Three weeks down, three more to go!

It’s Wednesday the 16th of August and I am officially halfway through my time here in Brussels. It seems I arrived only yesterday and yet I feel like I have learnt so much already. My work at Bruegel has been great; I work on immigration and the refugee crisis. This last week, I have been focusing particularly on the case of highly-skilled migrants. At a time where Europe seems to be struggling with too many migrants, it may seem ironic that the EU is currently working on schemes to attract more migrants. However, highly-skilled migrants are a crucial part of many economies, particularly when it comes to dealing with skills shortages. I found out yesterday that 45% of Silicon Valley-startup founders are migrants!

It’s very enriching to be able to study important policy issues from different angles. I’ve come to really appreciate both the importance of immigration reform but also many of its intricacies and complexities. Bruegel focuses not only on researching current issues, but also on providing policy suggestions and alternatives. I find this to be both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the research; identifying a problem is far easier than finding a practical and sustainable solution.

I’ve really enjoyed the company of my colleagues over these last three weeks. They are all incredibly talented and well-spoken. The staff at Bruegel is very international — in fact, most of the researchers come from several countries and aren’t quite sure what they would call “home”. It makes for wonderful conversation — and wonderful dessert (there’s a Bruegel tradition where the researchers bring in cake from their homes countries).

Outside of work, I’ve had a fantastic time travelling around over the weekends. I spent this past weekend in Cologne, Germany. It is such a beautiful little city and I am so glad I got to go. I was very impressed with the cathedral, which took 600 years to build (apparently due to a combination of laziness and lack of funding). I was also introduced to Modern art at the Ludwig museum. In all honesty, I’m not sure how much of it I fully understood but I did learn to look into things beyond the surface. At this time tomorrow, I should be on a train on my way to Amsterdam. I’m very much looking forward to getting to explore such a vibrant city!

As for Belgium itself, it is a really lovely country to live in. I can now confirm that Belgian fries and waffles are top-notch and that Belgian chocolate is most certainly above average. The people are friendly and the architecture is impressive. I have to say though, I am missing the Californian weather. It turns out part of the reason migrants don’t stay in Belgium is the bad weather. Valid point…

Standing in front of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany. It is Germany’s most-visited landmark and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996
Cologne, Germany
Off to my first day of work at Bruegel! This picture was actually taken several hundred meters away from Bruegel — near one of the ATMs — because I didn’t want any of my future colleagues thinking I was too eager.
Discovering modern art

Written by Emma Abdullah ’20, FSI Global Policy intern through The Europe Center with Bruegel in Brussels, Belgium.