Every Semester hundreds of students from all over the world decide to leave their respective campuses for a unique Italian experience and arrive in Florence. Fifteen (I don’t know the number?) of these students, including myself, decided to take our cultural immersion to the next level as we attended the first European Union Working Group information meeting. There, we were promised a deeper knowledge of the political context surrounding our newest home as we would attend several EU focused Dialogues, work together in multiple workshops focusing on specific EU issues, and travel to Brussels and Luxembourg to visit and participate in several EU institutions. At the end of this meeting, group leader, Niccolo Conti, asked us to describe the EU in one word. A sharp silence fell over the room. We were not trying to be rude by ignoring the speaker. We simply had no idea how to begin to describe this complicated supranational political system.
Growing up in the United States, I didn’t learn about the European Union in any class, I have never seen any television network report on EU news, nor have I ever read an article in any magazine or newspaper discussing this influential political system. After discussing the informational meeting with my friends, I came to the conclusion that I was not the only completely ignorant student in the room. The European Union, a highly influential political superpower, is simply not a priority of American education. However, a month after joining this working group, I believe that my peers and I have truly gained a comprehensive understanding of the foundation of this immensely complex system. Beginning with Niccolo Conti’s dialogue, How The EU Government System Works, to focusing on specific institutions with dialogues like The Judicial System at the EU Level and The History and Economy of the EU, and finally collaborating on presentations concerning key issues the EU faces today, the experience I have had in this working group has taken me from a place of pure ignorance to a place of confidence in my ability to participate in Brussels and Luxembourg next week as my peers and I visit six different critical institutions for some hands-on learning. For more information about this trip, keep up with the La Pietra Dialogues Instagram and Twitter accounts and check the blog after spring break for a full report on our travels!