Politics students visit EU

Dated: 12 February 2019

In early February, the politics department took 70 students on their (until now…) annual trip to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
Head of Politics at Woodhouse, Mr Patel, said…
“The trip has been really insightful - we’ve had a jam packed three days. We began by visiting the House of European History which was really interesting for our students. It looks back at the last 100 years and how Europe has evolved into its current form.”
Students were given time in the evening to explore the Grand Place area of Brussels.It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city's Town Hall, and the King's House or Breadhouse building containing the Museum of the City of Brussels. The square is the most memorable landmark in Brussels and considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.
Student Julia agreed. “Belgium’s actually really pretty! The trip was great fun and I enjoyed visiting all the different buildings, monuments and statues. In our free time we mostly walked around and tried a lot of Belgian food - the waffles and chocolate are amazing.”
Students spent the first of two nights at the Meininger Hotel, a converted brewery on the outskirts of the city.
Mr Patel continues... “We then spent the next day looking around the European Parliament building where we met a local London MEP, Lucy Anderson, who answered students’ questions. It’s quite rare for politics students to meet European representatives, so that was really great."
"I’d emailed a number of MEPs and Lucy responded to our request and was very forthcoming in inviting us to the parliament building. Lucy used to be a counsellor in a local ward for Camden and she knew of our College and was happy to chat with us."
"An EU parliament civil servant, Henry Wasung, explained what the EU was about and tried to dispel some of the myths about the legislation it passes. Famously Boris Johnson spoke about the wonky banana and he corrected that and other myths from the mainstream British press. Henry is actually a Londoner and UK citizen who has very recently embraced his Polish heritage and sought a polish passport so that he can navigate around the post-Brexit era. Only EU citizens can take jobs in the EU parliament (though British workers will keep their present jobs they may not get promoted or be able to apply for other positions)."
Students were also given a brief look at the Hemicycle, the huge horseshoe-shaped debating chamber for the 751 MEPs.
After a long lunch break of coffee and waffles, students visited The Parliamentarium, the visitors' centre of the European Parliament which is a large interactive discovery centre that allowed students to engage with various aspects of the EU and its institutions.
Student Orla commented “The Parliamentarium was great and seeing all the statistics about the different MEPs and how parliament is made up was really interesting. The MEP was interesting to listen to because normally we speak with MPs and they have to align with their parties - so seeing someone who didn’t have to actually stick to what the party said and could give their own opinion was refreshing. The trip will definitely help me with my studies. I learned a lot of statistics that I’m going to use in my essays, and it gave me a better understanding of things we’ve learned about that I didn’t really get before."
But, as in parliament, there was not complete agreement...
Politics student Ocean said “The view points of the MEP were interesting, but I feel like she was a little bit… biased.”
Fellow student Frankie had more to say… “Personally, I thought the MEP was somewhat delusional and had goals and aims that are just not ever going to happen. That said, I thought it was valuable to talk to her and meet someone who was in the position of an MEP. Henry from Enfield was good and knew what he was talking about, and I definitely came out of the EU parliament knowing more than when I went in.”
Mr Patel.. "On the last day, we had a change from the EU approach when we visited S.H.A.P.E.(Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) part of NATO in Mons, just outside Brussels.
There we met Kris, a Polish army officer, who, together with one of his French Navy colleagues, explained that role of NATO and kindly showed us around the complex there - something like 6000 people work and live in SHAPE and it was fascinating to see how NATO works close up.”
Student Ocean was impressed “Listening to Kris was very interesting and made me want to learn more about NATO. In the classroom, it’s just words on a piece of paper but now we have actually seen it in action.”
Classmate Frankie said “I definitely enjoyed the trip and the highlight for me was NATO and talking to the soldier. It was very insightful and showed that there was more to NATO than just the military aspect. It will 100% inform my studies back at college. I’ve got new insights into how these organisations work which I didn’t have before and it’s given me a deeper understanding of the world as well.”
Student Julia said “In class (with NATO) we’ve often looked at the negatives of it - like what is not working and what needs improving - but during the talk we learned how it does work and got some really good examples of how it works and that they are learning from the mistakes rather than being seen as an out of touch military body.”
Mr Patel summed up the trip... “In the politics curriculum we look at the European Union and its institutions. It is often the case that (in the UK) when students actually visit parliament and get a chance to speak to an MP they can visualise exactly what the theory suggests, so in the same way this trip gave them that ability. They were able to sit in the main chamber at the Hemicycle and get a visual understanding of the EU. And NATO of course is very much part of our global politics unit so once again they were able to process a lot of the very abstract information about NATO and its role around the world and meet NATO personnel in the flesh, which I think for most UK students is probably quite a rare thing.”
In a fitting end to the politics trip, students bump into BBC news political editor
Laura Kuenssberg on the Eurostar home.
Finally, politics student Rohat took a more sideways look at the experience… “I found the trip well worth the money, it was a bargain. The EU stuff was a bit a dry but there were useful facts in there. My highlights were definitely NATO and the chance to just roam free around the city - I bought a cigar!”

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