Successful excursion of the International Relations study programme to Brussels

After a successful excursion to New York in January 2022, another highlight of the International Relations degree programme took place from January 12th to 14th, 2023. the second excursion of the programme took 14 students from Macromedia University to Brussels to gain a deeper insight into the institutions of the European Union. Students from the first and third semesters who travelled from 5 different locations took part. The excursion was led by lecturer Leopold Gritschneder and Prof. Dr. Mo Badr, Head of the International Relations study programme and Head CMP of the Munich campus, as well as Dr. Manuel Iretzberger, as programme manager of the course. During the excursion days, the students were able to get to know the most important EU institutions first-hand and exchange ideas with high-ranking experts.

The first day began with a tour of the EU Parliament, in particular the plenary hall, and an introductory lecture on the functioning, composition and working methods of the Parliament and its committees. We also visited the Parliamentarium, a museum with a focus on the history of the Parliament. In the afternoon there was a discussion with the Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, in which he gave direct insight into his work. The focus of the lively conversation was, in addition to the general political challenges that the generation of students will face, the MP’s foreign policy issues, in particular the situation in the Western Balkans and the Korean peninsula. The first day was rounded off with a tour of the architecturally impressive council building and a lecture by Kirsten Bachour, who is responsible for budget issues in the General Secretariat of the Council. She answered the students’ questions and also discussed Sweden’s recent presidency of the Council. In the evenings, students had the opportunity to socialise with the EU employees who met there after work in a lively atmosphere at the Place de Luxembourg.

The second day was all about the EU Commission. A total of four lectures followed by a discussion round took place in the commission buildings. First up was Maik Schmahl, who gave a more general overview of the work of the Commission and its departments, but also reported on his tasks in the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport. Angelika Koman from the General Directorate of Migration and Home Affairs gave a very interactive lecture on the topic of migration, asylum and border protection, which made the complexity of the topic clear and included a passionate plea to the students to actively participate politically in shaping the future.

Heike Gerstbrein, head of department in the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments described her experiences in the area of election observation in crisis regions and discussed current security policy challenges, especially against the background of the war in Ukraine. Finally, Christian Holzleitner, head of department in the Directorate General for Climate, gave an overview of the technological and political tasks that need to be solved in order to ensure compliance with the EU’s climate goals. The second day was rounded off with dinner together in a traditional Belgian restaurant.

After the first two days, which were well packed in terms of programming, the excursion was able to end in a relatively relaxed manner on the last day. The programme included a visit to the very well thought-out Museum of European History, where the students were able to spend time independently after a longer tour. After a short final discussion, the afternoon offered the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Brussels.

During the course of the excursion, the students showed great interest and impressed the lecturers, who thoroughly enjoyed providing insight into their work with informed questions. Not only were they able to get to know the practical side of their subject better and further deepen the knowledge they had acquired during their studies, but above all they were also able to make many contacts and get tips about possible career paths in the EU and beyond. This excursion, in addition to the regular expert talks was presented by Prof. Dr. Mo Badr, and could be organised due to his connections as a former diplomat. It is a great opportunity to build a bridge between teaching and the practice of international relations. Comparable events are already being planned and will continue to be offered regularly for students in the degree programme. The President of Macromedia University, Castulus Kolo, and Florian Haumer, the Dean of the Faculty of Culture, Media and Psychology, also welcome the practical orientation of the course and are happy about the successful implementation of this year’s excursion to Brussels.