Eleven High Schools in the Midwest Participated in Euro Challenge 2014

Eleven high schools from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin participated in the 2014 Euro Challenge.

GlobalFest 2014

GlobalFest is an annual event that celebrates world languages and cultures, and encourages middle and high school students to make connections with the global society.

U-46 Teacher Travels the Globe to Enhance Her Lessons

Elgin Area School District teacher Chris LaRue spent two weeks in Turkey in 2013, a trip that was almost entirely funded by the Turkish Cultural Foundation.

EU Centers of Excellence Education Trip to Belgium

Read two teachers' experiences during the 2013 EU Centers of Excellence Education Trip to Belgium.

TED Helps European and American Educators Connect

The Transatlantic Educators Dialogue (TED), held from February through May, gives American and European educators an opportunity to meet virtually to discuss educational issues.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coming Soon: Euro Challenge 2013

Credit © European Union, 2012
The Euro Challenge 2013 is an exciting educational opportunity for high school students (grades 9 and 10) to learn about the European Union (EU) – the largest trading partner of the US – and its single currency, the euro.

For the competition, students research problems and solutions to Europe's economic challenges. A team of three to five students presents its findings in a competition format. The best teams from each region travel to NYC to compete in the national finals at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Conditional on an annual grant, winning teams can win awards and a trip to Washington D.C., generously offered by the Moody's Foundation.

The program offers students of global studies, economics, world history/geography or European studies a unique experience that moves them out of the classroom into the real world. The competition requires no previous knowledge of economics.

"There is no other program that enables students to learn, first hand, about international issues like the Euro Challenge." – Libby Nowak, teacher, New York, NY 

Register by October 22 for an expense-paid teacher orientation workshop in Chicago on November 5, 2012. Visit http://www.euc.illinois.edu/eurochallenge/ for more information.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Career Opportunities in the EU

by Alicia Henry

In which region of the world have United States businesses made the greatest investment? China? Japan? India? Latin America? Africa? Russia? If you answered “no” to all of the above, give yourself a pat on the back. U.S. investment in Europe is sixteen times greater than in China, India, Brazil and Russia combined! The transatlantic economy employs fifteen million people. Within the European Union, U.S. businesses have the potential to reach 500 million consumers in a single market. For the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, investment flows both ways. (Read more: European Commission web page on EU-US bilateral trade relations.)

Representing U.S. business interests in the European Union is the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmChamEU, http://www.amchameu.eu/), a Brussels-based lobbying organization. EU Center study trip participants learned about the role of AmChamEU in a session that described the close economic ties of the U.S. and the EU. Laws affecting business in the European Union originate in Brussels. It is the goal of the Transatlantic Economic Council to stimulate growth, create jobs and decrease barriers to trade. The EU does not have a tradition of PACs and lobbying is minimal. AmChamEU has over twenty international employees, with only two (one full-time and one part-time) U.S. citizens on staff. The organization requires that personnel be knowledgeable about European business customs in order to advance U.S. business. Language facility must also be a factor in the scarcity of U.S. employees in this office. 

At the same location we had the opportunity to hear from representatives of the State of Illinois West European Office of Trade and Investment. The West European office, one of nine State of Illinois foreign offices worldwide, represents Illinois interests in thirteen countries. Of the eight U.S. states with business offices in Europe, Illinois is the fifth most successful. The Midwest is often overlooked when European companies are looking at U.S. expansion; instead they often opt for the East or West coasts. Although southern U.S. states are appealing because of lower prevailing wages, Illinois has a lot going for it as a potential site. Airport, highway and Mississippi River access provide excellent infrastructure. Contrary to widely held beliefs in the business community, there are no great concerns about taxes in Illinois. 

Photo credit: Todd Gleason
The ultimate in successful Illinois companies, Caterpillar, has its second-largest facility in Gosselies, Belgium, where 4,300 are employed (read more: Caterpillar Belgium Fact Sheet in PDF). Another 10,000 are employed indirectly by suppliers to Caterpillar Belgium. The 98-hectare facility has existed since 1965, exporting 97% of the hydraulic excavators, wheel-loaders, axels, cylinders, gears, and hydraulic valves produced on site. Caterpillar prides itself on remaining profitable and maintaining its two billion dollar yearly investment in research and development, even as the recent worldwide financial crisis forced other firms to scale back. Investment in the Gosselies facility averages €50,000,000 per year. Local managers and a visiting U.S. employee spent time with our group and answered many questions about the facility and its presence in Europe. Follow the link if you are interested in a job with Caterpillar Belgium: http://belgie.cat.com/careers/caterpillar-belgium. Keep in mind that concern about companies relocating to lower-wage regions is not only a fact of life in the U.S. Indeed, workers of the Gosselies plant staged a 24-hour strike in February of 2012 to highlight their concerns about the possibility of a production line moving to Poland.

The EUC study trip provided tremendous background, fascinating contacts and exciting experiences for the participants in our study of the European Union. I look forward to sharing the lessons with my students this year. Thank you to all who made it possible!

