Saint Joseph’s University has partnered with the Leuven Institute, giving our students the exciting opportunity to intern with an NGO or a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. The Leuven Institute (where students will live and take classes) is located in Leuven, a college town about thirty minutes outside of Brussels. Staffed by a team of friendly Irish students, the Institute is a warm and inviting place just a block from the main town square. In between classes and the internship, students can meet locals while exploring the city’s restaurants, shops, cafes, and weekly street markets.
The Belgium Internship Program is open to students of all majors; however, the limited course selection makes it best-suited for International Relations, History, Economics, and Political Science majors or minors. The program offers five courses all taught at the Institute by professors from the University of Leuven and/or the Director of the Belgium Internship program. Please visit the "Pre-Approved Courses" list (link above) to review the full list of courses offered and their SJU equivalencies. Participants typically choose four of the five courses and participate in the internship component for an additional three credits.
Since this is a small, competitive program the typical class size is 5-7 students. Final grades are usually based on a mid-term, term paper, and a final exam. The lecture-based courses are designed to support the internship component and give students a better understanding of the European Union. Classes take place on Mondays and Thursdays while the internship takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fridays may be used for study, research or travel purposes. Some students elect to go to their internships on some Fridays.
The internship involves working with a member of the European Parliament or with an NGO in Brussels two days per week. Internship placements may vary depending upon availability and student interests. All students are asked to keep a journal of their internship experience and they must also complete a research paper on a topic that is related to the issues relevant to the office to which they are assigned. Acting as an intern involves contributing to the work of the office through providing research and administrative support and/or event management. Research work with Parliament may entail preparing original papers or speeches on EU topics, answering constituent inquiries and preparing committee briefings. Administrative support may include such tasks as organizing files or preparing press briefings. Students will travel to their internship (approximately 20-30 minutes) by train.
At the time of applying, students submit an updated copy of their resume and a personal statement. This information is used to best place a student based on their academic and professional interests and experience. This is an academic internship for a grade; students will not receive pay or compensation.
Spotlight On: Interning Abroad
Kelly Aarsonson, Fall 2014, Major: History
When and where was your internship placement abroad?
I worked in the European Parliament in Brussels for the Hungarian Member of Parliament (MEP), Tibor Szanyi.
What made you decide to participate in an internship while abroad?
When I decided to go abroad, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity available. The Belgium Internship Program provided a once in a lifetime chance to work for the European Parliament, and I couldn’t turn that down!
What did a typical day at your internship like for you?
I worked in the Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesdays. The MEP I worked for is in the Socialist Democrat party, so he had liberal views on policy in economics, the environment, and foreign affairs. As an intern, I attended committee meetings, took notes, researched topics that were important to my MEP, and sometimes even advised the MEP how to vote on various issues! I helped plan events, and met some incredibly powerful Europeans during my time in the Parliament.
Describe the academic component of your internship abroad?
Before my internship abroad, I knew very little about the European Union. Each day I learned about different facets of the government. Did you know that 70% of each member state’s legislation comes from the European Union? I also participated in research projects. Most interestingly, I spent several weeks researching food safety in the 28 member states of the European Union.
What did you most enjoy doing during your internship placement?
I had a unique office experience in the parliament. Mr. Szanyi’s wife and sister-in-law both worked in his office, and his two assistants had been with him for years. Mr. Szanyi’s 1 year-old son was always in the office. I quickly became a part of their family, and it was an amazing environment to learn about European politics and the functioning of the European Union. The people I worked with are incredibly kind and inclusive; it made my experience so fulfilling and worthwhile.
What were some of the benefits and challenges of doing an internship while abroad?
Having an internship abroad broadens your horizons and opens your eyes to more careers opportunities. I never saw myself living abroad long term, but as I approach graduation I am looking into programs to teach English in Hungary and other eastern European countries. I made incredible connections during my internship abroad. At first, the language barrier can be intimidating and challenging, but it’s something everyone adjusts to!
Would you recommend students complete an internship abroad? Why or why not?
My internship abroad taught me how to take charge in an office, and how to be adaptable. It’s a different experience than having an internship in the US because the culture and language create situations that force you to be imaginative and flexible. My experience in the European Parliament has opened a lot of doors for me professionally, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that opportunity.
It is possible for students for students to use KU Leuven's facilities and to join in their university clubs, organizations and events; however, it's important for students to balance these with their academic and internship responsibilities.
Housing and Meals
The Institute provides students with shared, on-site accommodation in nice "duplexes." This means there is accommodation on the lower and upper floors. US.. students stay in four-person guest rooms in the Leuven Institute. Each student has his/her own private study area and storage space. Roommate requests (in advance of the semester) may be considered. Free Wifi is available in all bedrooms as well as the reception area. Each room has a bed and desk for each student and a common bathroom. Bed linens and towels are provided by the Institute and changed weekly. Additional laundry services are not provided.
Three meals are provided Monday through Thursday during a scheduled time at the Institute cafeteria. Breakfast is served Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The program provides excellent food with a chef on staff. There are plenty of healthy choices and vegetarian meals available.
Each semester includes a week-long mid-term break that students typically use as time to travel outside of Belgium. Students who plan to remain at the Institute during the break will be responsible for a daily room fee (paid at the time of the break), as this is not included in the cost of the program.
Visits and Special Events
During the semester there is typically a study visit to SHAPE, the military headquarters of NATO, which is in Mons (in the south of Belgium). A bus is hired to facilitate this trip. Extra meals are provided for special events during the course of the semester. For example, during the Fall Semester, there is a banquet for Thanksgiving with our Program lecturers as well as a Christmas Party with Institute staff. A 10-day break in the middle of the semester is the ideal time to take a long-distance adventure. Careful planning can also make some distant destinations accessible over the 3-day weekend.
Students should consult the Budget Sheets at the top of this page for estimated program costs. In addition, before choosing to study abroad in another country for anywhere from three to six months, you should consider the exchange rate
of your host country as well as the cost of living
in the city where you will be.
Center for International Programs Study Abroad Grant
Please apply for this program before applying for the CIP Study Abroad Grant (due October 15th or March 15th). Use the 'Featured Program
' Search to apply to this grant.
SJU Political Science Department Thomas Family Fund
(please contact the Political Science Department for more information)
Things to Remember before Applying
- Review the SJU Study Abroad Policy here.
- You must meet with a study abroad advisor before beginning your application.
- A separate, paper application is required for this program and will be made available to you through the CIP application. Students will be required to submit a copy of their passport, their resume and proof of insurance at the time of application.
- This is a small, competitive program. Only a certain number of Saint Joseph's University students will be accepted each semester. Therefore, it is recommended that interested students also consider a "backup" program.
- You are required to submit a $300 Confirmation deposit WITHIN 10 DAYS of being approved by the CIP office.