“London isn’t just a city. It’s a world.”

I almost have no words for how incredible London was this weekend. My wallet didn’t particularly like how expensive the city is, but I would do it all over again with no regrets. London is absolutely amazing.

Haley and I were able to find a cheap bus to London this weekend through IDBus. It was definitely longer than other means of transportation there, but we saved a lot of money. When we got in Friday night, we went to Hannah’s apartment. Hannah is on another Missouri Journalism Abroad program, but in the London location.

The next morning we got up early to go to a cute diner for breakfast. Then, we went to the Camden Market, which is a market that had lots of food, clothes, souvenir and other vendors. It was a very enjoyable experience and a lot of items were lower on the price scale. I got a very European-looking dress for 10 pounds, which is about 15 dollars. After the Camden Market, we went to Borough Market, which is sort of similar to Camden market, but more food-based. We still were not hungry yet from the big breakfast we had, so we decided to walk around the river and explore Southbank.

This area Hannah described as reminding her of Venice Beach and I could definitely see it. It was a gorgeous day and people were just eating and drinking at restaurants along the river. We passed Shakespeare’s Globe, the London Eye, Big Ben and more. We also stopped to get food at a restaurant down there.

Then, we took the tube back near Hannah’s house and stopped in at a bar in Little Venice to get a Pimms pitcher because it is apparently a popular drink in London that we had to try. Little Venice was beautiful and also very quaint.

Then we went back to Hannah’s apartment to get ready because Haley and I were going to see Phantom of the Opera that night at Her Majesty’s Theatre. We got down to Piccadilly Circus, which is the area that all of the shows are at. It’s such a lively area. It reminded me of New York City. The streets were lit with the lights from billboards, people were lively and music filled the streets.

The theater was a little bit small, but in an intimate close-interaction with the show kind of way. It was great. I had only seen bits and pieces of The Phantom of the Opera movie and had never seen the show, so I was thrilled. The show was fantastic and they had such great and quick set changes and the singing was amazing as well as the acting. It was one of my favorite activities so far during my summer in Europe.

After we got out, we met up with some people from the Mizzou trip for a night of clubbing. Let me just tell you that Brussels nightlife has absolutely nothing on London’s (which is probably so much better for my wallet). We went to a bar called Bar Rumba that was underground and a little bit small, but really fun. They were playing a ton of American early 2000s music and everyone in the entire place was dancing. And it wasn’t like American “dancing” is now where everyone tries to just dance up on one another. People in London actually knew how to dance and it was great. The attire was also very different than in Brussels. I would say it was very similar to what you would wear to go clubbing in the US. Brussels is just a lot more conservative clothing-wise, so it was a bit of a shock to me.

After Bar Rumba we went to Piccadilly Institute, which was almost a surreal experience. Walking up to the club, we noticed that there was red ropes and a guest list. We said the name of one of the people we were with’s coworker in order to get in. When we walked in, it didn’t seem that fun, but that’s because the first floor is rather calm. When we walked up the stairs, it was like we were in a whole other world. Piccadilly Institute seemed to have endless floors of dance music, people and great interior design. It was really hard to keep everyone together, but it was a lot of fun as well.

The next day we got up took the tube to Big Ben and then walked to all of the main attractions. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and St. James’ Park.

Then, we took a tube over towards the Tower of London, but we decided we needed to get some food first. We stumbled across this pub called The Minories, which turned out to be a TripAdvisor suggestion. It is a pub under the train, so it was a really cool vibe. We sat there and ate fish and chips while drinking a Guinness and watching the Wimbledon finals. It was very enjoyable.

When we went to see Tower Bridge it was still drizzling a little, but it was still nice. Then we went to King’s Cross Railway Station to see Platform 9 3/4, but the line to take a picture would have been about 45 minutes and we did’t really have time, so we got creative and took pictures next to it.

We took an overnight bus back home to Brussels and I got really lucky because they didn’t need me to come into work that day. London was an absolutely amazing trip and it was the first place that I have been to in Europe that I could actually see myself living. However, I suggest budgeting a lot of money if you ever decide to go to London because everything is more expensive than I originally thought it would be.

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21st Birthday, 4th of July and Switzerland

The time has finally come. The baby of our grade is now legal and it feels great… except I was already legal here in Europe, but that’s besides the point.

We went to Place Luxembourg on Thursday night around 11:30 and Haley, Taylor and Caroline convinced a lot of random Belgians to buy me shots. It was overall a great night as per usual at Place Lux.

