Executive MBA Study Visit: Brussels

Students from the Executive MBA recently went on a study visit to Brussels. They went there to experience the operations of the European Parliament and Commission and to learn about European industry. Led by Will Williams and Liz Lloyd Parkes, the trip to the capital of Belgium proved to be an enlightening experience.

Find out about their trip in the second prize-winning story submitted to Glamlife’s Amazing Stories competition!

A photo of the Grand Place in Brussels, taken by Le Kai

by Kate Bennett

Brussels 3.00am on a Tuesday morning. I am on a coach heading for London, praying for sleep and thinking “what have I signed up for now?” We (a group of MBA students, led by Wil Williams and Elizabeth Lloyd Parkes) are heading to London to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. After breakfast in St. Pancras station and a surprisingly enjoyable rail journey, we arrive in Brussels and head straight to the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven, to be given an entertaining and informative guided tour by Marie-Jeanne.

Marie-Jeanne knows a lot about beer. She is my kind of lady. We also learnt about the history of the organisation and how the Stella brand has been developed up to present day. She took us on a journey through the brewing and bottling, from the warm and sticky brewery room to the mesmerising rows and rows of Stella cans hurtling along conveyor belts. I was starting to get thirsty at this point.

beer When we were in the brewery room, shrill alarms bell started ringing and Marie-Jeanne had to go and investigate. To this day, I think that one of my MBA cohort (or maybe the MBA director?) was trying to squirrel away the Artois secret recipe. Anyway, after nearly melting in the brewery room and Marie-Jeanne’s rather graphic hangover cure recommendation, we ended up queuing in front of a smiling barman. Some of us had only just met, but the ice was soon broken whilst we sat in the sun and sampled some beer. This was a compulsory part of the day, imperative to properly understand the product and we had no choice but to go back for more. More beer was sampled later that evening over dinner and a raucous game of Jenga.

The sun was shining gloriously the next morning as we headed into town, to visit the European Parliament. Captain Williams decided that we should abandon the traffic and bus, and promptly marched us across Brussels. Those of us wearing high heels really appreciated the unexpected exercise.

European Parliament building in Brussels. Photo by polanriThe European Parliament is an impressive building. Catherine Witcombe, Parliament Assistant, had arranged for us to meet with Derek Vaughan, MEP for Wales, who gave us an insight into his work in Brussels and Wales. We then headed over to Wales House, where we had lunch and three interesting presentations. We asked lots of questions and lively discussions took place.

Again, in order to appreciate the essence of Brussels, we had to sample more beer, so we did this enthusiastically and studiously over dinner and karaoke. Yes. Karaoke. All in the name of cohort bonding, you understand.

Madonna and strawberry lager aside, the next morning we headed off to an HUGE seafood trade exhibition. There, the registration computer failed to recognize Wales as a country, so Mike was walking around wearing a badge saying he hailed from “Wallis Islands” while Andrew was so perturbed that he had to scratch out “England” on his name badge and hand write “Wales”. We sampled some seafood and took in the marketing efforts of the companies present. Finally, we had some free to do a little sightseeing and shopping in Brussels before we caught the Eurostar back to London.

All in all, it was a very successful trip. Putting business into a European framework was enlightening. It was great to meet students who started the course the year before us, and hear about their experiences. We all have fond memories of the trip and are grateful to the Glamorgan Business School staff for their organization. I am definitely glad that I signed up to go.

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