Travel Log #1: “Laying a Foundation” By: Madeleine Harder. Baltimore, MD

Happy holidays to all those who celebrate! It is unbelievably exciting to think that in a little more than two weeks I will board a plane to Belgium, where I be living for the next 5 months (8 if I decide to spend the summer there as well). Everything is falling into place; I found out that I will be living with a host family and have the opportunity to practice speaking French and I was also offered an internship with Clear Europe, a small political communications firm. I’m eager to get on that plane but I have also been reflecting on the concepts I learned from the QU301 workshops.

During our workshop I found the concept of a separation phase very interesting because I had never thought about how my rite of passage could affect others. It is easy to become selfish and think that a study abroad journey does not affect anyone but yourself. However this is not always the case. While this may not ring true for everyone, my parents will be supporting me financially oversees. My actions on this journey will need to be held accountable to these very important stakeholders.

On page 10 in the introduction of Richard Slimbach’s book “Becoming World Wise” the author claims, “Developing a nuanced understanding of our host culture, and grasping our potential to either benefit of damage it, takes time and intentionality.” This quote echoes a sentiment of the workshop teachings. We were told to prepare even before we left for our journey by researching our country in areas such as politics, language, and culture. This knowledge will be reflected in how we behave once we reach our new countries. On an even earlier page Slimbach writes, “It is possible to study—in English—international business in China, international relations in Brussels, international law in South Africa, public health in Kenya, renewable energy in Iceland, film in India, and art in Florence” (6). I will be doing exactly this and studying international relations in Brussels with an end goal of learning how to think differently or at least with a new perspective. Studying and working in another country will boost my cognitive abilities and allow me to see problems from many angles.

bottoms up in belgiumThe travelogue I chose to depict Belgium is a collection of stories written by Alec Le Sueur titled, “Bottoms Up in Belgium.” Le Sueur is originally English but he married a Flemish woman and relocated to Belgium, a land he had never traveled to before. The author is quick to pick on Belgium but he also highlights the many different cultures that reside inside of the Belgian border. Belgium hosts French, German, and Dutch populations and not everyone seems to like each other and work together to run an efficient state. Additionally the city I will be living in, Brussels, is the capital of the European Union so many other countries will be represented.

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2 thoughts on “Travel Log #1: “Laying a Foundation” By: Madeleine Harder. Baltimore, MD

  1. Wow Madeleine! Congratulations on the internship with Clear Europe! Sounds like everything really is falling into place for you. I’m sure the host family will be the perfect opportunity to practice your French as well, congratulations on that as well.
    Acquiring the end goal of a new perspective in Brussels while working there, and not only studying, I think is something you can easily achieve. I think that having an internship there is going to only heighten your experience on the way the country works politically, culturally, etc. It probably is a really good idea to some research before you leave since you will notice what you research a lot in the work place. Are you taking any classes that will benefit you politically or business wise? Such as political or business classes?

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  2. I really love the quote you chose: “Developing a nuanced understanding of our host culture, and grasping our potential to either benefit of damage it, takes time and intentionality.”. Its important to recognize that although we can try and prepare ourselves as much as possible for what is to come, it is impossible to entirely predict how we will react to what is expected and of course, what we could not foresee. Although we may face some challenges that hold us back a bit at the beginning of our journey we must acknowledge that time is on our side and that although we may not feel 100% comfortable in our new host country right away, we will eventually begin to understand the new culture and surroundings that encircle us.

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