Tag Archives: Vesalius College

International Potluck

6 May

In honor of our international student population, the Vesalius Student Government hosted an international potluck after everyone returned from break. They had foods from everywhere from China, Turkey, Italy, the US, Mexico, and many other places. For me, I couldn’t think of anything more American than apple pie, but I didn’t want to make pie because I didn’t want to make the crust. So instead I made an apple pie dip that I found a couple years ago on Pinterest. For your enjoyment, read the recipe below or click this link!


Apple Pie Dip & Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips from “The Peach Kitchen”


  • 2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon/calamansi juice
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water

For the chips

  • 6 (6-inch) wheat tortillas
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar


  1. You can either cook this on the stove-top or the microwave.
  2. Combine all the dip ingredients in a small pan/ microwavable bowl except the cornstarch-water mixture.
  3. Heat for a few minutes until it’s boiling and has extracted juice from the apple.
  4. Add cornstarch-water mixture to the “sauce”.
  5. Put back in the microwave/stove top until boiling and the sauce has thickened.
  6. Set aside. You can serve this warm or chilled. It doesn’t matter. It will taste delicious.
  7. Cut tortillas into desired size. {wedges}
  8. Put in a slightly greased baking pan.
  9. Brush the tortillas with butter.
  10. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 210 degrees C {410 degrees F} until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.
  11. Let them cool before serving and serve with the Apple Pie Dip.

My personal tips:

  • One batch of this doesn’t really make a lot. When I normally make it I tend to double or triple the recipe.
  • I put a little more cornstarch in because I think it makes a thicker sauce, which I like.
  • It can be served with things other than the cinnamon sugar chips. I have also served it with stroopwafels and regular waffles.
  • I’ve also never made the dip in the microwave, so I can’t say how that will turn out.

Back At It!

21 Jan

Well, the second semester has officially commenced, meaning I’m back at classes. Though I’m continuing with a second semester packed to the brim of political science classes (I’m starting to have history withdrawal), I do have one random elective for the semester. I also don’t have any classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays (though I’m hoping that will soon be filled with an internship). So, here they are!

Government and Politics of Global Powers

As stated in the syllabus, this course “analyses the challenges of Global Governance and the role played by emerging countries (BRICS) in the new global order.” What are the BRICS you might wonder? Well, that is the fun new acronym (because International Relations and Political Science didn’t already have enough) for the emerging world powers: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. So this course looks at those states (except South Africa, don’t ask why) along with different international institutions, like the UN and IMF, to see how they are changing international political arrangements. I think it will be an interesting class. I really don’t know much about any of the BRICS states, and the professor seems really knowledgeable. She comes with years of experience working in almost every part of the UN.

International Organizations and Global Governance

I had the professor I have for this course in two courses last semester and he is great, which makes me super excited for this course! As you may be able to infer, this class will be interacting a lot with the first class on this list, and vice versa. This course looks at how international organizations, such as the UN, NATO, EU, AU, WTO, and others, work to try and establish global governance. They really do have the best professor to teach this course as well, since he is the director of the Global Governance Institute (a think tank here in Brussels).

History of Political Thought

I have not been to this class yet, so I’ll let you know if it is as interesting as I hope it will be. What this course will be is an evaluation of political theory and the big political theorists in relation with the historical context that they were writing in and how that continues to be applied today. We will study theorists from Machiavelli, to Hobbes, to Marx, and many more along the way. This course has a pretty daunting term paper, but it is supposed to be a cross between a politics and history course, so I’m excited to see what I’m in for. Maybe I won’t have much of a history withdrawal after all?

Introduction to Psychology

I don’t think I really have to explain what this class is all about. Can you guess which class is my free elective this semester? 🙂

Diplomacy and International Negotiations

I think this is the course that I’m the most excited for! It is divided into two parts. The first part of the course focuses on the theory behind diplomacy and international negotiations. The second part will look at specific examples of successful and failed attempts and diplomacy and international negotiations. It also looks like I’ll be taking a country and having the responsibility to speak on their behalf for some negotiations in different areas, such as peace and security, the environment, international trade, etc. It will definitely be challenging, but interesting.

So there you are; my exciting schedule for the semester! If I get my internship I will have to drop one of those classes, and I don’t know which one I will pick, but it looks to be a fun and challenging semester! If you have any questions, just drop me a note below in the comments section.

P.S. I have officially updated my contact information, for those of you who were looking for my new mailing address!

