My Third Semester: Internship at the Council of the EU in Brussels, Belgium

Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Arianna Rizzi (2018-2020) is an Italian and Swiss Euroculture Student who spent her first semester in Strasbourg, France, and her second semester in Groningen, Netherlands. After studying Communication Sciences at the Università della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland, she applied for the Euroculture MA because she wanted to switch her study path towards political and cultural studies. She also wanted to add an international experience to her resume. For her third semester, she did an internship at the Council of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.

Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied for the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?

Arianna Rizzi: When I applied for Euroculture, I had no specific expectations: I just liked the idea that, as follow-up to my Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences, I could delve into European political and cultural studies. Maybe I expected the degree to be more focused on Europe and the EU in political terms, but in the end I really appreciated its sociological take on many Europe-related issues.

EM: What was the most difficult thing you encountered after starting the program?

AR: In my view, the most difficult element of the Master is the fact that, at times, you have to mediate between the requirements and suggestions of your first and second university. I am referring to co-supervised activities such as the IP paper or the MA thesis itself. Sometimes, discrepancies may arise between what teachers from one university and from the other one suggest you to do. While this is perfectly normal, given the varied expertise of Euroculture’s staff, it may cause frustration and stress for the student. But I guess that learning to deal with different academic cultures is part of the programme as well.

EM: Why did you choose the internship track? 

AR: I hesitated between applying for the ‘overseas’ research track and the professional one. However, I decided that the most convenient thing for me was to acquire some work experience, in order to better position in the job market afterwards. That is why between January and April 2019 I sent out around forty applications to different EU institutions and bodies, parties, NGOs, think tanks and companies operating in the field of communications, European or international affairs.

EM: Where are you doing your internship? Why did you choose to go there?

AR: Only around three of my applications were – preliminarily – successful, and among these, I was finally selected for a traineeship at the Council of the EU. To be honest, I cannot say that interning at the General Secretariat of the Council was the result of a choice: I believe that, even if I put a lot of effort in my application, I was just very lucky to be selected with only 62 other people – out of 7500 who had sent their application – as a trainee. Finally, I decided to take the position they offered me because it gave me the possibility to experience the inner life and workings of one of the key EU institutions, while working in the field of communication.

EM: What are you doing during your internship? Would you like to do the same job once you finish the master? Why?

AR: During the five months I spent at the Council, my job mainly consisted in drafting, editing and publishing articles for the internal communication channels of the organisation, namely the intranet portal Domus News and the printed magazine Consilium Journal. To sum up, it felt like I was working as a journalist, but for the internal purposes of the Council. However, apart from my daily duties, I was also allowed to volunteer for the social media and press office teams for the European Council summits, the official meetings where EU leaders set and discuss the political agenda and priorities of the EU. My job consisted in monitoring the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles of the Council; harvesting photos and videos of the leaders to be published as Instagram Stories on the profile of the Council; reporting on and translating the doorstep comments and press briefings of Italian PM Giuseppe Conte. It was exciting to be a small part of such a high-level event!

EM: What have you learned about yourself during the program so far?

AR: I have learned that I can be very flexible in terms of what I have to study, work on or simply when it comes to relocating from one country to another. While I didn’t think I would have needed it this much, I discovered that flexibility is key when you decide to join an interdisciplinary study programme that requires you to move every six months.

EM: Is there something you would like to add?

AR: Always remember: whatever difficulty you might face… This is fine!

Thank you so much for your testimony, Arianna!

Picture Credit: personal file

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