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Brussels Study Abroad Program Celebrates 30 Years

Spring 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of American University’s academic programs in Brussels. In 1984, American University began a small study abroad program for one semester each year. Since then, the university’s programs in Brussels have evolved to offering undergraduate study abroad programs on a year-round basis, as well as several specialized graduate-level study abroad programs during the summer months. Today, AU’s programs are housed in the Brussels Center, located on the campus of the Universite Catholique de Louvain and are spearheaded by Dr. Jerome (Jerry) Sheridan, CAS/Ph.D. ’90, director of the Brussels Center. 

Sheridan came to the Brussels Center in July 1991 and has continued to refine and expand the university’s offerings in Brussels. The flagship program of the Brussels Center is the European Union program, offered in both the fall and spring semesters during each academic year. The program focuses on security and foreign policy and includes homestay living arrangements and an internship component. Classes are taught by Sheridan and Dr. Jamie Shea, a high-ranking official of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and include guest speakers from organizations all over Europe. 

Participants in the European Union program do a great deal of travel throughout the semester, including three class trips. Sheridan plans these trips to align with the foreign policy and security hot spots in Europe at the time so students are exposed to areas and organizations they are learning about in the classroom. Sheridan says his goal each semester is to “immerse students in European politics and transatlantic relations and create advocates for the transatlantic relationship.” 

Alumni of the program remember their time in Brussels and their class trips fondly, and many stay in touch. Program alumni have pursued careers in international arenas and work at the State Department, NATO, and other prominent organizations. Sheridan frequently meets program alumni in Brussels who are on government business, and he invites them to speak with students. 

Alumni who live in Brussels serve as internship supervisors for current students. Those who don’t live or work in Brussels can also play an important role in the future of the program. “I love when alumni spread the word about the experience they had here and remind current students that the program is still alive and well,” says Sheridan. 

As program director for more than 20 years, Sheridan says he has evolved dramatically, both personally and professionally, and he stays in Brussels because he continues to be intellectually engaged. “I love my job,” says Sheridan, “It allows me to fulfill my broader mission to draw the U.S. and Europe closer together.”