In the Summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to live in Belgium for two months while holding an internship position with the Jean Monnet EU-Canada Network. This was my first time traveling to Europe, and furthermore, my first time traveling alone. I found the solitude to be challenging but very rewarding. Antwerp overall was an extremely easy place for English speaking travelers to navigate.
This internship provided an excellent opportunity to further develop my major research paper (MRP). My supervisor, Dr. De Bièvre, connected me with a wider network of EU scholars and helped me talk through research methodology problems. Specifically, he helped me realize that my theoretical framework was far too complex for the purposes of an MRP. He also urged me to simplify my research design by removing extra variables. I have often thought back to his advice when considering key aspects of my research design.
In terms of daily logistics, I found that the internship provided a good mix of freedom and support. I had the option of working at the shared office space with other PhD students and visiting scholars, or working from other locations at my choice. I generally traveled to the shared office space at around 10 and spent a few hours there, taking advantage of the free coffee and gorgeous lighting in the room. This also allowed me to collaborate with some of the other PhD students. After this, I would bike home to a café close to my AirBnB for another few hours of work. On nice days I would visit the beautiful park across the road from my AirBnB and work from there.
When I spoke to several of my fellow students, they said that they had some trouble with integrating with students in cities, especially in Northern Europe. I can confirm that this was also my experience. However, I made one good friend and found the fellow co-op students willing to collaborate academically. As a generally introverted person, I was surprised at how much I missed daily social interaction. It was extremely important for me to make plans to meet up with other EURUS students who were also in Europe to meet up for day trips. Additionally, it was important to me that both my family and partner visited me for a week,
In general, I found the internship to be an extremely rewarding positive experience. Besides the great benefits to my research, I was able to immerse myself in European culture, visiting Paris, Rome, Naples, Florence along with several towns in Belgium. The most important thing I could think to highlight about this experience is that it is entirely what a student makes of it.