Beautiful Brussels

UC3M, Leganés, Spain

European Commission

Reflection of Brussels skyline on the EC European Economic and Social Committee building.

The second part of this weekend odyssey had me flying to Brussels to represent my class at the 2nd Erasmus Mundus student conference. Still tired from my trip to London, I showered, shaved and replaced the dirty clothes from my back pack with some clean shirts, socks and other important articles. Pablo had graciously indulged me by arranging earlier to have a taxi show up at the residence at exactly 3:30 AM! and so I wasn’t really in any position to get any sleep.

The cab was very prompt and through some very bad Spanish and the help of a note I had written in my note book, I managed to communicate the fact that before heading to the airport, we needed to pick up Teeroumanee who lives in another residence. We managed to make contact successfully and continued on to the airport. The whole trip cost 45€ which was the most expensive part of the trip (fortunately). We were a little bit early, but there were people queued up at the Alitalia desk anyway even though it wasn’t open yet. So we waited… waited… and waited (which isn’t easy with no sleep at 4:30 in the morning) and eventually the desk opened. We checked in without any issue and we moved quickly through security and sat by our gate. The flight was quite punctual. We left at 6:25 and I slept most of the way to Milan.

Milan? Oh yes, I forgot… not a direct flight… which was a little foolish if you ask me, but I didn’t book it so I guess it didn’t really matter. But it is about a 2:15 flight to Milan from Madrid, and when we landed we had over a full hour to wait for the connection to Brussels. Again, I slept most of the flight, which wasn’t all that long. In Brussels, we found a train that went into the city center and then took the metro over a couple of stops to the one we were told was near our hotel. We didn’t have long before we needed to get to the conference, and as luck wouldn’t have it, my room wasn’t ready. Thankfully Teeroumanee’s was and I was able to change shirts and splash some water on my face before the afternoon session.

As it happened, the afternoon turned into the evening in what was one of the longest days of my life. More tired than I have been in years, I was in no mood to listen to a room full of students whining about various things. Obviously the session ran long, and we had to rush back to the hotel (thankfully not far) to drop off our stuff (and check in for some people). Then they took us on a few buses to the restaurant, which to be honest, I don’t think I know the name of. Just as well, because despite it being a nice looking place, the food didn’t do anything for me. We met a couple of the others who were there, but all of us were so tired that it wasn’t as much fun as I would have liked. We took a bus back to the hotel around 23:00 and before midnight I was asleep (not before taking a nice hot shower in a human sized shower/tub).

Breakfast the next morning was likely the best part of the whole trip. It was an American style buffet affair that allowed me to satiate my need for bacon, eggs, hash browns and other breakfast fair, that I promise never to take for granted again. We then had to go back to the conference which I don’t mind saying was in a very poor choice of venues. The Biblioteque Savoy, while very beautiful and historic (Einstein taught there), was not suited for entertaining 120+ international students. Bad lighting, and no tabular surface for writing bathed the whole event in an amateurish quality.

The main reason we (in particular Teerooumanee and I) were there was to bring awareness to the serious problems our program was facing and seek out a solution on behalf of our classmates. I’m not going to go into it now, but suffice it to say it was really bad, and while some steps have been made, it is clear to most that it is too little too late. Due to conference format, it was Teeroumanee who was in a position to handle that issue, and I on the other hand was made part of Erasmus Mundus Alumni Association launch committee outer circle (EMAALCOC – we are getting t-shirts printed ;) ). Essentially we are trying to create a student association that will bridge all of the many different Erasmus Mundus courses and provide contacts and information in the form of newsletters, magazines and other assorted niceties. Kind of like a secret society for the international mobility elite. :) Only not secret. And not that elite from what I’ve seen.

More whining and general disagreement occupied most of my morning, and then we all got back together into a big group again and reported on it. A light sandwich lunch followed which was another chance to talk and network a bit. I managed to hand out 4 or 5 of my business cards over the weekend, so I feel like I might have accomplished something. After that, Teeroumanee and I wandered a bit and took some photos. Then we headed back to the hotel and gathered our stuff. Reversing our earlier trip we found our way back to the Brussels airport (which is really nice by the way). For the first time in all my travels, I managed to set off the airport metal detector. It must have a high sensitivity, because I guess it was the metal coil on my small notebook that did it. After a very thorough rub down I was allowed through and we continued on through the gate area. At this point I want to say that I thoroughly regret not buying any Belgian chocolate for Pablo. I’m sorry Pablo. :)

Waiting, flying, sudoku, waiting, flying, sudoku, and so on followed at this point. We made it back to Madrid shortly after 23:00 and managed to make it to the metro and took it all the way back to Leganés/Getafe – paying less than 2€ each. I guess this makes the total travel costs average out to much less. Finally I was able to rest in my own bed and take a rest from my travels – for the time being.