Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Brussels is full of friendly faces

Students of the European Union Studies track of MA International Relations visited Brussels this October and met many Leiden alumni who already work there.

You won’t get it from the website

During our study visit to Brussels we were introduced to several EU institutions, NGOs, consultancies, and lobby groups. We learned a lot about what they do, how they work, and what they expect from their employees, but some things you just can’t from the website. This is why we met up for dinner with some of our alumni to get the insider view of life in Brussels. They came from different corners: this year we met with two officers of the European Commission, two MEP assistants in the European Parliament, one from Amnesty International in Brussels, one alumnus who works for a private consultancy helping the European Commission disseminate the use of its space programme products – satellite navigation, pollution measurement tools, draught monitoring etc. – to the private sector, and several trainees in the Commission and the Parliament.

Career paths in Brussels can be full of surprises: who knew that the best way to keep your fingers on the pulse of the geopolitical space race would be to work for a private consultancy, or that the path from a job in the national representation to one in the EU Commission might lead through the fisheries. Meeting the alumni and hearing about their experiences is an invaluable way to discover unexpected opportunities and learn how to navigate the Brussels job market.

It's good to feel you have a community’

After dinner we headed for a drink to Place de Luxembourg. On Thursday evenings the employees of EU institutions and various other organizations present in Brussels gather there to relax, socialize, and make little backroom deals. The later you stay, the wilder it gets, so we’re not showing you any pictures from that part of the evening. But it did teach us a very important lesson: the ‘Brussels bubble’ is a tough place for newbies: there are many people elbowing for the same jobs, the work is demanding and the hours are long and people are always coming and going, so it can easily feel a little intimidating and lonely. This is why it is great to be part of a community like that of Leiden alumni. It can help open some doors: in several institutions we visited, we were surprised to learn that the person who welcomed us also studied at Leiden and was happy to see our students in their institution. And it helps enormously, when the work gets tough, to know there are friendly faces nearby. ‘There are four of us from last year’s cohort doing the Commission’s BlueBook internship’, said Peter Kiss, who just finished his studies and is now a trainee in DG Near. That’s amazing, because the traineeship is extremely competitive: less than 6% of those applying every year are selected. ‘We all work in different DGs, but we keep in touch. It is good to feel that you have a community’.

This website uses cookies.  More information.