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Leuven 2022


After a two-year hiatus, it was very special to be able to return to Belgium for a study trip from 5th to 7th March 2022, and we felt all the more privileged to be able travel freely, when so many Ukrainians are forced to leave their homes because of the invasion.

19 final-year and second-year BAIML students, accompanied by Dr Siobhán Donovan and Dr Mary Farrelly, were treated to a wonderfully stimulating programme, focusing on multilingualism, historical perspectives, intercultural communication, the role of Belgium overseas, and the workings of the European Commission and Parliament. We were staying in the tranquil, historical Irish College in the beautiful and vibrant university town of Leuven.

Participants enjoyed engaging in-person lectures about multilingualism in Europe on each day (Prof. Peter Flynn, KU Leuven), and Translation and Technology (Dr Christophe Declercq, Universiteit Utrecht and KU Leuven, hearing about the work of NGOs in Europe and beyond and how one can become a volunteer / do an internship (Lisa Bosser, https://sboverseas.org/), and a careers’ session from Marco Cagnolati (MA student at KU Leuven, who has been involved in many EU projects). Some remaining Covid-restrictions necessitated virtual visits instead of in-person ones, but the virtual presentations given by Beth Black from the Directorate General of Interpreting at the European Commission and Róisín Abott, the Parliament’s first Irish translator, and now PR Officer at the European Parliament Translation Unit, were very informative and contained valuable advice on recruitment procedures and career opportunities within the EU institutions. 

Despite the few remaining Covid restrictions, hands-on experience was possible and very much appreciated. On Tuesday afternoon we were guests at the European Commission, where we were given a rich talk by Barbara Improta-Mann (DGI) on the Political Executive of the EU, in one of the Commission’s special meeting rooms (see the photo in the foyer), and afterwards sampled the interactive parliamentary exhibition, the Parlamentarium around the corner. And although the EU Parliament was closed to visitors, it was still possible to take a multi-media guided tour and get into the spectators’ gallery of the impressive hemicycle.

Wednesday afternoon was spent at the Africa Museum in Tervuren where tour-guides gave a brief history of Belgium’s dark colonial past and showed us some of the exhibits from that time, as well as some of the decolonializing measures and counter-exhibits. 

There was also ample free time – to sample the cultural, historical and culinary delights of Leuven and Brussels, do a whistle-stop tour of Brussels on scooter (for some brave souls!), and for Mary and Siobhán to catch up with former UCD graduate, Jim Maher (BA German and Irish), now Senior Policy Advisor at the European Parliament, and who had given us some great tips for Brussels. We are most grateful to David Grant, CEO Irish College Leuven, for drawing up the varied programme and to his team at the Irish College for looking after us so wonderfully.

And thank you to the students who came on the trip! Below are some quotations that sum up their impressions.

“It opened my eyes to the multiple career options for this degree.”

“The trip was extremely useful in three ways. First, seeing many possible jobs where multilingualism is necessary or encouraged, from teaching to interpreting to volunteering. Second, visiting the places where the EU works and learning all about how it works. Third, bonding with classmates, which was refreshing after our first year completely online.”

“I got to make more friends, and practise some of my French.”

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

University College Dublin Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8302