Ben Wade ’17 – Thursday was the first full day in Brussels, and it didn’t disappoint at all. After getting into the city fairly late last night, it was nice to get the chance to sleep in and relax a bit this morning. However, we couldn’t rest for too long, as we had a whole new city to explore and only three days to do it. Besides, looking out our hotel windows at all the different food options in the main square meant that we couldn’t stay in bed for too long.
The only scheduled event today set the tone for the rest of our day, and sort of underscored something I noticed in Frankfurt. Our trip to the European Council was filled with a diversity that I have never experienced before and that also surprised a couple other guys in the trip. In our travels today, we saw the words “European Parliament” written in 24 different languages; our presenter at the Council spoke at least 5 languages and probably could have defended himself in several more; our dinner was a choice between Ethiopian or Senegalese cuisine, decided only after walking past Greek, Indian, and Indonesian restaurants.
Walking around today showed me that the term “melting pot” cannot just be used to describe the U.S. Today, I talked to an Irishman who spoke very accented Dutch, German, and English about how Chelsea was better than Paris St. Germaine (soccer, btw). Earlier, I asked for pouille mafa (spiced chicken) in a Senegalese restaurant from a waiter who only spoke French, albeit with a little help from Professors Byun and Hollander. Though these cultures and people are very distinct, there is no denying that they mix together in this city and others across Europe. Thinking of America as the only place where cultures come together is simply closed-minded to the entire world around us.
Everything about this place is different from anything I’ve ever encountered: different people, different food, different architecture, and very different experiences. If anything this trip has taught me two things: everything in Europe is expensive (even using the bathroom) and it’s okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. Even though hamburgers and French fries are safe and familiar, you might find that you like spiced African chicken and döner kebab more, as a few of us found out. Though this experience is half over, I have loved every minute here and I’ll finish by giving out a huge shout-out to the Rogge Fund and Professors Hollander, Byun, and Mikek for making it possible.