Politics and International Relations

All Majors & Minors

Clara Kiss

Class Year

2018

Hometown

Banks, OR

Major

International Relations and French

Activities

  • Writing Fellow
  • Breakaway Student Productions

My Experience

In the spring of 2017, I studied with the Brussels Field Study branch of the Institute for Field Education (IFE), formerly known as Internships in Francophone Europe. It’s a language-intensive program in French that consists of 5-weeks of classes in Belgian history, literature, and urbanism. After that, students start working full-time at internships for 12 weeks. During this period, the students complete a research project linked to their internship and continue to take two classes, one on the European Union and one in basic Flemish. My internship was with the Service d’aide aux molenbeekois primo-arrivants (SAMPA), a non-profit in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels that gives sociojuridical aid to immigrants.

Most Valuable Part of the Experience Abroad

The singular most fulfilling part of my experience was the day that I was entrusted by my colleagues to personally sign and send what was then my first letter to the Belgian immigration office. The letter asked for a prolongation of residency for a Moroccan man on a humanitarian and medical basis, so I had to present an argument as to why he wouldn’t be able to receive adequate and accessible medical care if he were to be sent back to Morocco. It’s gratifying to know that somewhere floating around the Belgian immigration office’s filing system are a dozen or so letters with my name at the bottom. Over the course of my internship, I gained many professional skills and learned that, above all else, it’s important to take the initiative and go above and beyond what is expected of you. 

Most Challenging Part

There were some days when speaking, hearing, and reading only French became overwhelming and mentally taxing, and I was often tempted to revert to English. It can definitely be a struggle to stay dedicated to immersing yourself in a language especially when you’re surrounded by Americans or other Anglophones doing the same program, but it’s important to stay on track.