Year 11 Economics and Environmental Studies

Economics and Environmental Studies have syllabus content in common and thus our teachers Ms Elaine Scorey and Ms Shirley Sciberras decided to embark on organising an educational tour to Brussels to cover such overlapping MATSEC syllabus content. This included a visit to the European Quarter thus making us the first Maltese secondary school to visit the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and the European Commission.

Our adventure started on Tuesday 11th October at 2pm when we met at the airport with our specially designed hoodies. A lot of excitement was in the air especially for five of us for whom it was the first time abroad with a group of friends and not family members. Once goodbyes were said to our parents, we headed to the departures lounge to wait for our flight. After a smooth 3-hour flight to Zaventem Airport in Brussels, we found the taxis waiting for us that took us to the hotel where we checked-in and left the luggage in our respective rooms. We were eager to go around for a stroll around the streets of central Brussels where the highlight was the Grand Place where we saw the magnificent architecture of the town hall, the Maison du Roi and a range of private houses built at the end of the 17th century with facades going down to the smallest detail. We also had the opportunity to try the Belgian fries. Throughout our stay Julian oversaw the navigations and Mychael was handed the school camera to take memorable photos.

After a good night sleep and a lavish breakfast, we headed to our first visit, the House of European History. Once at the museum we were given an interactive tablet with audio, text and videos about the museum. It was followed up by a guided tour about the importance of posters which also included a hands-on activity where we created our own posters focusing on the economic situation within the EU, LGBTIQ+ rights, environment, and the impact of the Ukraine war. We also met a group of students from Naples, and we had an intercultural exchange.

We then headed to the Museum of Art and History where we could embark on a fascinating journey strolling among Egyptian mummies and prehistoric flints, walking between ancient glasses and take a step back to better contemplate impressive medieval tapestries. Once we finished the tour at the museum, we headed to the Parc de Cinquantenaire known for its “French-style” gardens, monuments, sculptures and dominated by a triumphal arch were we enjoyed the panoramic view of the capital. We ended the day in a good Italian restaurant enjoying pasta or pizza and then another stroll through the streets of Brussels to see famous landmarks such as the Manneken Pis.

The following day it was the highlight of our trip – the EU District. On our way, we could appreciate buildings such as the Museum of Musical Instruments, Brussels Main Library, Mont Des Arts and the Royal Palace that is the office of the King of Belgians. Once at the Parlamentarium, a visitors’ centre of the European Parliament and located in the Parliament’s Espace Léopold complex, we had a hands-on experience going through an exhibition containing hundreds of multimedia components, explaining the European Parliament and other European Union institutions. We were each given a multimedia guide to activate each installation with in-depth information that played audio or short films in our native language.

Once we finished from the Parlamentarium we went to the European Parliament building where we had the opportunity to meet two Maltese MEPs Hons Alex Aguis Saliba and Hons Cyrus Engerer. During these two sessions we voiced our opinions and concerns on several topics. At the end of the session, we had the opportunity to go around the hemicycle. The Hemicycle is the vibrant heart of European democracy, where Members of the European Parliament gather during plenary sessions to hold the largest and most important debates. Afterwards we headed to EU Commission where we met Mr. Mamo who explained how the Commission works and a comparative study to the Maltese’s Governmental System. By the time we walked back home it was almost dark but we managed to visit the medieval Roman Cathedral dedicated to St Michael and St Gudula and even the famous Mannekin Pis.

We woke up and packed our luggages and then headed to the Museum of National Bank of Belgium where the tour leader explained the development from the bartering system to money in terms of coins and notes as we know them today. During the second part of the tour, we were given information about the functions of the European Central Bank, the European Monetary Union and how to recognise legit from counterfeit euro notes. Following our last lunch together in Brussels, we went again around the street where we came across the famous monument of the Jeanekin-Pis. We then stopped at the Grand Place were the teachers bought us a last treat: a super yummy Belgian chocolate-topped waffle!

We then headed to the airport in and back to Malta. We can say that it was an unforgettable experience that we will cherish forever. It was a great opportunity to make new friends and have fun together as a group. We would like to wholeheartedly thank Ms Elaine Scorey and Ms Shirley Sciberras, our accompanying teachers for organising this wonderful yet educational trip for all of us. They made us realise that learning can really be fun!

Economics and Environmental Studies – Year 11 Students