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Personal insight: Marie van der Werf

During my undergraduate studies, I did an Erasmus semester in Amsterdam. Since Amsterdam is only about three hours from Brussels, I convinced a group of friends to join me on a day trip. We all had different goals for the outing: One friend wanted to eat Belgian waffles, another wanted to take a closer look at the Grote Markt. Personally, I was drawn to Brussels by the European Parliament.

 The project Europe had long since fascinated me. See, I am half Dutch and half Romanian, but I was born and raised in Berlin. Hence, what others might call “European cultural diversity” was the simply my everyday life. During my Bachelors, this general curiosity became more targeted when I took some courses on the European Union. By the time I first laid eyes on the buildings in Brussels, I told my friends I’d one day work there.

 Two years later, I absentmindedly opened a newsletter by the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation. Wretched between two postings for consulting groups, I saw a call for applications to the Brussels office of Dr. Christian Ehler, MEP. My time had come.

 I quickly applied for the position and after only two days Ms Claudia Hoffmann reached out to me. We talked on the phone and discussed my interests and possible areas of work. Then we said goodbye, thinking we’d see each other within eight weeks.

 But alas, the COVID-19 pandemic would not permit me to march through those doors just yet. For security reasons, my internship had to be postponed by a year. When it finally started in May 2021, I was no longer an undergraduate student. Instead, I pursued a Masters degree at a wonderful university in Paris. Funny enough, it turned out I was not the only one. Two of my fellow interns turned out to also be my fellow students at said university. If all of us had done our internship last year, we would have been scattered across Europe. 

 On my first day, Dr. Ehler and his staff welcomed us in a Webex meeting. The corona virus was still plaguing the world, but despite the distance of the home office, there was a warm and collegial atmosphere in the meeting. This feeling of camaraderie persisted throughout the internship.

 In the following six weeks, I was entrusted with a variety of tasks: For example, I issued a weekly COVID-19 newsletter, attended lots of events on trade, transatlantic relations, and digitalization; edited video material, interviewed EP staff, and attended EPP group meetings. I even got to listen to a speech of the recently reelected UN General Secretary António Guterres.

 However, my favorite task consisted of research on the use of artificial intelligence in the film industry. Under Claudia’s passionate guidance, I gathered information on the state of play, as well as possibilities and criticisms. To better understand the legislative need for regulation, she even let me come up with an event proposal and a list of possible speakers.

 I’ve learned plenty of lessons during my internship, but one really sticks out: At the European Parliament, you’re allowed to think bigger. When I proposed outrageously famous speakers, Claudia would just nod and allow me to jot down their names. This is because the EP is not some small NGO. It is the very heart of Europe, a place where likeminded people come together in an attempt to shape our future in the best possible manner. That’s what I loved about the EP. Everyone I met was clever, friendly, and ambitious. Accordingly, even though I haven’t physically set foot inside the Brussels office, I felt like I had found my kind of people.

 At this point, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Ehler, Claudia Hoffmann, Christoph Schulze, and Gosse Vujik. Thank you for giving me this grand opportunity to learn and grow. I would also like to thank my fellow interns for their help and companionship. 

 If you also feel the strong pull of political life in Brussels, I can only recommend an internship at the office of Dr. Ehler. 

 Marie van der Werf, 02.07.2021

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