It was 6:30am on a Friday. I groaned at the thought of getting myself ready for a trip to Brussels today. The trip sounded great, but honestly I just wanted more sleep.
I quickly showered, got ready, and left my apartment for Saint Pancras. At the train station, I saw sleep-deprived faces that exactly mirrored mine. Nevertheless, the feeling of seeing our friends after winter break energised us a little more.
Stepping out of the train at the Brussels train station, I immediately noticed the clean air (I forget that London’s is quite polluted). It was a pleasant change, but little did I know that there were more pleasant changes to happen very soon.
Our first destination was to visit the European Commission, which is the executive of the European Union. We were very fortunate to have Henning Ehrenstein, who works in the Policy Development and Coordination of the Internal Market, to deliver us a presentation of the function of European Commission and how the policy it makes inevitably affects financial markets, including London’s. This intersection between Finance and Politics was very engaging and refreshing to us.
The day was intellectually stimulating, and the night was pure fun. It started with a traditional Belgian dinner at Restaurant Scheltema, which was located in the historic centre of Brussels. I remember how exquisite the wine-infused steak sauce was and how sweet the chocolate mousse dessert tasted. I also remember the great company we had, and it continued to be great throughout the night. Our Social Chair arranged a drinks gathering at Delirium, a bar, which offered 3000 different beers, followed by some dancing at a local nightclub. Here, I discovered sides of my classmates that I have not seen before. I was used to seeing them be so studious at school, either working on our group assignments, studying for our weekly quizzes, preparing for interviews, or all of them simultaneously. But I have never seen them be so carefree and groove and jump to the early 2000s music that played until four in the morning.
The next day I learnt more about my friends at the programme. After venturing into the historical part of Brussels and stuffing ourselves with tasty mussels and perfectly salted frites, we played a team building activity, “Blow Up the Bank”. Arriving at the grand venue, all of us were clueless about what the game entailed. However, the luscious green tables with roulettes, cards, and red and blue chips gave everything away. We were going to gamble. The aim of the team activity was simple: obtain the most amount of money to win. But we were strongly encouraged to cheat on the casino system. My teammates, some who I have never really spoken to, and I exchanged puzzled looks that quickly changed into comical sly grins. Throughout the game, all of us raised money by selling information to others on how to win some games, trading the casino’s fake money with real money, and stealing others’ chips, as if we were real life gangsters. I was happy that my team, “G-Unit”, won, but I was happier that I was able to share hilarious moments with my team members. Never would have I thought that I would plan such silly ways to win money with people in the programme who I barely had a conversation with. Never would have I thought to collaborate so well in a group work that has nothing to do with Finance.
How did I not know before that my classmates are so exciting?! I don’t know. Perhaps it was my fault that I did not spend enough time with them in the Autumn Term. But I am so glad the Brussels trip happened.
Thanks to Brussels, we all now look forward to every weekend being an opportunity to continue grooving, and jumping, and laughing with each other at the very heart of London. We are now more than just mere classmates, we are better friends.
Nadia is studying our MSc Finance programme.