My Goals–Revisited

19 Jan

When I got to Brussels, I made a list of my 5 goals for studying abroad. Coming into the New Year, I decided to revisit those 5 goals and reevaluate them for the new semester. Here they are!

Goal 1: Try New Foods!

I think this might have been one of my more exciting goals of the semester. I’ve had frites, waffles, and beer in Belgium, frites speciaal in the Netherlands, bratwurst in Germany, fish and chips in London, and Guinness in Dublin. Also, I no longer despise fish! This semester: I want to try and cook some of these dishes. I have a great kitchen at my host family’s house, so I intend to use it!

Goal 2: Travel in Country!

So, I kind of failed at this one. I did a lot of traveling, but not much through Belgium. I spent a day with Hannah in Namur and a week playing tourist in Brussels with Alex, but nowhere else. This semester: Just do it! 🙂 I just need to get out and take those day trips. I still want to go to Bruges, Ieper, Bastogne, Antwerp, and more.

Goal 3: Make friends!

This was the most successful of my goals. I made a TON of friends! The hard part is that they are all back in the US now. This semester: I guess I’ll just have to make new friends. Oh darn. 😉

Goal 4: Learn the Language!

I don’t think I did as much as I could with this. I had a French host family, but I didn’t really speak to them much in French. I didn’t end up getting into the French class that I needed for Agnes, so I guess I’ll have to do this on my own. This semester: I think what I’m going to start doing is getting a French newspaper to read on the 45 minute tram ride to or from school everyday. That should give me plenty of time to brush up a little.

Goal 5: Study, study, study!

Okay, so I probably didn’t do as much as I should have. I didn’t have the best of grades, but I didn’t have the worst either. I did get to have a ton of out-of-class learning though. One way was through the European Peace and Security Studies program where I got lectures from Karen Smith of the London School of Economics, Johan Galtung, the founder of peace studies, Dr. Christian Koch of the Gulf Research Center, and many more. I also found some great museums both in Brussels and in other cities around Europe. This semester: Spend more time studying for my actual classes.

In front of NATO HQ

In front of NATO HQ

All Work and No Play….

12 Oct

According to my father, it appears that all I’m doing in Europe is traveling around, drinking beer, and having fun. I am doing all of the above, but I am also studying REALLY hard, none more so than last week with midterms. Along with thinking, “OH MY GOODNESS, MY SEMESTER IS ALMOST HALFWAY OVER!,” I figured I would give y’all a quick update on how all of my classes are going so nobody can accuse me of partying away my time.

So first, here is a quick overview of my academic program. While I’m here at Vesalius, I am completing an undergraduate certificate program in European Peace and Security Studies. This program is run through Vesalius College, the Belgian Royal Military Academy, the Institute of European Studies, the University of Kent, and the Global Governance Institute. It includes 5 courses and a high-profile guest lecture series. Here is a short summary of what I’m doing in each course:


POL351: Military Approaches to Security

  • The professor I have for this is actually a Major in the Belgian military and a professor from the Belgian Royal Military Academy. He has served in different military operations around the world, including in the Balkans during the crisis in Kosovo, so he has a very unique and interesting view on the subject of military approaches to security. We have done a number of in-class discussions and debates. One was a debate between two sides (men vs. women) on what the most important threat to international security is currently and what will it be 10 years from now. Another was a mock trial on whether the comprehensive approach should be the sole approach to crisis management and that it should be led by the military. In this trail I volunteered to be a witness, so I did a lot of research on the comprehensive approach and what international organizations are doing to achieve this theoretical agenda. I am happy to say that my side won (more of the class voted for our side than the other side). I have two big projects coming up. On Tuesday I will be presenting a group presentation on NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan to 3 professors from the Belgian Royal Military Academy. Our group has about 9 people in it, but I am one of the two people giving the 30-minute presentation that counts for 25% of our final grade. I also have a research paper due at the end of the semester that counts for 60% of my final grade. However, I have no solidified my specific research question yet.

POL132: European Peace and Security Studies

  • This is our basic introduction to European Peace and Security Studies course. It is taught by Professor Koops, who is the head of the EPSS program, head of the International Affairs department as Vesalius, as well as the director of the Global Governance Institute. Most of what we have learned so far in this class are the theoretical foundations of peace and security studies. Luckily for me, a lot of it has been basic international relations theories that I already learned with Professor E. Morris with POL326 at Agnes. Starting next week, we are getting into case studies. The only assignments I have had so far for this course are reading tests, but we have a global foot-print evaluation and a policy advice paper that will come later in the semester.

