all departments.

Five departments – Political Science, Communication Studies, Economics, Business and History – support the Brussels program, the most competitive study away program at Furman.

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Touching the last significant remaining piece of the Berlin Wall

Students spend nearly four months in Brussels taking four courses, one of which includes their internship. Tours in Europe are included in a travel-study course that visits sites of historical, political, economic and cultural importance. Last fall, the travel-study course included trips to Charlemagne’s Cathedral in Aachen, Amsterdam, Normandy, Berlin and Ieper, Belgium.

“The Brussels Internship Program brings together all the elements that make Furman’s approach to study away unique,” stated Nelsen. “Students learn both in a classroom and ‘on the job’—guided by a Furman professor. They also have great adventures in new academic, professional, and cultural settings.”

Junyang Chai ’17, an economics and Asian studies major from Xian, China, interned with Helmut Scholz, a German member of the European Parliament, attending meetings as his representative, taking notes and assisting Scholz with research.

His primary project as an intern involved researching aspects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

“I had to learn so much about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in a very short period of time,” said Chai. “I was also very excited to practice my data analysis skills in real world trade negotiations.”

“Brussels was more eye-opening than anything else has ever been to me,” said Chai. “I got to learn about how politics work in Europe and what it takes to be a politician.”

Dawson said she feels the Brussels study away program has earned its reputation as both prestigious and rigorous.

“For me, the most important lessons I learned were outside of the classroom. I learned how to find ways to communicate with people whose language I didn’t speak. I learned how to time manage my life.  I had to find a balance between three rigorous classes, 25 hours of working a week, necessary chores like grocery shopping and laundry, all while trying to spend every free moment I had traveling around Europe.

“I think the most important thing that I, and everyone else who experiences Brussels learned is just how strong, capable and independent we really are,” said Dawson. “I learned more this semester than I have in the rest of my Furman career combined — both about the world and myself.”

The next Brussels Internship Program is scheduled for this fall. Learn more about study away programs at Furman.

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