Wednesday, August 7, 2013

EU Centers of Excellence, Education Trip to Brussels, June 17-20, 2013

by Larry Pahl

I was privileged to attend the 2013 European Union Centers of Excellence summer educational trip to the European Union.  I got the right to participate in this intensive whirlwind of meetings and site visits involving all the key components of the Union by being the teacher of the student who won the U of I EU Center’s high school essay competition.  My student Chris Lanza won a cash prize for his essay on cooperation and conflict in the European Union, and I won a spot on the study tour!

Chris recently sent a group email to all his AP teachers, thanking them for their work in helping him achieve successful scores on the many AP tests he took.  I wondered why I was on that list because he was my student in a Civics class that was not an AP course.  So when I congratulated him later saying I could take no credit, he reminded me that he had attended review sessions I gave my AP World students (he was not in that class) and he said those reviews more than anything else helped him on all his AP tests.  I mention this, because that fact was a key to my getting a special personal audience with John C. Sullivan, the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

Mr. Sullivan was one of the most entertaining speakers we enjoyed on the tour.  He combined his erudition with regular doses of puns and humor.  As he was describing to our group a set of tips he had for being successful on the foreign service exam for the US State Department, I asked him who it is that grades those exams.  I told him that I had helped my students be successful on the AP World exam because I had heavily picked the brains of readers of the AP World test, and so I thought knowing who grades the State Department test would be an added tip for those taking it.  He responded by saying that he wanted to walk out with me after the meeting, because his daughter was going to be taking AP tests soon! 

So indeed, I got to walk out with the ambassador (officially called a Public Affairs Officer because the European Union is not a sovereign nation) and gab about the AP test and other things. I am still in touch with him because of that conversation!

Our study group, made up of teams from 7 of the 10 European Union Centers of Excellence, was a fun and interesting mixture of teachers and students, mostly new college graduates.  A spirit of professional collegiality quickly formed which manifested in discussions, in Q and A with the various speakers we heard, and even in informal social gatherings.  The picturesque and stunning Grand Place, the landmark of the city of Brussels, (along with the Manneken Pis, the famous statue of the little boy urinating) became the nightly dining and socializing grounds for many members of our group, young and old.  It seemed to have endless streets and nooks and shops and districts.

Besides the talk by John Sullivan at the US Mission, another highlight for me was listening to LtCol. Benoit Aumonnier,  a French officer working as a policy advisor to NATO.  He spoke English with difficulty but was very candid in saying that NATO needed to head in a new direction.  He said that the “institutionalized division of labor for crisis management” (requiring each member country to ante up so many soldiers) was “the past.”  For the future, he said, a “pragmatic approach” was needed, one which he felt the US would be a leader because there is no clear leader in Europe.

Below is a brief outline-chart of the various institutions we visited with links to their websites and some associated pictures.

Date, Location
Sunday June 16
Arrive Euroflat Hotel, Brussels

Screensaver I made to have a one-page itinerary for trip
View from the Euroflat Hotel
Our U of I EUCE Delegation

Monday June 17
            European Commission Headquarters
            European Parliament
Commission briefing

Commission speaker

Parliament briefing

Tuesday June 18
        ENAR, European Network Against Racism
        EEAS, European External Action Service
Meeting at ENAR
Enjoying famous Brussels beer at local pub after EEAS meeting

Wednesday June 19
        US Mission to the EU
        Bruegel, think tank
Me with John Sullivan, Officer, US Mission to the EU
Group Lunch
Meeting at Bruegel think tank

Thursday June 20
        Council of the EU
        NATO headquarters
Meeting at EU Council
Waiting near floral shop for bus to NATO
NATO's low profile headquarters

Photo credit: Larry Pahl

Larry Pahl has taught at the junior high, high school and college level (West Virginia Northern, Carl Sandburg College, and Rock Valley College). He has taught in the U.S. and abroad (The International School in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic).  He has taught in public, private, and quasi-public settings.  He has taught students at the AP, regular and special education levels.  He is currently a history teacher at Bartlett High School in Bartlett, IL, and also a World History instructor with the Illinois Virtual School. 

Mr. Pahl is dedicated to the art and profession of teaching. 


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