My Third Semester: Internship at COMECE, Brussels, Belgium

Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Emilio Dogliani (2018-2020) is Italian and studied Euroculture at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and at the University of Strasbourg, France. Before applying for the master’s degree, he did a BA in European Languages and Cultures at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. He applied for Euroculture because the programme allowed him to combine politics and culture and gave him the opportunity to do an internship, but also because he wanted to study in Germany and practice his German. He chose the professional track for his third semester and did an internship at the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) in Brussels, Belgium.

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

Emilio Dogliani: When I applied for Euroculture, I expected the programme to be very strict and with in-depth and specific courses that would allow me to learn a bit more about political sciences and European institutions, in a very international environment. The international dimension of the programme certainly was there, I continued in fact to work and study with many people from abroad, as I had already done during my BA. The focus on political sciences and the depth of the courses lacked a bit, as far as I am concerned. I expected the courses to be very specific and the workload to be pretty heavy, since Euroculture is in the end a Master’s. However, I found that the interdisciplinary aspect of the Programme, which is a plus compared to other monothematic MAs, was in some cases a hindrance to the knowledge that we as students could acquire. I also expected the evaluation methods to be more strict and knowledge-based, as almost all students come from very different academic  backgrounds, but in the end the skill-learning seemed to fairly prevail on the topics learnt.

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

ED: The most difficult thing has to be the social aspects related to moving so often and the unclarity due to the many different academic environments within the consortium. The former, because it is indeed difficult to get to know new friends at the start of every semester and to leave them after three or four months. It is also true, however, that this gives you the chance to get to know many people and students, besides learning a lot about the academic culture of the university you are going to. But having to deal with so many academic systems was also challenging: in certain situations, students could not always understand how to act, due to different deadlines and other organisational issues.

EM: Why did you choose the internship track? 

ED: At first I applied for both internships and the research track in Mexico, but then I opted to go for the professional track. I thought it could give me a good insight on how it is to work for an organisation. I originally wanted to combine two different internships during the third semester, as I would have gone back to Göttingen for the fourth semester and therefore I would have had a lot of months to work. In the end, I got an offer for a traineeship of 7 months in Brussels and, given that the deadline for communicating our choices approached, I decided to set sail for Belgium.

EM: In which organization are you doing your internship?

ED: I am working at COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, an organisation that contributes to the dialogue between the EU Bishops’ Conference and the European institutions. It monitors the political processes at the EU level and provides analysis of and contribution to European issues, policies and initiatives. I wanted to work in the domain of EU foreign affairs and one of the eight working areas of COMECE was the Commission on EU external relations. I was also very interested in the ways the Catholic Church, like many other religious actors and confessions, contributes to the processes of European integration. The internship was also a good opportunity to meet other Euroculturers, as I was not the only student of the MA in Brussels. It was amazing to be able to meet up and talk about the respective internship experiences, which were frequently overlapping, too.

EM: What is your internship like?

ED: I am working on research and analysis of current issues of importance to EU external relations, such as development, defence and security, human rights, neighbourhood and enlargement. I am collaborating with my mentor on issuing reports and contributions – the last one was on the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU – but also with the press and communication officer, by translating various web news and press releases. I also attend conferences and events on behalf of the organization and report back to the office, which is really cool. I also contribute to the more organisational and project management related aspects of the organisation, issuing draft agendas and concept notes for the participants of the events organised or hosted by COMECE.

EM: Would you like to work in the same organisation after the MA?

ED: After the master’s I would actually like to continue a bit in this sector, but I am open to other possibilities, in order to see how different institutions and organisations work on EU foreign affairs.

EM: Are there things you would improve in the programme?

ED: I think that the Euroculture programme should be more focused on some specific topics that the students could learn much more in depth, all the while maintaining the interdisciplinarity that characterises it. I would for instance offer even more specific courses to the students in the second semester, maybe by dividing the students in a cultural and political track, and keep it broader and general in the first semester. I would also try to make it easier to solve all the bureaucratic issues that at times can affect many students. But overall, I am fairly satisfied with the programme and the skills it provides the students with.

EM: Thank you very much for your participation, Emilio!

Picture Credits: Personal file

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