Studying international relations is a gateway to a global career. Its curriculum doesn’t just provide current knowledge and insights into geopolitics, diplomacy and global affairs, it also lets you experience diverse people, cultures and perspectives in unique settings.

At IE University, students from various international relations programs have just returned from one such experience in Brussels. It was a chance to network with high-level professionals and connect with IE Alumni in the field. But it also helped them clarify their professional path, giving them an in-depth overview of the inner workings of some of Europe’s most important institutions.

Building a Brussels network

Ana Cebrián Solano is the president of the IE International Relations Society and one of the organizers of the recent Brussels trip. Alongside Sam Ferdinand, a fellow Dual Degree in Business Administration + International Relations student, they planned an exciting itinerary that enabled participating students to visit key regional bodies in the Belgian capital.

Ana explains that their driving force was a deep desire to understand how major European institutions work. They chose Brussels because it’s a major hub for international relations, with many institutions, bodies and agencies headquartered there. The end result was an immersive experience featuring stopovers at organizations like the European Commission, European Parliament, UN House and European Investment Bank, among others.

You can read a lot about European institutions in the press, in books and through your professors, but it isn’t until you visit them that you can have a well-formed opinion or overall understanding of how they really work

Alfonso Pérez López, Dual Degree in Business Administration + International Relations student

“Not only did we achieve our goal through institutional visits, but we were also able to network with experts and IE Alumni working in these institutions,” she says. Ana and Sam also credit IE University faculty and staff for this accomplishment, noting that their help was instrumental to the trip’s success.

Immersed in top European institutions

International development and public policy expert Borja Santos accompanied our students on this transformative trip. As the vice dean of IE School of Politics, Economics & Global Affairs, he was heavily involved in the planning process. He notes that the strong, ongoing relationship with various European institutions has thoroughly enriched the university’s international relations program offerings.

“We have a lot of faculty who come from the European Commission and the European Parliament, and we also present reports developed and published by these institutions here,” Borja explains. Through these connections, students benefit from direct interactions with top professionals, policymakers and thought leaders in the field.

Throughout their trip to Brussels, students were able to go behind the scenes at these key European bodies, learning about different divisions, their responsibilities and overall objectives. More importantly, “We had the opportunity to network, both in formal occasions and more informal situations, with experts in the field as well as IE Alumni,” says Sam. 

Clarifying career paths

They also connected with sector leaders who offered expert tips to help them refocus their studies and become more competitive in their desired career paths. As Borja notes, “This trip allowed our students to learn a lot about their potential careers.” They met professionals already working in the international development field, getting a feel for what various positions and roles actually entail. “By diving into the day-to-day life of these practitioners, they see with their own eyes whether or not they want to pursue a specific professional path.”

Students who participated in the Brussels trip particularly appreciated this focus on careers. For example, Pablo Picó, from the Dual Degree in Business Administration + International Relations, says the experience helped him redefine his professional path. “I went in wanting to learn more about different institutions in the European Union, but came out with a more personal reflection on what I really want to be in life.”

Similarly, Bachelor in International Relations student Zahraa Kareem Jabbar admits that the experience was eye-opening in more ways than one: “The EU is really complex and has a lot of moving parts—it isn’t just what we thought it was. I feel that I would like to contribute to its future; I see myself there.”

Taking part in ongoing dialogue

The recent trip to Brussels was a turning point in many ways. Through in-person meetings with sector leaders and cutting-edge insights from top practitioners in the field, our diverse group of students gained a new understanding of the complex realities behind international relations today.  

The impacts of this trip will likely reverberate for a long time. After all, students not only developed game-changing international connections, they also laid the groundwork for a successful global career. Furthermore, they were able to add their voices to the ongoing conversations surrounding important global issues. 

We encourage our students to vote, be present and participate in the policy dialogues that these institutions are promoting

Borja Santos, Vice-Dean of IE School of Politics, Economics & Global Affairs