After class on Friday we flew Brussels Airlines to Geneva, Switzerland! This was by far my favorite trip (sorry Paris you were a close second). Switzerland is absolutely breathtaking. The first night we went out to dinner at this pizzeria near our Airbnb for my birthday dinner. Everywhere in Switzerland is unreasonably expensive, but the food was still great.

Geneva Switzerland

The next day was the Fourth of July, so we found the only Budweiser products in Switzerland (which we later found out was just a cheap knock-off that’s been in lots of lawsuits with the real Budweiser), packed some sandwiches and went to the lake!

We found a public beach access that was three Franks where we could lay out and swim. It was a Fourth of July well spent. We played some good ‘ole Bruce Springsteen, drank cheap beer and laid out by the lake all day. It was so nice to finally feel like we were on a little vacation instead of just sight-seeing. My favorite part was jumping off a high dive into the most amazing view (see picture below).

On the way home, there was a big parade going on and we found out that they have this parade once a year to celebrate the lake. It was very interesting and we just got lucky enough to stumble upon it. That night we went out to the City Center, but Geneva’s nightlife wasn’t my favorite. I would recommend saving your time and energy for daytime adventures.

The next day we were on a mission to the Swiss Alps. It was quite a trip to get there because it’s so high up, but it was completely worth it. We had to take many connecting shuttles to get to the Glacier 3000 headquarters. From there, we bought a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain that included the bridge walk and an area to play in the snow. We spent 9 extra Franks to do roller coaster ride at the top of the mountain because there was no way that we could pass up that opportunity.

Every single thing about this trip was amazing. If you come to Europe, don’t just do the over-hyped cities. Come somewhere like Switzerland to experience some breathtaking views. You will not regret it.

Interviewing Tsipras (Biggest Name in Headlines)… NBD

This summer is a crazy time to report in Brussels, Belgium. At Thomson Reuters we cover a ton of topics, but the Greek debt crisis consumes most of our time and energy recently. It may not seem like that big of a deal to everyone at home, but it has consistently been at the top of media headlines from many countries this summer (including the US). I wanted to share some of the things that I have been working on with everyone at home because the videos we produce are bought by media companies all over the world. So many of the things we put out from Reuters in Brussels ends up on CNN and other American news channels.

So why exactly is Greece a big deal and what exactly have I been working on?

Last night history was made. Greece had been fighting default for five years, but last night Greece missed a payment to the International Monetary Fund and they are the first developed country to do so. The Greek crisis is far from over. Greece is headed down a path to leave the Euro and there is fiery tension between the Greek government and their creditors as well as other EU leaders.

I must say that reporting in a foreign country is difficult, but it is even more challenging to be thrown into such an important and complex story. The past two weeks have been a marathon for political reporters here in Brussels. Here are the three main types of meetings that we covered in regards to Greece.

  1. Eurogroup Meetings – The Eurogroup meetings are between all of the finance ministers from countries that use the Euro.
  2. European Summits – European Summits are meetings between the heads of state of all 28 EU member-states.
  3. Meetings between key EU figures and Tsipras – There were frequent meetings between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and key EU people such as Juncker, Dijsselbloem, Draghi, Lagarde and Schulz.

Working these events can be challenging, but I have interviewed some of the world’s top leaders regarding one of the biggest international stories of the year. I was standing just an arms length away from Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he said the highly-used quote about how EU leaders are blackmailing Greece. At this point in time, the world thought that Greece was wanting to reach a deal, but I got to see the expression in his eyes and the demeanor in which he stormed out of the EU Summit first-hand. I told my colleagues that did not see his it up-close that Greece was out. Sure enough, Tsipras called for a referendum later that night.

That video of my interview with Alexis Tsipras was bought by over 75 clients around the world. My video was on top news channels across the world including CNN. Here is the interview published on Reuters’ website (about 30 seconds in).

During the month of June, the Reuters Video News Team in Brussels produced an all-time record of 116 stories in one month. 116 stories does not sound like very much, but I would like to add that there are only 5 real employees and 2 interns at this branch.

I started thinking about all of the world leaders that I have either interviewed, held a microphone up to for a statement or filmed at a press conference. Here is the list.

  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
  • President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi
  • President of the European Council Donald Tusk
  • Eurogroup President Jereon Dijsselbloem
  • IMF President Christine Lagarde
  • And countless financial minister

Paris is always a good idea – Audrey Hepburn

… and a good idea it was.

YouWine in Paris have probably heard it before, but I am going to say it again anyway. Paris is absolutely magical. If you are traveling to Europe, I highly recommend spending at least a few days in Paris. You will never run out of things to see.

