Last November I wasn’t sure whether to apply for the prestigious European Parliament traineeship. I did it anyway, without hoping for much. When I received a call back I thought it was a joke. I never imagined that my profile would be of particular interest to such a high-ranking organisation. But what I’ve discovered, is that sometimes, particularly during hard times like when you’re hit by a sudden pandemic, we can underestimate ourselves and surprise ourselves too. 

This traineeship helped increase my self-esteem despite the challenges of training during a pandemic.


Challenges and Rewards

My office was beautiful; an oval-shaped, bright open space with separate desks. Although I was just a trainee, I had my own personal space and a label with my name on the side. However, I was not able to visit my splendid new office on a daily basis. For the most part, I worked from an apartment in Brussels for the duration of my five-month traineeship.

There was no denying that the pandemic had made the Robert Schuman Traineeship at the European Parliament more of a challenge. The situation was bordering on the paradoxical. As a contractual obligation, trainees had to stay within 50 km of the office, yet we couldn’t physically go to the office.

Would you do this again?

I asked some of my fellow trainees what they thought about the experience of working for the European Parliament:

‘Yes, definitely’, said Amalia, 28, from Denmark. ‘I got some really valuable experiences and excellent guidance from both my supervisor and the other press officers’.

‘It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My work had meaning, and it was valuable, and I couldn’t ask for anything else’, asserted Sofia, 28, from Portugal.

‘I have a better understanding of how the EP works; how it acts within the broader European mechanism’, explained Gabriele, 23, from Lithuania. ‘Additionally, I grew as a professional. I improved my communication skills and learnt how to transfer European jargon into something that would be more accessible to a broader public’.

The Application Process

It’s not easy to get the Schuman Traineeship. It is a well-paid experience open mainly to EU citizens. Only three per cent of applicants get the opportunity to become a trainee.

The programme is an excellent opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the daily workings of the European Parliament.

‘I study a field that is very much related to international organisations, and I hope to make it to some of them in the future as a full-time employee. So, this was sort of a first step; I wanted to see how it works inside’, said Lucie, 24, from the Czech Republic when explaining her motivation for applying.

The Work/Life Balance

The pandemic made our daily routines extremely challenging. Waking up early every morning only to remain indoors and sometimes even work from bed in your pyjamas for extended hours, was mentally and physically tasking. All of us had a case of ‘zoom fatigue’ while trying to be proactive throughout the traineeship. Admitting our frustration helped immensely.

Looking back, I feel so lucky to have developed a bond with my fellow trainees on top of the support I received from the EP team.

‘I made friends for life’, said Gabriele. ‘My fellow trainees were an amazing and supportive bunch. Without them, it all would have been extremely less exciting’.

The experience made all of us more aware of the importance of good human relations and compassion in a working environment. Many of my fellow colleagues experienced health, family, and mental health issues during the traineeship. Much time was therefore spent supporting each other as best we could. This was particularly interesting to me since Brussels is the quintessential ‘hectic environment’ where people usually put their careers ahead of everything else. But we found a way to strike that life/work balance. We worked hard, but we also had time to go beyond the Brussels stereotype when it comes to social relations. Had I stayed in a toxic environment of inharmony and unhealthy competition, I don’t think I would have stayed.

The Future

So what now?

I gained great skills, a better CV and more self-confidence that was badly needed when it comes to dealing with the dreaded, ‘We regret to inform you …’ email on your latest job hunt.

I strongly recommend applying to anyone interested. And don’t be discouraged if you’re not successful the first time around. Just try again!

‘Do it. Don’t be afraid’, suggests Sofia. ‘Don’t be afraid of learning, of asking and believing in yourself. Your voice is valuable, trust me — wherever you come from’. Lucie agrees with this: ‘Go for it, do that application even if you think you will not get in — because you never know!’.