POL235: European Union Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in Theory and Practice

  • This course is also taught by Professor Koops. It is a deeper look into the EU’s newly created and ever evolving foreign policy sector. We have been looking at the evolution of this policy area through the history of the EU, starting from the times of the European Coal and Steel Community. For this class, we have two continuously running projects that we are working on. The first is a state analysis diary. For this we had to pick two of the EU’s member states (one from the “Big Three”, including the UK, France, and Germany, and another from the rest of the member states); I picked the UK and the Netherlands. For these states we had to do a detailed background on the history of the states, both with the general information and more specifically with the foreign policy and military history. After that was done, we started monitoring the news for any stories that relate to these state’s foreign policy or their influence on the EU’s CSDP. The second ongoing project is a think tank diary. For this, we had to choose two think tank events in Brussels that have something to do with EU CSDP and attend, ask a question, and network after the event. I have already finished both of the events. The first I went to was hosted by the Security and Defence Agenda and discussed the debate between security and privacy in the wake of the scandals created by the NSA and Edward Snowden. Two of the speakers at this event were from different European privacy non-profits, the third being former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Lute. The other event I went to was hosted by the academic journal “International Affairs” and was in honor of the release of their September issue, which was all about European security strategy. Three of the speakers were authors of the articles, and a fourth was a representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS). I also have a research paper for this course. Currently, my research question is, “Is the European Union effective in their methods of using the comprehensive approach in crisis management to further their international missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)?”

POL222: Understanding Contemporary Conflict

  • This class is all about different modern crises from around the world and how the international community, especially the Europeans, respond. The first part of the course concentrated on the theoretical idea of how war and conflict could be defined. The rest of the course will be filled with different case studies of modern conflicts. The first case study we looked at was the Syrian conflict. Though it is currently impossible to evaluate how the international community is responding, because they are still in the process of responding, we still looked at the history of the conflict and what steps the international community are currently taking. The second case study we studied was the Balkan Wars. First, we went into the historical context of how the situation was established and how it evolved. Second, we looked at the situation and what exactly happened. Finally, we looked the different missions, involving the UN, EU, and NATO, and evaluated why they were established and whether or not they were effective. Right before the midterms, we watched the film, “The Battle for Algers,” and we are going to discuss that when we go back to class next week. The case studies we have left are Sub-Saharan Africa and the Congo war, The EU in the Sahel: Chad, Niger, Mali, the Great War, Insurgency and counterinsurgency: Afghanistan, and the Levant the the Middle East. I also have a research paper for this course. Currently my research question is, “How is the European Union addressing the issues of armed non-state actors in contemporary conflicts? Are these measures effective?”

POL337: The EU as an International Actor: Civilian Approaches to Promoting Security and Development

  • Where my military class discusses how military is used in crisis situations, this class discusses how civilian tools (economics, humanitarian aid, peace and state building entities) in crisis situations. A part of the course is trips to outside entities. Our first trip was to NATO Strategic Headquarters for the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. It was an interesting trip, if only to be able to say I’ve been to SHAPE. Unfortunately, our NATO representative was new and it was obviously her first presentation. She was also told that we were a high school group, so I think she dumbed it down a little for us. Most of the information she gave us I already learned in other courses. Our next trip is the the European Commission and the European External Action Service. I have high hopes for this one! Other than this, I have a presentation and research paper due for this course. I do not know my exact research question yet, but I know it is going to be on the steps taken toward development by the EU after the Balkan Wars.

Other than my courses, we have also had two of our distinguished guest lectures.

  • The first lecture was from Dr. Christian Koch, the director of the Gulf Research Center and known as one of, if not THE, leading knowledge on the Gulf Region. His lecture was on “The Gulf Region and Global Affairs: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities.” He discussed the Golf Region, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as their neighbor states, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. For me this was an extremely interesting lecture, because I feel like I have a real gap in my knowledge where the Gulf states and the Middle East are concerned. I definitely have a new respect for the region after the lecture.
  • The second lecture was one I was REALLY looking forward to. This lecture was from Johan Galtung. He is not only the founder of the disciple of peace and conflict studies, but he is an international conflict mediator (who started in the US South during segregation), the founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Journal of Peace Research, and the global non-profit TRANSEND International. His lecture was on “The European Union Policy of My Dreams.” He not only discussed the basics of conflict mediation, but gave his uncensored opinion on what the European Union should and should not be doing. Not only did he tell some amazing stories of his experiences around the world and share some of his brilliant opinions, he was also extremely humorous. For an 83 year old man, he was definitely a character!