When we first arrived on Friday, we dropped our stuff off in our AIrbnb and got food at this little restaurant near our place. Of course, we ordered some French wine.

After dinner and some drinks we walked along the river and got to see some of Paris’ major monuments at night. The river was full of cute couples and groups of friends sitting around with blankets and bottles of wine. You could say that it was a perfect idea to get acquainted to the city when we first got it. I just wish that we had some more time to sit along the river as well.

That night, we went to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. I highly highly recommend going to the tower at night because it completely took my breath away.  The tower sparkles for two minutes on the hour every night (but if you’re going be aware that 1 a.m. is the last time it sparkles). It was my favorite thing I have done over my entire month in Europe so far. It is a must-see.

The next day, we got brunch at the cutest restaurant. We tried various breads and spreads and (of course) drank some mimosas. We then set off on our day of art exploring. We went to the Louvre which was so much larger than I imagined. I could have spent hours in there. It is easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the Louvre, but I followed the signs to the most well-known pieces and saw a lot of other great artwork along the way.

After the Louvre, we went to Musee d’Orsay. This museum was much smaller, but it is in an old train station. The architecture of the building was amazing along with some great Monet paintings.

Sunday morning I finally fulfilled my crepe craving and got the foamiest cappuccino I’ve ever seen.

As we were walking to Notre Dame, we ran across the Love Lock bridge. We read in the news earlier that they were taking all of the locks down, so we didn’t expect to see a bunch of the locks still there when we went. I wish that I knew they were still there because I would have brought a lock, but at the same time it would have been a little depressing putting a lock on there knowing it would be torn down.

Then, we went to go see Notre Dame. We planned on taking a tour up to the top to see the bells, but the line would’ve wasted our whole day. Instead, we noticed that there was mass going on because it was Sunday, so we decided that was a better option. I am Protestant, not Catholic, but mass at Notre Dame was a spiritual experience no matter what faith you practice. I’m going to attach pictures because there are no adjectives to describe this kind of beauty.

After Notre Dame, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it in the daylight.

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Then we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which holds their tomb of the unknown soldier.

I wish we had more time in Paris, but it was an amazing weekend none-the-less! I hope I get the opportunity to go back at some point in my life.

How many international organizations/prime ministers did I interview this week?

For those of you that are not familiar with international politics, Europe is in a mass of chaos right now and it is our jobs as journalists to make some sense of everything and report it to the world. For those of you who have not been keeping up with my travels abroad, I am interning at Thomson Reuters in the TV department. Essentially what we do is report all of the big international news and we sell our videos and stories to other news stations and newspapers, etc.

Greece is currently in an economic crisis and they need to repay the IMF (International Monetary Fund) by June 30 or they will face default and potentially get kicked out of the EuroZone (but nobody actually seems to want that to happen). Basically, as the deadline approaches, our job as journalists is to keep up with the progress of the negotiations. The entire world has their eye on Greece right now.

This week, I reported for a meeting between President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem. We waited by the main entrance to get video of them arriving and leaving and I held the microphone and attempted ambush-like interviews. Not everyone came in the main entrance. but I interviewed Donald Tusk and Jereon Dijsselbloem. Now, they did not want to say much, but it was still very cool.

I got to go to Luxembourg this week for the Eurogroup meeting. We left on Wednesday night and went straight to work on Thursday morning. I covered the arrival of Christine Lagarde from the IMF. When she was in a meeting, we set up the live shot for the press conference. She mostly spoke in French, but I finally asked if she could repeat what she said in English also. (Many journalists were happy about that and we needed an English sound bite for our customers anyway). She essentially said that the IMF will not consider an extension and that Greece will face default if they do not make the repayment by the end of the month. She also criticized Greece for not reforming their pension plan. Our video can be found on all kinds of media sites, but here is one example!

Working for Thompson Reuters at the Lagarde press conference.

Working for Thompson Reuters at the Lagarde press conference.

Then, I went to the Eurogroup meeting where I held the microphone at the departures. Some of the Finance Ministers held press conferences that other coworkers covered, but some talked to me on the way out. It is a bit intimidating to say the least to be working with the world’s best journalists and interviewing such influential people. It’s especially intimidating to talk to the big names such as Greece’s Minister of Finance (since he is so important in the news right now), but the skills that I have learned at KOMU and in the J-School honestly have prepared me. I just have to calm my nerves and have faith in my reporting skills (easier said than done).

