Summer European Academy 2024

The Summer European Academy took place once again this year for a group of American students from our partner university, Texas A&M University, from 8 to 24 June. The programme started out at the University of Passau under the auspices of Dr Michael Oswald, Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, and then continued in Berlin, Brussels and Paris under the guidance of Tatjana Kuhn, Programme Manager of the Overseas University Programmes at CIFE. On the American side, the student group was led by Prof. Charles Kent, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Instructional Professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

The students spent several life-changing weeks exploring the European Union, its institutions, integration process, current political challenges and possible solutions. The Passau part focused on the rise of populism, the perceived democratic deficit in the EU, as well as migration issues, while the second part organised by CIFE concentrated on the EU as an international actor and transatlantic and Franco-German relations. During their time in Berlin, Brussels and Paris, the students got to experience the perspectives, anecdotes and personal career advice of seasoned diplomats, heads of departments and policy officers. Each of the students received the chance to be a discussion chair during a visit or lecture where they were able to initiate the debate and steer it in a certain direction. Several students were so impressed with the experts they have met that they are now considering to opt for a career path in diplomacy or in an international or transatlantic organisation.

As well as speaking to career diplomats at the German Foreign Office, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the students especially enjoyed visiting the main two NATO institutions in Europe: the strategic NATO Headquarters in Brussels and its military arm Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons. At these two institutions, the students were given insights into NATO’s assessment of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian armed conflict. Both conflicts are treated as clear evidence of the importance of the transatlantic defence alliance and the continued need to increase defence spending in EU member states. The alliance also relies on a US government that is willing to continue viewing Europe as a crucial ally and reliable partner, which is uncertain in the case of a re-election of Donald Trump in November 2024. The upcoming US elections were a constant thread in the debates that the Texas A&M students had with the institutional representatives during the Sumer European Academy, and some students were surprised to see how different the European perspective of the two presidential candidates is.       

In general, the Summer European Academy was a great opportunity for the Texas A&M University students to learn more about German, Belgian and French culture, indulge in foreign cuisines and languages and shift their own political perspectives while speaking to experienced policy officers, diplomats, journalists and MEPs in the EU. For many students, the desire to study, work or travel in a European country has become a more tangible possibility than it was before. Many students left the US for the first time or visited Europe for the first time. They now hopefully return as passionate ambassadors for the transatlantic partnership, which has become so crucial for the liberal democratic world in light of global geopolitical shifts of the past years. We look forward to welcoming a new student group from Texas A&M University in June 2025.

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