FAAB Winter Event in Bruges on December 9, 2017

Rozenhoedkaai_Brugge-View-from-the-Rozenhoedkaai-in-Brugge-Belgium-Photo-©Hans-Hillewaert- CC-BY-SA-4.0

Join Fulbright alumni and current grantees in Bruges on 9 December 2017 for a festive tour of one of Belgium’s most scenic cities. Event highlights include a walking tour of the city, a traditional dinner, and a visit to the Kerstmarkt.
Event Schedule:

15:30 – Meet at Bruges Train Station

15:45 – Guided Tour of Bruges
Whether this is your first or your fifth time in Bruges, we can guarantee that you’ll learn something new about the Venice of the North during this 90-minute walking tour of the historic city center.

17:30 – Dinner at ‘t Walpoortje
Warm up with a traditional dinner at ‘t Walpoortje (Walplein 10, B-8000 Bruges). Registrants will have the choice between authentic Flemish Stew and fries, homemade Fish & Chips, and Spinach Tortellini (vegetarian).

19:00 – Visit Kerstmarkt (Christmas Market)
The scenic Bruges Christmas Market is the perfect place to do a little holiday shopping, taste a few traditional snacks, or warm up with a drink!

20:30 – Return to Brussels (on own or with group)
Cost & Registration:

Cost for alumni and other guests: 35€. Current Fulbright grantees do not need to pay, as the Commission will cover their costs; however, guests invited by current grantees must pay the registration fee.

To register, please complete the form available at https://goo.gl/forms/ZIYiw7buV3IJlJSt2. Once you have registered for the event, please make a bank transfer of 35€ per fee-paying participant to the Belgian Fulbright Commission (see details below). Registration will close on November 26.

Name: Commission for Educational Exchange between the U.S., Belgium & Luxembourg
Bank: CBC Banque
IBAN: BE79 7320 0561 4533
Message: ‘FAAB Bruges [and your first name/ last name]’

Registration is not final until payment has been received.

SAVE THE DATE! Cookies and Carols on December 10, 2017

On December 10, 2017 from 5pm until 7pm, former FAAB President Salomé Cisnal de Ugarté will host our annual Cookies and Carols event in Brussels to celebrate the upcoming holidays. This will give you a chance to mix and mingle with members of our Commission’s Board while getting into the holiday spirit. To attend, please email secretary@fulbright.be (before Dec 1) with the number of people you want to bring.

Eat And Meet With Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo

On February 14th 2017, current and past Fulbright grantees met with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services Alexander De Croo at his office in Brussels. After introductions, Mr. De Croo summarized his career, talked about his Fulbright experience, and focused on his current work in the changing world of development and the shift in the direction of today’s European political atmosphere.


Discussion topics ranged from farming practices in Sub-Saharan Africa, to how the current US Administration will affect the future of European politics. The Fulbright Commission would like to thank Mr. De Croo for his hospitality and interesting conversation, and hope for more connections at future “Meet and Greets”!

Successful Fall Event in Mechelen

After living in Mechelen for a little over a month, I’ve managed to cover a lot of the tourist hotspots, but the human rights tour of Mechelen was something completely unqiue – even to people who have been living here for years. We got a chance to experience the city from a historical perspective, with parts of the tour reaching as far as far back as Saint Rumbold, the namesake of Mechelen’s largest and oldest cathedral.




Our first stop was the town hall. The gate leading into the courtyard was once a prison. Our guide, Lisbette, explained that poor prisoners used to let down buckets on ropes and beg for food, while the wealthier ones enjoyed relative luxury.




Inside the town hall we saw the city council room, where busts of past mayors line the back wall. Intricate carvings cover the room and tell the story of Charles Dessain, the mayor who risked his own life to protect Mechelen’s citizens from the Nazis during World War II. As a means of delaying the deportation of his constituents, Dessain contracted extensive woodwork and continued adding to it. Despite his best efforts, his constituents – and eventually Dessain himself – were deported, but Mechlinians today remember him as a hero.



Immediately outside the town hall we found a statue of what appears to be a child bounced into the air on a blanket. In the past, while some criminals ended up in the tower, adulterers faced a peculiar sort of punishment that originated in Spain. Since divorce was illegal under Catholicism, unfaithful husbands were once publicly ridiculed in exactly this way. Now the tradition remains as a celebration of local culture and dolls are used instead of humans.



In its more recent history, Mechelen has distinguished itself as an asylum for refugees coming from war-torn regions of the Middle East and Africa. Near the city center sits an artist’s rendition of a larger-than-life refugee constructed from remnants of rafts used by asylum seekers when making the treacherous voyage to Europe.



