COLUMN: Watching EU in action was an amazing experience

Alice Bassett in Brussels
Alice Bassett in Brussels

As many students will know, relevant and interesting work experience is difficult to obtain, largely due regulations and locations. This can create quite a few problems, especially due to the competitive nature of university applications and job interviews.

However, earlier this year, and after many failed attempts to find somewhere suitable, I was offered a fantastic opportunity.

After my school’s Speech Day in December, I contacted Andrew Lewer MEP, who was in attendance at the awards ceremony.

Incredibly, it was arranged that I could undertake a week of work experience in April at the European Parliament in Brussels, with the Friday being spent in the constituency.

During my week at the European Parliament, I attended a variety of debates and committees, all of which gave me a very insightful look into global politics, at arguably one of the most dynamic periods, with events such as Brexit and the upcoming General Election.

In terms of parliamentary activity, I attended a hearing at the Femm committee, where Mary Robinson (the former Irish president) was present.

The event featured on the subject of women and climate change, with the report aiming to highlight the gendered nature of climate change as well as presenting a framework to ensure men and women are equally protected from the negative consequences of climate change.

At this talk I especially enjoyed listening to Jannie Staffansson, who is from the Arctic Council and spoke about the impact of climate change in those regions that differ greatly from the UK.

The highlight of my week was undoubtedly when the Prime Minister of Hungary was the subject of an active debate, during which political group leaders and MEPs gave their views on Hungary’s new education law, the tightening of rules for NGOs and asylum seekers and a government survey called “National Consultation- Let’s stop Brussels!”.

It was especially exciting to see this debate not only because I am in the British education system, but because of it being held in the plenary room, which was very unique to see in person.

On Friday, after a busy few days in Brussels, Andrew and I travelled to Nottingham Trent University, where I was given a tour by a helpful outreach officer, after which we travelled to Swadlincote to experience some campaigning in the afternoon.

I never thought that from growing up and living in a rural village like Hartington I would be given the chance at my age to experience such an engaging and interesting week and I am very grateful for the fantastic opportunity.