Emily, Allan Macartney Traineeship Programme, 2010
Looking at European politics from the Scottish angle is just one of many ways to approach this vast and sometimes daunting topic, and it is certainly an interesting one.
When I finished my studies in Journalism, I knew I wanted to live in another country for a while as I thought it would be really beneficial to have some experience living 'on the continent'.
After spending a lot of time applying for various internships in Brussels and yielding a sizable collection of rejection letters, I was beginning to think that it was only possible to get a place if you could speak 6 languages and had done 2 years of post-graduate study.
When I applied to Alyn's traineeship, I was struck by how fair the application process was; it is hard to find places in Brussels and Alyn has created a real opportunity for young Scots to come here and gain work experience. The traineeship is a great platform from which to reflect and think about what type of work you would like to do, and indeed what type of jobs are out there.
During my time in the European Parliament I covered a whole host of topics. Alyn also encourages you to go to seminars and meetings on topics which interest you, even if it is out-with the specific remit of his work. It might be a cliché but you get out of it what you put into it. Day to day, my co-intern and I wrote briefing papers, conducted research, took notes in meetings and helped with constituency cases. We also took full advantage of the extensive and tasty menu in the world's largest and most linguistically diverse canteen.
Thankfully the unique atmosphere of the European Parliament extends beyond the canteen, and the traineeship is a great opportunity to experience it first hand. All the names of Committees and procedures which were studied remotely suddenly become real and tangible, it is true that you really do need to come to Brussels to get a flavour of how all the working practices of the EU pose differing challenges and opportunities for MEPS, lobbyists, NGOs, journalists and all the other assembled interest groups that make up the dynamic and ever growing European village in Brussels.
However, what I found equally rewarding was life outside the European bubble. If you don't venture beyond the confines of the EU area during your time in Brussels I promise you will live to regret it. Brussels is a great city. Although perhaps underrated on the world stage of favourite 'must visit' destinations, it is exactly this aspect which gives the city its charm. I have grown to love the architecture and the fantastic option of cultural activities on offer – it seems that not a weekend goes past without public transport being disrupted because of some celebration or other! If you want to live somewhere where you can see old films for 3 euros, visit amazing galleries and museums, learn and practice any language under the sun, go on long walks, find old treasures in the fleamarket and drink nice beer on pretty terraces then you will immediately fall for Brussels charms.
Liam, Allan Macartney traineeship programme, 2007
As I approached my final months at university, the prospect of finding a job became increasingly daunting. The Allan Macartney traineeship programme was a fantastic “half way house” to experience between university and full contract employment. As well as allowing me to explore a wider set of employment possibilities, for a politics graduate the idea of working in the European Parliament was too good to resist.
The great thing about the Allan Macartney traineeship is that you are involved from your very first day. Whether it be drafting PQs, compiling briefings, writing press releases or just general research, all your work contributes to the outgoings of the office and is highly valued by the team. There are so many opportunities to learn and develop skills that are essential to working life.
Living in Brussels is also a fantastic experience. There are plenty of opportunities to meet other stagiers and a surprising number of Scottish people work throughout the institutions.
There really is only so much a textbook can teach and the traineeship programme provided me with not only real-life insight into the European Parliament and Scottish politics, but also real-life insight into the expectations of an office and working environment. I found this to be invaluable when I started my first proper job.
Jonathan, Allan Macartney traineeship programme, 2007
My desire to participate in the Dr Allan Macartney traineeship programme stemmed from an interest in European affairs and the intention of gaining some hands on experience that would allow me to transpose the many skills learned at university into a working environment.
This results-driven traineeship was one that allowed me to fully utilize the many transferable skills gained at university and build on particular character strengths relevant to developing a career path in this area.
By working for a political representative whose constituency incorporates the whole of Scotland you have the opportunity get involved in researching a broad range of issues with domestic and European importance.
The traineeship gives you exposure to the inner workings of a variety of political institutions and the day to day activities and responsibilities of political representatives that cannot be learned from a textbook.
The main element to making any traineeship successful is to have a proactive approach and a desire to make the most out of opportunities presented to you. If this is the character trait you have, as well as a strong interest in European affairs, I would encourage you to get in contact with Alyn.
Since my traineeship, I have gone on to work as a parliamentary researcher in the Scottish Parliament and now as a European Policy Assistant for a local authority - jobs I would not have been suitably skilled to do had I not participated in the Dr Allan Macartney traineeship.
Sarah, Allan Macartney traineeship programme, Summer 2006
My Brussels experience was second to none. I left the traineeship programme with an understanding of the complex machinery of the European Union that could not have been learned in any textbook or classroom. There was never a dull moment. A typical day involved compiling press releases, policy briefings and responding to constituent queries, as well as general office support. I also had the opportunity to see the legislative process in action by attending some of the many committee meetings. The practical experience I gained will definitely put me in good stead for my future.
As well as being an eye opener professionally, the traineeship was also personally rewarding. Surrounded by people from all 25 EU countries, it really made me more aware of the European atmosphere and other European cultures. There were literally hundreds of interns working in the EU institutions over the summer, so it goes without saying that the social life was fantastic. Most weekends a national party was arranged, each time by a different nationality in the theme of their home country. It really is impossible not to make new friends and valuable contacts.
The traineeship was also a great opportunity to experience the city of Brussels itself. I found that 3 months was just long enough to judge whether I could see myself living and working there long term. I would jump at the chance to return in the future. I would highly recommend the traineeship to anyone wanting to experience a side of Brussels that few get to see or know about, build up priceless contacts for your future career and make some new friends.
Stewart, Allan Macartney Trainee, 2006
Having read the "Opportunities for Bright Scots in Europe" handbook, I jumped at the chance to do a traineeship in the European Parliament for Alyn. Having already lived in Europe a few years ago, this was a great opportunity to learn about the Institutions and how they work. I was particularly impressed with the openness and transparency of the Parliament, enabling it to function in a far more effective manner. The experience I have earned whilst here has proved really useful and I would recommend anyone, regardless of their political persuasion, to get in touch with Alyn.
Luke, Allan Macartney Traineeship, 2005
This traineeship is ideal for anyone looking for an insight into European politics from a Scottish perspective. Working at the heart of the EU will challenge you and will likely change the opinions you may have had about it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brussels working and I learned a great deal about the inner workings of the EP. There is no substitution for direct experience in the institutions of the Union, and this is a pre-requisite for many positions in the political and consulting field.
One of the best things about this traineeship is that from the onset you are a real part of the team. Unlike some internships on offer, you do not get stuck filing and photocopying. You are expected to take decisions and act on your own initiative which means that when you leave you actually have something to talk about – it is not cheap CV padding that most interviewers see through. I had a various array of tasks including drafting Parliamentary Questions, preparing topical briefings, and attending Committee meetings. Brussels is a great city to live in and compared to Scotland it is very affordable. You get to meet people from all the Member States and across all of the various international institutions based in Brussels which makes for a lively social scene.
Looking back, it is clear that this internship was the key stepping stone in starting my career. I would highly recommend applying.
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