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How to apply for internships in the European Union? – a practical guide

Young people finishing studies and seeing their future as the European Union’s Official are recommended to do the internship at EU institutions in order to get to know how these institutions operate, as well as the rules and principles they are guided by.

The below text is a sort of practical guide and is based on the Author’s personal experience from her five-month activity in the European Commission (EC).

Traineeship in the EC lasts 5 months and is held in two rounds: summer (1 March - 31 July) and winter (1 October - 28 February).

The application procedure is quite long and usually lasts about 5 months, not counting the period throughout which the application is available on-line. The example of an expected schedule for 2012 is given in table 1.

Table 1.  Schedule for 2012.

 

Summer Session 2012
(1 March -31 July)

Winter Session 2012
(1 October 2012 -28 February 2013)

Opening date of on-line application

1 July 2011, 12.00

2 January 2012, 12.00

Closing date of on-line application

1 September 2011, 12.00

31 January 2012, 12.00

Closing date for sending your postal application

1 September 2011
(as evidenced by the postmark)

31 January 2012
(as evidenced by the postmark)

 

Source: European Commission – Traineeships Office, http://ec.europa.eu/stages/information/application_en.htm#Infotab2, [02.04.2011].

The possibility to do the internship at the EC is addressed to persons who:

  • finished the first cycle of studies (in case of Poland, awarded the graduate degree of bachelor or engineer) before the document submission date;
  • did not undergo paid or unpaid internship at the European Union institutions or were not employed there for longer than 6 weeks;
  • have very good knowledge of two EU languages[1], including one of working languages of the EC (English, French or German).

The following scheme shows the trainee selection procedure:

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After completing the application, every candidate receives a computer generated number which becomes their ID. One should pay particular attention to the section in the application form devoted to the selection of three Directorate Generals (DG) where the given candidate wants to do the traineeship. The list is hierarchical and the first DG on the list is the most preferred one. The way the candidate justifies why they want to do the traineeship in the given DG, is one of the deciding factors in their assessment.

The process of evaluation of each application eligibility[2] starts after the submission of the complete documentation to the address of the European Commission Traineeships Office.  If the application meets all requirements, the candidate does not receive any notification and automatically moves to the next stage.  Otherwise the letter is sent to the e-mail or postal address.

Pre-selection is the next stage of the qualification process.  The Traineeships Office sets up the pre-selection committee composed of the European Commission’s officials. Every application is assessed separately by two evaluators who attribute points, if the candidate meets the specific criteria, according to the following scale:

  • education – from 0 to 6 points;
  • justification (e.g. selection of the appropriate DG adjusted to the personal profile and its justification presentation) – from 0 to 4 points;
  • additional competence (studies abroad, relevant professional experience, language skills, presentation of the portfolio) - from 0 to 6 points.

Points assigned by every evaluator are added up. Next, the candidates are classified according to their nationality and ranked according to the achieved score.

Pre-selected candidates are put in the database of the EC (Blue Book), and their numbers are published on the website (at the end of November for the summer session or in the middle of May for the winter session).

The Traineeships Office establishes for every round, how many persons can do the training and how many trainees exactly can work in every Directorate General. After solving these issues, it is time for the final selection, during which each DG recruits their trainees. The selected candidate receives the letter with the offer of traineeship (for the summer session it is usually before the half of January, and for winter – before the half of July) by email.

The official traineeship at the EC is paid. The monthly allowance constitutes 25% of the basic remuneration for an official at grade AD5/1. One should, however, remember that the EC does not provide the accommodation and it is necessary to look for it on one’s own. It might be helpful using the Trainees Committee (Comité Stagiaires)[3] website, where on a special encrypted site (the access password sent along with the email confirming the eligibility for the traineeship is required) containing announcements about the possibility the rent a room, studio or flat. However, there is no doubt, that finding an interesting opportunity in a convenient location (closeness of the EU institutions, that is, a so-called "European quarter") and at favourable prices, is not a simple task. The recommended locations are: Etterbeek, Ixelles, and among the most prestigious ones: Uccle whether Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

Two first days of the official traineeship are devoted to organizational matters. Every trainee is informed, when they are supposed to appear at the organizational meeting, because considering the large number of trainees (about 600 persons) they are divided into two groups. The formal meeting lasting about 1 hour is held above all in order to get acquainted with the Traineeship Office and acquire the necessary information about the entire organization of the traineeship programme (among others: insurance, opening a bank account[4]). After the meeting the trainees go to the adequate positions, where they receive all necessary documents ("Trainee Guide" is particularly important) and present the original university degree diplomas (this requirement is specified in the traineeship programme).

