#ThinkLanguages Champion Team in Brussels

#ThinkLanguages Champion Team in Brussels

#ThinkLanguages Champion Team 2023 Travel to Brussels for Prize

The winners of the 2023 #ThinkLanguages Champion Team Competition, from Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone, recently travelled to Brussels, the languages capital of Europe, for their once-in-a-lifetime prize trip, which was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs as part of the A Career for EU Strategy.  

The #ThinkLanguages Champion Team award recognises the contribution of students to the promotion of the many personal, professional and social benefits of foreign language skills during #ThinkLanguages week. 

The team of students and their two teachers, who had been awarded first place at the final  which took place in January this year, enjoyed a packed three day itinerary in Brussels.  

Day one began with a guided tour of historic Brussels, from its beautiful central square, the Grand-Place, to the rooftop terrace of the recently-opened Brucity building. A visit to Concept Chocolate, an artisan chocolate factory, followed where they heard about the journey of cocoa from bean to chocolate, and enjoyed tastings of the famous Belgian chocolate. The team even turned their hands to making pralines. 

Day two saw the students and teachers experience the visitors’ centre of the European Parliament, the Parliamentarium, which gave them a whistle-stop tour through the EU institutions and the history of the EU. This was followed by a visit to the House of European History and the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium. This jam-packed day closed on a particularly high note, on the “atom” of the Atomium, a Brussels icon. The students were guided around the landmark building, learned about its history and construction and took in a world of light and sound at RESTART, a temporary exhibition currently in residence.  

Day three allowed the students to find out more about the EU and the possibilities it presents when it comes to careers, including the diversity of options available when you have foreign language skills.  

The students and teachers visited the EU Commission’s English and Irish Interpreting Unit and the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU. The winners were personally congratulated by the Director-General of the EU Commission’s interpreting service, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, who reminded them of the importance of languages, not only for their careers, but for their greater understanding of the world and for their personal growth. They heard from the unit’s staff about their careers, before getting a rare chance to sit in on a press briefing and see interpreting in action. The team also visited the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, where they met the Ambassador of Ireland to the EU, Aingeal O’Donoghue, and heard from the people representing Ireland’s interests in the EU whose languages had allowed them to have their exciting and rewarding career within the EU. 

Thanks to the continued collaboration with our friends within the EU who were generous with their time and inspiring with their stories, the team returned home to Athlone excited and motivated to continue exploring where their language learning journeys could take them!

To find out more about #ThinkLanguages Week and the Champion Team Competition visit here