Alicia Henry teaches German I-AP at Normal Community West High School in Normal, IL.

This article is one in a series of blog entries authored by teachers who participated in the University of Illinois European Union Center’s 2012 Summer Study Tour: Seeking Sustainable and Secure Connections in Food, Energy, and Governance. The tour to Belgium and Luxembourg was supported by a Getting to Know Europe grant from the European Commission.

Teacher Development Outside the Conference Room, Outside the Box, indeed, Outside the Country

by Fanny Clonch

This year not only did I attended a meaningful professional development workshop offered by the European Center of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but I was actually given the chance to go to Brussels and visit many of the institutions we talked about during the “Food and Energy Security and Sustainability” four-day workshop.

How often does a Chicago Public School teacher get to stroll the street of Brussels and Luxembourg? Considering that the resources of the Chicago Public School system are limited, not to mention that my own resources are always quite strained, the opportunities to visit foreign lands are all too infrequent.

So away from teachers’ union contract battles, extended-day negotiations, salary increase debates I flew, literally. For a whole week I was able to focus, reflect and plan for the upcoming school year with the invigorating surroundings of a new place, new people and new ideas. I also had a chance to collect tangible teaching aids such as maps, brochures and PowerPoint presentations.

We talked a great deal about how Europe is more advanced in green energy and I noticed it as soon as I entered my hotel room at the Thon Hotel in Brussels, formerly Rainbow Hotel before Olav Thon bought the chain.

The 4 star-hotel is reducing its ecological footprint by managing water usage with dual-flush toilets, by collecting rain water for non-potable use and by managing and reducing the energy that is generated, in part, by maintaining their own solar panels.

It is impossible to turn on a light or to recharge your phone or laptop unless you leave your room key in the slot found near the door. As soon as you leave the room, taking your keycard with you, everything shuts off. Your room key is also very instrumental for using the elevator. Without your room key, you cannot use the elevator and you can only go to your floor or the lobby and other common areas. What a simple yet great tool for energy conservation, which also adds to safety and security.

Villo Bikes
The hotel educates and encourages their guests to reduce water usage even more by giving a five-euro voucher redeemable at the hotel bar or restaurant in exchange for forgoing room cleaning. You could also opt for a Villo pass in lieu of the five-euro voucher. The company is actually J. C. Decaux, the same company whose name you see affixed to bus shelters throughout the city of Chicago. The word “villo” is a contraction of the French word ville meaning city and velo meaning bike. The Villo card allows you to rent a bike at one of the 180 self-serving bike stations located throughout the city. I learned that the construction of these bike stations reduced parking spaces and made some people quite unhappy, while proponents are relishing the reduction of motorized vehicles. Bike sharing stations can be seen in many cities throughout Europe nowadays.

Our schedule was pretty tight and I unfortunately did not get to use the Villo. However, for much of the trip, my fellow travelers and I did make great use of another zero greenhouse gas emission mode of transportation—walking.

Zen Car
Strolling in the direction of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, past the European Commission building, to get a closer look at the Arc Cinquentenaire, I came across another green mode of transportation—the electric car. I had heard about the Autolib electric car-sharing project in Paris, which was launched last year. Like Autolib in Paris, Zen Car in Brussels is a green transportation concept that is completely electric, not a hybrid. This green car is there when needed and it makes sense for many of the politicians who come to Brussels and who are commuters from other European countries. Like bicycle lending services found at most train stations throughout Europe, the electric car can be picked up at the airport and dropped off at one of the central locations in town. Since you have to drop the car at the electrical charging station, you do not need to worry about finding a place to park. If you think that gas prices in the United States have skyrocketed lately, Europeans have it worse. They pay an average of 2 Euros per liter and there are 3.7 liters in a gallon (at the time of writing this blog the exchange rate makes the price of gas in Europe over $9 per gallon). It seems to me that the electric car is a right step in reducing oil dependency and perhaps the most significant means of reducing CO2 emissions.

Now that I am back in Chicago waiting to hear my fate vis-à–vis the negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools, I am very grateful for having been part of the summer study tour to Europe. I wholeheartedly thank Bryan Endres, Matt Rosenstein, Sebnem Ozkan, Kim Rice and Renée Holley for the remarkable work they put into the planning and execution of such an amazing program, bravo! To all my fellow travelers I give many thanks for the camaraderie. 

To learn more about Zen Car: http://www.zencar.eu/en/about_concept.cfm

Info on Villo: http://en.villo.be/How-does-it-work

Fanny Clonch teaches three different levels of French in the International Baccalaureate program at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago, Illinois.

This article is one in a series of blog entries authored by teachers who participated in the University of Illinois European Union Center’s 2012 Summer Study Tour: Seeking Sustainable and Secure Connections in Food, Energy, and Governance. The tour to Belgium and Luxembourg was supported by a Getting to Know Europe grant from the European Commission.


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