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Guide to an EU traineeship in Brussels

Being a trainee in the European Quarter of the exhilarating and vibrant city of Brussels is a journey that will stick with you for a lifetime. It is a journey full of adventures, discoveries, and ups and downs.  And like some wise men once said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". That includes this one.

This article will explain briefly what this first step is, and obviously mentions some other relevant steps necessary to be taken in order to become a trainee at the European Commission (EC) in Brussels.

1. Application – start early

The European Commission recruits enthusiastic graduates for a five month traineeship twice a year; in January for the October-February period and in August for the March-July period. Since the application file is quite substantial, it is advised to start early. You do not want to miss out on this chance simply because you forgot to scan your diploma back home or because you are suffering from an acute writer's block to motivate your application.

2. Eligibility – make no mistakes

Make sure you include all the files needed in your application, since you cannot send those you forgot in a later stage. Fill out all administrative forms properly and do not forget to date or sign where necessary. Check and double check your application and make sure you meet the eligibility criteria as an incomplete application will result in automatic rejection. Use the European standards, such as a Europass CV and the Common European Framework of Reference for languages from the Council of Europe.

3. Pre-Selection – the Blue Book

When you are preselected, your profile will be placed in a database called the Blue Book. Even though this step brings you a bit closer to a traineeship in Brussels, you are not quite there yet. There are about 2,500 profiles in the book where EC officials can select their candidates from. In the end, only 600 applicants will become a trainee. 

4. Lobby – be proactive

You could wait for an official to approach you by phone or e-mail, which is officially recommended, but it does not hurt to take some action yourself.  Sending out an updated version of your CV and a short motivation to DG's of your interest can be beneficial. Make sure you are always ready to tell what you have to offer because phone calls usually come when you least expect it!

5. Acceptance – dotting the I's and crossing the T's

You are officially selected if you receive a placement offer from the EC stage bureau. Do not forget to sign and return it within the given time period and to fulfill all other administrative requirements after your selection! It takes about three quarters of a year between your application and the start of your traineeship, so there is plenty of time to prepare yourself. Do not let the numbers scare you off, but take a chance, take that first step and you might end up right where you want to be. Have a good journey!

Additional Links:

European Commission

Traineeship Office Home page

Michelle Klaverstijn graduated in International Communication and Comparative European Social Studies and is currently doing a traineeship at the European Commission's DG Internal Market and Services.