Our upcoming lectures include:

  • Ambassador Cosimo Risi (Italian Ambassador to the UN Disarmament Conference, Geneva), “The European Union and a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East”
  • Alfredo Rizzo, “The European Union, Turkey and the Future of CSDP”
  • Armistice Day Reflections, “Being a Soldier: Personal Reflections of Three Young Ex-Soldiers”
  • Col Hans Ilis-Alm (European Union Military Staff), “Reflections on the Military Aspects of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy”
  • Maciej Golubiewski (Desk Officer Syria, European Union External Action Service), “The European Union and the Syria Crisis”
  • Andrew Feinstein (Director Corruption Watch, UK and author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”), “Political Corruption and the Dangers of the Global Arms Trade”

I think this short summary will finally prove to my father that it’s not just fun and games here in Europe.

Next on my to do list: visit my sister Melissa in Germany next weekend and spend the last week of October/first week of November in Paris and London for Fall Break!

“Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool.”

26 Aug

ImageFor those of you who do not get that reference, it a quote from Adam Sandler’s character in the movie Billy Madison, and though I have no belief that my father things I am a fool, I am in fact going back to school!

As I have mentioned before, I will be spending the 2013-2014 academic year here in Brussels, Belgium attending Vesalius College. As stated by their website,

“Vesalius College was founded in 1987 by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Boston University to offer undergraduate education in English. As an American-style college, Vesalius takes a humanistic approach to intellectual inquiry, encouraging students to not only learn skills and knowledge important to their chosen careers, but to think critically and develop themselves personally and as citizens of an increasingly multicultural and globalised world.”

Orientation for the study abroad students and new degree-seeking students was last Wednesday. It wasn’t anything like our orientation is in the U.S. My orientation lasted a day, and in that day we sat in the same room and listened to person after person form the college come tell us about what we should expect in the upcoming semester (I’m the only person I’ve heard of so far who is studying abroad here for a year rather than a semester). At one point we went with our VeCo Buddies to get a tour of our campus (two floors in an office building) and the campus of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the Dutch college that is right next door that we have complete access to.

I then met with my academic adviser (also one of my professors) to solidify my class schedule for the semester. Below is a list of my classes, but I’ll go into them each more closely in a different post.

  • Communications 231- Rhetoric
  • Political Science 351- Military Approaches to Security
  • Political Science 132- European Peace and Security Studies
  • Political Science 235- EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy in Theory & Practice
  • Political Science 236- Understanding Contemporary Conflicts in Europe and Beyond


All in all, I’m super excited to get things underway!

My Goals

15 Jul

As many of you know, I am about to embark on a 8 month study abroad program at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium. It took me a while to decide where I wanted to go, but Vesalius is really perfect for me! I am going to be able to study peace and security studies at a school that is known for educating leaders in European Union politics.

Vesalius College

 Going abroad feels like a big step for me, but it is something I have always wanted to do. Unfortunately, I am known to be more than willing to sit in my room and read books all the time. Therefore, I am giving myself goals that I hope to achieve throughout my time abroad. I will keep you updated as to how I’m doing.


  1. Try new foods! I started doing this more since my recent trip to France, There is so much to learn about a people and their culture through the food they eat. Maybe I’ll even get over my distaste for fish!
  2. Travel in country! Don’t forget that there is more to Belgium than Brussels! I can visit Antwerp, Bruges, and lots of smaller little villages.
  3. Make friends! I don’t mean acquaintances, but true friends that I can keep with me for life, kind of like my amazing Melissa (who I still hope to visit a lot while I am there)!
  4. Learn the language! Not only do I want to improve my French, but pick up on some Dutch, too. Since I’m studying in the Dutch part of town and that is my school’s “official language”, I think it will be easy to pick things up here and there.
  5. Study, study, study! There is a reason I decided to go to Vesalius to study. It is a fantastic school that will really help me in my pursuit to get involved in foreign policy. This also includes studying off campus. I live in the same place that the European Parliament meets and a good amount of their meetings are open; you better believe I will be there!

I know that I will come up with new goals, but this is a good start!

Thanks for reading my first post, and feel free to give me any feedback you might have from here on out!