The gentle January afternoon sunlight shines into the bar in the European Parliament’s main building in Brussels. While officials and MEPs enjoy the view onto Park Léopold over a cup of coffee, one person is unable to savour the break. Surrounded by a bunch of young people, Anna Kušnir sits at a table. Next to her cup of tea lies an envelope with invitations for the Euroball, a voluntarily organised event for trainees. For the 24-year old Lithuanian global governance student, this is part of a special job. Not only is Anna a trainee with the Parliament’s Communication department, but also the events manager for EPSA, the European Parliament’s Stagiaire Association.
“We want to offer some added value to the traineeship”
“I am responsible for social activities that we organise for trainees,” explains Anna about her job. “We manage trips, seminars, role plays and a lot of other events where they can gather and socialise.”
She does all this voluntarily, in addition to her traineeship. It is a combination can cause difficulties, admits Anna’s colleague, Adrien Mogenet: “Sometimes it is hard to fulfil perfectly both my tasks for the board and my professional duties”. Yet, the work is not without reward. The members of the EPSA board have the unique chance to stand out from a crowd of hundreds of highly motivated and excellently trained young people who join the institutions for a traineeship. “And of course we enjoy offering the trainees some added value to their time in Brussels”, adds Stéphanie Brochard, the vice-president of EPSA. She aims at helping trainees overcome some of the problems they might face upon arriving in the European capital and organises career-related events: “It is important to have the possibility to get to know more than just the person in the same unit, and to have fun activities to do.”
“Getting people to listen is hard”
Later, we accompany Adrien in his work for the board. He is the communications manager of the association and, as such, is responsible for its website and Facebook account as well as for mailings to the other trainees. The representatives’ success also rests on the interest of the other trainees: If they do not accept the various offers EPSA makes, all their work goes down the drain. However, reaching the fellow trainees is often easier-said-than-done. “We only have the names and emails of the trainees that are in the Schuman programme, which is only about a fifth of all EP trainees. This is an obstacle when we organise events designed for all trainees,” explains Stéphanie, who was, for example, responsible organising the job fair at the end of the traineeship season. Her colleague Clare Fenwick, who is secretary-general of EPSA, adds: “The biggest problem is often getting people to listen or to not sideline us. This causes problems with very practical issues, such as room booking.” Also, gaining the respect of the institutions’ bureaucracies can be hard: “The power of EPSA should be bigger, as in the European Commission, and of course it would be better to be equipped with a larger budget”, explains Bernardo Viera e Brito, who was elected president of the association.
“We are so many trainees, we need representation”
|Interns and trainees in the private sector or organizations outside of the EU have to go without a representative board like EPSA. The reason why EPSA's work is important and necessary in the Parliament is the sheer number of trainees based there, the representatives say. “The bigger the organization, the greater the need to have a representative body for its trainees, so that they feel safer and taken care of”, Anna explains. But what about the representatives themselves – do they feel satisfied with what they do? “I have had a lot of fun; I like helping out and running things”, Clare says. With a twinkle in her eye, Stéphanie adds: “I am used to being very busy and I like it – so I am really happy with this work.”
With the winter traineeship session ending, for Anna, Adrien, Stéphanie, Clare and Bernardo the term is almost over. For those who follow them, they have some advice. Starting off quickly is essential: “Hit the ground running, you don't have much time!” says Clare. Adrien adds: “Brainstorm, listen to all trainees' needs, wishes and advice, and work out how to respond to them the best way”. Stéphanie sums it up: “People elect you to do something. So be dedicated to this mission.”
Johannes Uhl is the Intern Life Editor of Internal Voices and a trainee with the European Parliament