Gaining a Clearer Understanding

Ben – Today we went to Bruges, Belgium for our first full day in this country. We visited the College of Europe, which was founded after World War II, much as the European Union was, to create cooperation and a sense of European Citizenship between the once factious countries. We listened to a lecture by Professor Chang at the college that was entitled “Reconstructing Economic and Monetary Union”. The focus of the lecture was the European Union does not have a political union which hurts the credibility of states, such as Greece, that are involved in the EU. If they were more integrated than many of the problems of the Euro Crises could have been solved a lot sooner. Her conclusion was interesting because the representative from the European Central Bank that we talked to early this week said that credibility is its greatest asset. But why is integration so hard for members of the European Union? This is hard to accomplish because of their sense of nationality and the fact that each of the members are their own sovereign countries. We have also heard this textbook answer in class, but until I walked around Bruges after the lecture I finally began to understand why there are so many problems with integration in the European Union.

The architecture of the city is breathtaking and everything is historic. I walked in a church that was located downtown that has been serving parishioners since the 1500s. We took a boat tour through the canals in the city, and the tour guide explained the city takes great pride in preserving its history. Satellites are prohibited on the rooftops and all of the basic services, such as electricity and cable, are buried underground to preserve the medieval feel of the city. We ducked under bridges that are currently still functioning. but are over six hundred years old. Everything from Chocolatiers on every corner, to the metal boot scrapers that are embedded in the walls outside of each house next to the thresholds is still original. We could never be able to discover the emphasis that Europeans have on these customs and traditions without actually witnessing it first-hand. Learning the “European Culture” in this way has had an extraordinary effect on my understanding on the problems that are facing the European Union today. This immersion trip has opened my eyes to so many things that I thought were completely normal to me before I was able to experience from a different viewpoint. I sincerely thank that Rogge Fund for continuing to fund this trip and I hope that students are still able to be exposed to these vital realizations for years to come.