Taking a second to laugh while filming the Finance Minister departures at the Eurogroup meeting,

Taking a second to laugh while filming the Finance Minister departures at the Eurogroup meeting,

Basically, my internship is so much work. I am constantly working more hours than everyone and at weird times. I am almost never able to attend class and I had to take an exam the day before everyone else via Skype. Honestly, my days are long and exhausting. I am working harder than ever before. But at the end of the day, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am working for the world’s largest news agency in the most politically important city at such a critical time. All of that makes the hard work worth it.

It’s amazing what you find when you explore with no destination in mind

I spent this past weekend in Brussels recovering from Amsterdam the weekend before and the EU Summit just days before. It was honestly really nice to spend a weekend exploring parts of Brussels that we had not before. On Friday we had class at the Parlementarium, which is an interactive visiting center for the European Parliament. There were a lot of interactive activities to help you learn more about the history, founding and functions of the EU. It was early in the morning, but we definitely enjoyed it.

After class Haley, Caroline and I went to a Turkish lunch buffet in Place London, which is a small area near the Parliament that has outdoor cafes and bars. It was a great start to the day.

Turkish restaurant in Place London in Brussels, Belgium

Turkish restaurant in Place London in Brussels, Belgium

Later, we explored the city. We ran into some absolutely breathtaking parks and decided that one of these days we need to take a bottle of wine and some sandwiches for a picnic.

That evening, we met up with students from a Mizzou Political Science study abroad group that was in Brussels for the weekend at Celtica (a touristy, but still fun bar). It was great to see my friend Max and show him a good time in the city I currently call home.

On Saturday, I had to get up early to work on a story in Ligny (it’s in Belgium). 200 years ago Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and the bicentennial has all kinds of reenactments and ceremonies that we are covering for work. Well, Ligny was Napoleon’s last victory and they staged a whole campsite for a reenactment. The story that I covered was the actor playing Napoleon during the battle arrived at the campsite. It was really funny because the actors stayed in character the entire time even though it was not the day of the real reenactment. People were cooking over campfires, making ammunition, riding horses and practicing military marches. I got to interview the person playing Napoleon. When I asked him how he prepares to play such a key historical figure he said, “It’s easy. I am Napoleon Bonaparte.” He was funny and so were the other actors that I interviewed. It was definitely not ideal working 10 hours on a Saturday, but it was a fun story and experience.

Actor playing Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Ligny reenactment.

Actor playing Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Ligny reenactment.

Foreign Interviews and World Leaders: EU-CELAC Summit

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I have learned a lot this past week and a half since I wrote about my internship, so I thought I would post an update.

Thursday I covered a story at the European Parliament. The UN presented an appeal for more money to go towards humanitarian acts in Iraq. After the presentations were over, we went to the hall and I got to conduct one-on-one interviews. My first interview was with Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. Then, I got to interview Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF. Lastly, I interviewed the Kurdistan Regional Government Minister for Planning, Ali Sindi. It was incredible to get to interview such high-profile people. When we got back to the office, my boss was happy and said that I got good vox-pops (soundbites). The cameraman that I was with cut the videos and I wrote the shotlist in iNews and worked on the story. It was the first real story that I did and I really enjoyed it.

Waterloo is a really big deal here in Belgium and this summer is the bicentennial. Basically, 200 years ago Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo, which is near Brussels. Belgium is very proud of this and made a proposal to have a commemorative €2 coin in honor of the battle. Well, to make that real, all countries in the EuroZone (countries that use the Euro) would need to approve. Obviously, France wasn’t happy about it and wouldn’t approve it, so Belgium withdrew the proposal. They got around this rule by creating a €2.5 coin and a €10 coin (that is not actually valid currency) to be a collectors’ item. I went to a press conference about the new coins and then helped shoot video of the coins being made, which made for some cool sequences. This story was targeted for our French clients, so I came up with questions with one of the print interns that speaks French and then he asked them because I could not. When I got back, I wrote the story and shot list in iNews.

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This week was the EU-CELAC Summit where the heads of European and Latin American countries met for discussions. Getting into the European Council building is worse than airport security, but there was a bomb threat here while we were here yesterday, so I guess I understand why. I went out and helped cover a Mexican protest. The protestors mentioned the students that went missing and an unclean recent election as reasons why they want the EU to stop supporting the current Mexican President because they believe he is not helping Mexico’s situation. It was interesting. I conducted my first interview in a foreign language. Gracias professora Reina. The summits are a lot of rushing around to wait. It’s a lot of rushing to press conferences to hear that they are cancelled or rushing to get an interview and then waiting a long time before anything else happens. Either way, it is really cool to be here with some of the world’s top leaders.