At the center of Mechelen sits the Grote Markt (Big Market) – a large square encircled by bars, restaurants, quaint outdoor cafes and several local government buildings. One of the most well known gastronomical products of Mechelen (and my favorite Belgian beer) is Carolus. Lucky for me, our tour included a delicious lunch at the Carolus brewery, where the traditional Flemish stew proved a perfect antidote to the typically dreary October day. After enjoying a leisurely meal with grantees, alumni and university colleagues, we headed over to the Kazerne Dossin, which sheds light on a darker side of Mechelen’s history.




The Kazerne Dossin, now a museum, was once a way station for Jewish people, gypsies, POW’s and anyone else making the unfortunate journey to Auschwitz. As we walked through the exhibits, we sat in rooms where the Nazis’ victims once awaited deportation. We listened as the names of the condemned trickled down one-by-one from overhead speakers. Other parts of the museum told of genocides perpetrated all over the world, from Cambodia to Rwanda and Armenia. It was a devastatingly powerful display of humanity’s darkest tendencies, as well as a tribute to the collective memory that seeks to prevent a repetition of such terror.



Two days after this event, I happened upon a source of this collective memory. That day, I joined a neighbor for lunch and met her 90-year-old grandmother, who actually lived in Mechelen during the German occupation. Mama Pauline, as her grandchildren call her, has lived in Mechelen her whole life, but when I mentioned the Kazerne Dossin, she looked at me gravely and said she would never go there. Mama Pauline still remembers glimpsing the faces of the victims through the gaps in the fence as she walked past the Kazerne over seventy years ago. Many of the older people in Mechelen don’t speak English, but Mama Pauline surprised even her own family when, after a few minutes of translating between Dutch and English, she revealed that she could understand most of what I said. She brushed off her English and told me that she had learned while working for the British after the Nazis fled Belgium.



Mechlinians have a long history in Europe, and they even have their own nickname: Maneblussers. According to legend, a man coming home from the bar one night saw the moon glowing through the windows of St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and, mistaking it for a fire, alerted the town. Their heroic attempt to extinguish the “fire” high up in the tower earned them the name “moon extinguishers.”

Learning about my new home – its history, its culture, its people – has been an incredible part of my Fulbright experience. Being a Francophile, I never pictured myself living in a Flemish town, learning Dutch, but sometimes the best experiences are the ones you never expected to have.

History of Human Rights in Mechelen

– Meghan Briggs 2016-2017 U.S. Fulbright grantee to Belgium


Fall Event: A History of Human Rights in Mechelen (October 22, 2016)

Join Fulbright alumni and current grantees in Mechelen on 22 October 2016 for a lesson in the history
of human rights. Event highlights include a walking tour of the city, a visit to the Kazerne Dossin, and
lunch at the Het Anker Brewery.

Event Schedule:

10:30 – Meet at Mechelen Tourist Office.
Participants arriving by car may choose to park at Thomas More University College at 10:15.
We will walk from the campus to downtown Mechelen.

Mechelen Tourist Office, Hallestraat 2-4-6.
The Tourist Office is a 15 minute walk from the Mechelen train station.

10:45 – Mechelen Human Rights Walking Tour
Get to know the city of Mechelen, with a focus on the lesser-known locations that have
played a role in the city’s human rights history.

Depart from Mechelen Tourist Office, Hallestraat 2-4-6.

1:00 – Lunch at Het Anker Brewery Enjoy a delicious lunch — complete with a traditional
Mechelen-brewed beer – at Het Anker Brewery in downtown Mechelen.

Het Anker – Guido Gezellelaan 49.

2:30 – Visit to the Kazerne Dossin: Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on
Holocaust and Human Rights During World War II, the Kazerne Dossin served as a detention
and deportation camp through which over 25,000 people were transported to Nazi concentration
camps. Today, the site serves as a memorial and museum. Our visit will begin with an
introduction by museum staff, followed by a visit of the museum at your leisure.

Kazerne Dossin, Goswin de Stassartstraat 153
The Kazerne Dossin is a 15-20 minute walk from ViaVia Mechelen.

5:30 – Drinks at the Grote Markt Finish up the day with a sample of one (or two!) of
Mechelen’s famous beers. (Optional: not included in the price mentioned below).

Cost: Cost for alumni and other guests: 45€. Current grantees do not need to pay,
as the Commission will cover their costs.

Once you have registered for the event, please make a bank transfer of 45 euros per participant
to the Belgian Fulbright Commission. Registration is not final until payment has been received.

Name: Commission for Educational Exchange between the U.S., Belgium & Luxembourg
Bank: CBC Banque
IBAN: BE79 7320 0561 4533
Message: ‘Human Rights Mechelen [and your first name/ last name]’