The opening conference is organised on the third and fourth day. It is the first time all trainees meet altogether, and at the end of the meeting they select their representatives to the Trainees Committee. It consists of 5 members (who deal with matters connected with the current activity, public relations, trips and parties organization respectively) and 3 auditors. Moreover, it consists of numerous subcommittees, such as e.g. career planning, sports or Euroball organization committee, which is one of the most important social events happening during the traineeship.

On the fifth day morning all trainees working within a particular Directorate General gather at the internal organizational meeting, during which a specific DG is presented. Next, they select the spokesman (porte-parole) among themselves, who is a sort of nexus with the Trainees Committee. On that day also the first meetings with the assigned coordinators are held, as every trainee has their supervisor/mentor (adviser) assigned during the traineeship.  They are the ones responsible for establishing the trainee’s scope of duties and tasks in hand, which, as a rule, resemble the ones performed by the official at grade A5. These are among others:

  • organising meetings of working parties;
  • drawing up essential documentation;
  • preparing reports;
  • performing works associated with the text processing, searching for information etc.;
  • attending team meetings.

It is also possible, that the given trainee performs the larger package of tasks, which is established with the mentor each time. However, certain areas remain inaccessible to the trainee. These are all issues associated with increasing financial accountability, being involved in the official negotiations and representing EU institutions outside.

Work at the EC lasts usually from 9.00 to 17.30 (there is one hour lunch break at 12 noon).  Every trainee is entitled to two days of leave in a month.  One have 10 days of holiday entitlement in the entire period of the traineeship, which should be used up, because otherwise they do not receive their monetary equivalent.

The Traineeships Office organises studio visits to the other EU institutions (e.g. European Parliament, Committee of the Regions, Socio-economic Committee).  They usually last half a day and the possibility to participate in the visits by the trainee is valid on the first come first serve basis.

At the end of the traineeship every participant is given the assessment of their five-month-old work by their mentor.  It is worth making every effort and diligently fulfilling entrusted duties, so that the assessment is as best as possible. It is good to attach it to the job application when seeking for employment later on. Moreover the trainee is asked to complete the on-line survey, in which they evaluate the course of the traineeship.  This information is later used by the Traineeships Office in order to improve the next editions of the official traineeships programme[5].

The added value of the traineeship is above all the possibility of getting to know many people of various nationalities and different education.  It is an excellent confirmation of the European Union’s slogan – "united in the diversity".  The traineeship is an unforgettable experience, which will certainly pay off in the nearest or distant future.

So if you want to find out the possibilities the traineeship offers - don't wait and submit your application.  Help your fortune!

I invite you to visit: http://ec.europa.eu/stages/index_en.htm. Perhaps you will be in the next photograph of the trainees.  Remember, Europe is waiting for such people as you!

dr Anna Marszałek

Netography:

European Commission – Traineeships Office, http://ec.europa.eu/stages/information/application_en.htm#Infotab2, [02.04.2011].

http://www.stagecommittee.org/, [02.04.2011].

 


[1] This knowledge cannot be only declared, but should be confirmed with relevant diplomas or certificates.

[2] The traineeship office verifies, whether the given application meets all formal requirements as well as whether the required documents are attached. 

[4] Grant is usually paid around 10th day of each month.  Holders of Polish bank accounts should take the several days' delays into account, which is associated with the transfer of the financial resources.  Therefore, they are recommended opening an account in one of the banks registered in Belgium for the traineeship duration.

[5] It was inaugurated in 1960 and the first edition gathered 3 trainees, 600 persons in the summer edition of 2010 (50th jubilee); there were 10 candidates per one traineeship position.  

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