In January 2013, 12 MIT students enrolled in 21F. 314: Topics in Interculturalism (IAP Study Abroad) spent two weeks in Brussels with Professor Cathy Culot to explore the “Big Successes of a Small Country.” The main objective of this course was to help students understand contemporary Belgium through a constructivist approach requiring students to progressively acquire a better understanding of Belgian culture and identity with a study of Belgium’s history and its successes in various areas including the arts and international politics. Group discussions, lectures by experts and guided visits allowed students to put their discoveries in a historical and sociopolitical context.
The program combined visits and lectures by experts in the following fields: Belgian history, Belgian monarchy, Belgian colonization, Art Nouveau, Flemish Primitives, the ninth art or the art of comic strips, tradition of lace making, European Union, European Union and its relationship with the United States, Belgian surrealism, Jacques Brel, NATO, Hergé and Belgian chocolate. Guided tours included the Brussels City Hall, the BelVue Museum with the Coudenberg archaeological site, the editorial offices of the newspaper Le Soir, the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, the Horta Museum, the Musical Instruments Museum, Ghent, the Belgian Comic Strips Center, Brugges, the United States Mission to the European Union, the European Parliament, the Magritte Museum, the Editions Jacques Brel, NATO, the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve and Laurent Gerbaud’s atelier.
The group stayed at Hôtel Citadines Sainte Catherine Brussels. Quietly situated, the hotel is on the edge of the historic center, only 165 feet from the Sainte Catherine Métro Station. The famous Grand-Place is a 10-minute walk from the hotel.
The participants were: Alan, Christine, Claire, Eddie, Erin, Francisco, Jessica, Linh, Linlin, Moya, Paul and Ope.