On April 1st, our Champlain College Dublin business classes along with professor Ciarán Buckley traveled to the EU headquarters in Ireland, a place we had often talked about but seldom had put into real or meaningful context…until now. Arriving at the building after breakfast at 9:15, we found ourselves standing before a peculiarly modern building that was roughly the same size as my town hall back in the states. As I come from a small and not very populous area, I don’t think I have to tell you how dwarfed this made the headquarters seem even against the background of Dublin, a city that doesn’t really have any ‘real’ skyscrapers to speak of. Its close neighbor and seat of the Irish government, Leinster House, also dwarf this humble hub of international cooperation.
Once inside, we were brought to a conference room just past a rather nonchalant guard who frankly looked as if he couldn’t be more bored, but put on a good face anyway; clearly the job of guarding this back room wasn’t all he’d thought it would crack up to be. Seated in plastic chairs facing what can only be described as a rather self-important picnic table and behind it, a small podium, I felt a little underwhelmed. As a place of such importance and power, Ireland’s EU Headquarters thus far seemed remarkably casual. Our professor explained in somewhat hushed tones that the EU, being a modern and civic organization, sought to structure their image around a less austere architectural model; in this they succeeded.
It was not long before our first speaker arrived on the scene. He was tall and lanky and his tweed suit bore the signs of taking a back seat to the more pressing concerns of its wearer. I appreciated this because it seemed to me that this man, an officer of the European Union, was no politician who spent half of his time on the campaign trail trying to stay in office, but rather a hard worker who has just run from his desk to quick meet with a bunch of inquiring students before heading back into the fray. Speaking in great length, he enumerated the various organizations that comprise the EU: the Commission, the Council, the Parliament, the Courts, and others, and while a tad bit long-winded, he was overall admirably informative.
While his speech was peppered by questions from ourselves, goaded on by our professor who was determined we were going to walk away from this experience the richer for it, he concluded his talk just as a very different sort of character arrived to take his place. Fresh from the water cooler, his coworker the “Communications” director from the European Commission breezed in all smiles and seemed much more the part of local politician, quick to delineate the EU’s position on fair press as compared to any elements which might criticize it unduly. He did not exactly cite who he meant by this. And this really defined our short but blustery time with him. He knew how to play the game and to be fair, it was what he was paid to do. Overall, he presented a picture of a transparent EU, and it would seem his insistence on driving home that point overshadowed anything else he could have imparted to us, a very telling education itself.
After he had safely concluded, we gathered for a celebratory meal at a nearby Italian restaurant (our professor is very fond of them), we had held our own and come out the better for it. Well prepared and equipped by what we had been learning over the semester, none of us felt too small or out of place in that conference room. After three months of classroom discussion, it was something of a personal victory for each of us to have seen ourselves rise to the occasion so admirably, and we have our own Professor Buckley, and our own curiosity as evolving, globally aware students to thank for it.
-Ethan Edholm, International Business Major, Champlain College Class of 2012