European Union Policy Studies

Oh, the Places You'll Go with EUPS

Jacqueline Severance, M.A. 2016

When I heard about the EUPS program I had no idea just how far it would take me; literally and figuratively. What I heard one fateful day while sitting in an Italian lecture at JMU sounded incredible; a year in Florence, academic visits to the European institutions, hands-on EU simulation projects with oversight by EU officials; I knew at that moment I had to apply.

Reflecting back on that day a few years later I have since had the privilege to live and work abroad in France, Italy, Brussels, and Washington, DC. If I were told on that day in my undergraduate Italian class that this decision would lead me to work as a trainee in a European institution, I would not believe a word of it. After all, there was no way I could ever land a coveted position like that! However, I later came to realize that from my initial decision to pursue a master’s degree through the EUPS program, every step along the way was a serendipitous decision leading me closer to the reality of a traineeship at the European Parliament.

The Robert Schumann Traineeship is a five-month internship with the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels. It is a fantastic opportunity to witness the policy making process firsthand. As a Robert Schuman Trainee, you are assigned to a Directorate General (DG) in the Secretariat, the administrative wing of the parliament where all the policy is written. I worked in the DG External Policies (DG EXPO) which handles all foreign policy for the Parliament.

Within DG EXPO, I worked in the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), which is responsible for all EU activity pertaining to the High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Policy. I followed Security and Defense policy, specifically the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). I was also fortunate to expand my knowledge of other dossiers, such as Arctic Energy policy and Human Rights Corporate Social Responsibility.

The EUPS program prepared me for my traineeship in a number of practical ways, such as succinct writing and professional candor. However, my greatest takeaway from EUPS was the curriculum and academic trips, which afforded me a strong background and firm understanding of the politics and functioning of the EU institutions. As a trainee, I applied this understanding and solidified it with firsthand experience following various reports through the committee. Skills such as these, and many more, are crucial for any young professional.

Developing these abilities in a fast-paced and high-volume work environment, such as the EP, enabled me to enter the Washington, DC workforce and excel in my new positions with the necessary experiences and abilities. Currently, I am an intern in the Security and Defense Program at the German Marshall Fund of the US and an Events and Administration Officer with the Washington Ireland Program. These two positions are ideal opportunities to apply my experiences with the transatlantic relationship in my professional career.

For me, the opportunity to be a trainee at the European Parliament was the culmination of my transatlantic education, but in retrospect it was a great deal more than just another professional opportunity for my resume. The most amazing aspect of the entire program were the people I met along the way. The Robert Schumann Traineeship is an opportunity for cultural immersion and discussion with some of Europe’s finest young people. There were thirty trainees working in DG EXPO coming from all over Europe, and the world, just for this opportunity.

Throughout my time studying EU policy I, as an American, felt like the outsider. By engaging with my European counterparts, those directly affected by EU policy, I gained an entirely new understanding and appreciation for the depth and breadth of EU influence. Working alongside these individuals fueled my passion for the EU and transatlantic affairs. The traineeship in itself is a testament to the success of the European project, and ensures future EU integration. Moreover, the continued involvement of young Americans who are passionate about Europe will keep the trajectory of transatlantic partnership between the European Union and the United States on an upwards path at a time when the sustainability of this very important collaboration is vital.

To learn more about the Robert Schumann Traineeship, click here.

Written by Jacqueline Severance (EUPS Class of 2016)

Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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