Alexander Semrl, a student of our home campus studying BSc in International Management, shares his experience doing the internship of a lifetime at the European Parliament.
“Acta, non verba” (“Actions, not words”), these words were repeated to me by my supervisor and mentor (Head of the Office), Mr. Klemen Zumer, upon entering my position for six months as a trainee in the Office of the European Parliament. The path to being selected as a trainee was indeed difficult, going through Luxembourg, with more than 20,000 applicants for only 657 positions in Europe this year, and an extensive application process. I was proud to have entered the ranks of the select few and set out to represent Modul University in the best light.
The first week of the traineeship is as much a transitional and mainly logistical matter as beginning your actual work, which includes signing your work contracts, providing further personnel information, setting up your desk and computer, in addition to being put through security clearance. Once this was completed however, in contrast to other jobs, where you are given a “test period’’, a substantial amount of work was given to me, including the preparation of several projects and the drafting and revision of reports. The European Parliament selects students who should be able to perform this work upon entrance, rather than maintaining a “learning while you work’’ approach. In this capacity however, I think that it is how you handle the startling workload and your attitude that is being judged as a hallmark for your future potential.
Within the Office, the workload is divided by topic sectors, such as International Trade (INT TRD), finances and investments (FIN), Foreign policy (FOR POL), Economic development (ECON DEV) or Communication (COMM). In the first month, I worked for the COMM sector, in which I was involved with the implementation of various projects (such as raising the awareness of the EU in Central Europe and establishing solid communication channels with European Parliament Offices across member states), public relations and internal communication within the Parliament. This provided me with a basic understanding of the work pattern, the methodology and protocol required. This also included attending live press releases by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and communication between European Parliament parties, of which there are nine. The principles of communication, along with aspects of organizational communication that I have learned at Modul provided me with an excellent foundation.
Following this, I was involved in the FIN sector, which completely shifted the scenario for me. This involved the assessment of potential investments across the EU, the reviewing of the European Parliament budget for 2016, preparing cross-border financial transactions and remotely attending Parliamentary sessions on financial topics. I savored this placement as it provided evidence of a clear cause and effect relationship, which via a team-effort, led to the authorization or refusal of funding for specific projects across Europe based upon our assessment. This involved close cooperation with the European Council, which is considered the “Executive branch” of the EU.
‘’Foreign policy is really domestic policy with its hat on’’, stated Hubert Humphrey. However, as I spend more time in the FOR POL sector, I would advocate that foreign policy is a broad spectrum of aspects. I worked on the support of implementation of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) across all member states, in addition to being involved with “in situ” sessions between diplomatic negotiations with the representatives of nations, such as the United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Slovenia. Currently, I am working on the revision, analysis and support for considerations for agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US, the Free Trade Agreement with Japan and the Trade in Services Agreement. This also involves working with key partners to provide a step-by-step basis from which to understand the root problems of the migration crisis. The goal is to provide optimal solutions that can lead to a common consensus allowing for a safe, legal and streamlined method of entering the EU.
The excellent background provided to me by Modul University, the International Management Bachelor’s degree program and coursework has equipped me with a variety of useful tools from which these tasks were manageable. The vision of Modul University encompasses what the European standards are setting out to achieve and implement, and as such, both are aiming to incite positive global change.
In conclusion, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to experience and work within the European Parliament and learn so much in a relatively short period of time.”