Institute for Field Education

Academic Courses

The curriculum of the Brussels Program

Preparing students to participate in Brussels and Belgium

The overall approach is to train students in multiple ways of examining contemporary Brussels and Belgium both for their own sake as well as for what they embody of European realities past and present, cultural, political, societal. Once prepared in this way, students will be able to continue this learning path through intensive professional engagement in their chosen area.
A note on local languages and Flemish culture: As is only fitting for student interns preparing for engagement in a multilingual setting, the preparatory session also includes Dutch language instruction, to equip students with a minimum of conversational capacity (my name is...etc.), as an act of cultural sensitivity and yet another gateway into local society.

Three courses comprise the Preparatory Session

 Course I - Belgium: A European crossroads, a unique culture
This course is intended to build students’ understanding of what it is to be Belgian and European by examining Belgian history through the lens of culture – and in particular literature and art – in the first three sessions, and then by focusing the last three sessions on three important aspects of contemporary Belgian culture: fiction, comic book art and cinema. Culture and identity is the sub-theme of the course, throughout the six sessions, brought out in both what is specifically Belgian in cultural terms and what are the quintessential European foundations of being Belgian . (Syllabus)

 Course II - Brussels in Belgium and in Europe: A socio-urbanist approach
The goal of this course is to draw on Sociology, Economics and Urban Studies to understand Brussels specifically, and the Belgian cityscape more generally, in the context of European urban experience. Furthermore, examining the city will help students to grasp the sociological characteristics of Belgium in a European framework and in counterpoint to the United States.
By focusing on dynamics and problems – demographics, social stratification, social stakes, labor markets, migrations, inter-cultural relations, relation to Europe, Brussels’ role as a national and European capital, etc. – a multidimensional and integrative viewpoint is constructed. (Syllabus)

 Course III - Belgium in Europe and the World: A historical approach
This course enables students to situate Belgium in the “concert of nations” since the 19th century, using a joint historical/geo-political approach, as a method for illustrating major historical and political trends of Europe qua Europe. Questions examined include the colonial past and its lingering impact at home, the impact of two world wars, as well as the role of Belgium in the long and incomplete phenomenon of European integration. Belgium serves at once as the focus of examination as well as an illustration of larger European issues: the past, present and future of the nation-state, war and peace, colonialism and post-colonialism, sub- and supranational community and other issues. (Syllabus)

During the internship period

It is during the internship period that students work individually with their research advisor to delineate a research topic, set an outline, define sources, and produce the independent study field research project.(syllabus)

Student-interns also return weekly to IFE premises to attend a third academic course, a seminar which examines what it is to be European, including in practical daily terms, and searches for answers on several levels to this question.

 Course IV - What is Europe? Culture, Institutions, Society(ies)
This course intends to deepen the understanding of Europe on the part of student-interns who are involved daily in the work life of Brussels by exploring more fully certain themes of the preparatory session, as well as introducing new themes such as an examination of the various “Europes” and “balconies” comprising the continent; the institutional environment; a study of European public opinion, democratization of the EU, and the notion of European citizenship; the relation of politics and culture in Europe (e.g. the impact of transnational space on local cultural identities). The question of what it is to be European, including in practical daily terms, and the search for answers on several levels serves as the organizing principle of the course. (Syllabus)

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