Brussels, Belgium, summer 2013

A hybrid study abroad program: Live, study & work in the “capital of Europe” for 7 weeks!

  • Honors credit & internships available (see below)

Ali Edelstein on why you should study at Vesalius College in Brussels this summer. Ali’s job at Fulbright Belgium was a direct result of this program.


  • Study “Islam and Citizenship in Europe” at a Belgian college and learn more about migration patterns in Europe and challenges facing European Muslims and states
  • Take a second course from communications, business, international affairs or approved General Education
  • Open to all majors
  • Intern at the European Parliament, NATO, Godiva, UPS, Time-Warner and or other competitive internship providers
  • Live with a Belgian family or choose independent housing
  • Travel and visit Amsterdam, The Hague, EU, Parliamentarium, NATO, mosques, Islamic cultural centers and other destinations
  • Enjoy several free weekends for optional trips


  • May 25 – July 12 (summer 2013)

Program Leaders

Courses (6 hours required)

  1. Islam and Citizenship in Europe (PS 405-851/SOCL 489-800)
  2. Another course or an internship

Honors Credit

  • Augmentation of PS 405-851/SOCL 489-800 – contact the program leaders
  • Honors Internship – contact Clay Motley

Program Description

Dr. Kiasatpour, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, and Dr. Jerry Daday, Associate Professor in Sociology will lead a group of WKU students on a study abroad trip to Belgium from May 25-July 12, 2013.  Students will take “Islam and Citizenship in Europe” for either Honors political science/international affairs or sociology or elective credits.  Students will also take a second course among over 15 classes offered through Vesalius College, Brussels, or do an international internship for a total of six credit hours.

Many European countries have large Muslim populations and Belgium is no exception. Brussels, which is almost a quarter Muslim, serves as an ideal location for a course on Islam and citizenship.  Students will learn about migration patterns in Europe and challenges facing European Muslims and states.  They will explore issues such as, European citizenship, assimilation, integration, multiculturalism, the minaret and hijab bans, Danish cartoons controversy and fears of “home-grown terrorism,” the rise of far-right parties, and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and its effects on Bosnian Muslims. This course is open to all WKU majors and any Vesalius College student as well as other study abroad students.  So WKU students study alongside European and American students.  This diversity provides an environment for students to learn more about identity politics in Europe.

A key feature of this program is competitive international internship opportunities through the Vesalius Internship Program.  Last summer WKU students interned with the European Parliament, an international law firm, and a four-star hotel.   The interns were engaged in on the job problem-solving in an international setting. Several students chose a second class on the European Union.  They went on numerous visits to EU agencies and heard guest lectures from actual policymakers.

Also students live with Belgian families in homestays and get an “insider’s view” of Europe, not to mention, eat home-cooked dinners and breakfasts.  Independent housing is also available.

There are numerous in-country and out-of-country excursions and weekend stays. We will visit mosques in Brussels, go to NATO, the Parliamentarium, the Royal Military Museum, and spend a weekend in Amsterdam.  Optional travel is available to many cities on free weekends.  Brussels is less than 200 miles from Paris and Amsterdam.  Travel by train is very easy to Berlin and London.  Last summer students traveled to Paris and northern France, London, Barcelona and Budapest.

Course Information

Islam and Citizenship in Europe (PS 405-851/SOCL 489-800)

Co-taught by the program leaders

Course Description

This course examines the cultural, social, and political interactions between European countries and their Muslim minority populations.  The course focuses on a variety of institutions, including the European Union, national and regional governments, the mass media, and the civic organizations, and how these entities directly and indirectly shape relations between non-Muslim and Muslim Europeans.  Topics such as ethnic identity, identity politics, political participation, and the effects of immigration on social cohesion and conflict are examined using a case study and comparative approach.  The course also examines how European-Muslim relations are affected by the origin of each Muslim population.  Government responses to religious and ethnic diversity, such as assimilation, integration and accommodation, are compared.

Rationale for Teaching Course at Location

As the de facto “capital of Europe” Brussels is the ideal location for studying the effects of political Islam in Europe as well as participating in international internships.   Brussels is almost a quarter Muslim in population.  There are large numbers of Belgians of Turkish and Moroccan ancestry as well as recent immigrants from Muslim countries.  Belgium is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe.  European migration, multiculturalism and integration are only some of the key issues that are contested at all levels of society and government in “the capital of Europe.”

Moreover Brussels is home to thousands of NGOs, IGOs and corporations.  Vesalius College offers a variety of internships with reputable international organizations and multinational corporations including, the European Parliament, Montenegro Mission to the EU, NATO, European Journalism Centre, Laffineur Law Firm, Godiva, UPS, Time-Warner and many others.  Our international affairs and sociology majors as well as other majors and minors from across the college and university can benefit from getting real-world work experience in these competitive international internships.

Vesalius College also administers a strong home stay program allowing our students the opportunity to truly learn about another culture by living with Europeans of multiple backgrounds.  Students live with Europeans rather than in dorms with other students.  This makes the overall experience much more valuable.  The home stay parents provide home-cooked meals, a support system and vital local information.  Vesalius College also provides access to the facilities of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Students can eat at the multiple eateries and use gym facilities at VUB during their study abroad experience at Vesalius.

Learning Objectives

After this course, students should be able to

  • identify the key issues confronting the Muslim populations in Europe
  • describe how Muslims identify themselves in Europe
  • explain how various forms of identity affect political mobilization
  • explain how ethnic identity can serve as a source of cohesion, conflict, and misunderstanding
  • explain the different strategies that the EU and European states have taken in regards to diverse communities
  • explain the ways in which Muslim immigrants have been presented in the mainstream media and the leaders of other social institutions
  • compare and contrast identity politics among select European states and among Muslims from different regions of the world
  • examine the legitimacy of claims linking immigration, and specifically Muslim immigration, to social problems in various European countries, including crime

Program details & application

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