The ELP is about the personal and professional (with an EU focus) growth and opening career pathways for those youngsters recruited as Fellows. It is also a space to give them a possibility to decide how to manage their life in Brussels and define their learning process. A weighty part of the ELP is setting and meeting deadlines, planning the week for lectures and social gatherings and committing to fulfilling the level of responsibility required by the Programme. These daily personal decisions nurture their self-development within the framework of the ELP,  which will give them tools for their potential future as leaders. In the search for an ELP insider perspective, JESC interviewed the representative Fellow of each Community – Beguinage and Fauchille – to dive through their impressions, expectations, ambitions and general thoughts linked to the Programme and their new life in Brussels, the EU Capital.

Raffaella Borruto

Raffaella is twenty-five years old, from Calabria in Italy. She studied a Master ‘s Degree in International Relations and she would like to work in the EU institutions. This is one of the main reasons she is in Brussels; the EU Capital is the host city of the ELP. She was here previously, two years ago, to do an Erasmus while taking her Master ‘s Degree and then an internship in the Corporate Governance Sector as a Data Procurement Analyst for the French, Belgian and Dutch market. She knows Italian, which is her mother tongue, English, French and a little bit of Spanish. Her level of French will help her to move around Brussels as she has used it as a working language; she watches movies and documentaries, reads and feels confident using the French language in general. 

Qs: A simple start: How did you hear about the ELP? And what was your motivation to apply, besides ending up in a European Institution – how do you think this will nurture you towards becoming a better leader?

I heard about the ELP because of a friend, and I was interested in the ELP since it seemed very diverse so I decided to apply in order to make a two-fold experience, both educational and professional. I applied to this position because I thought it was a good start to my future professional career in Brussels or in the EU; but also, on the personal side, I think the ELP can help me to grow on a personal level by interacting with people with ideas and projects that are very different from mine, so it could be a way to expand my views and have more hints for my future life.

Q: Do you think IR was somehow transversal so this Programme could give you further specialization? 

Yes, IR is transversal and not vertical education, so it depends on what you want to do in the future. In my case, I still do not know where I will be in five or ten years but I wanted to put into practice my soft skills, to become a better professional figure in the future and I would also like to know a bit more on Development and European Projects, so I think in this regard the ELP can give me this further knowledge. 

Q: We want to know the point of view of the fellows. What is your opinion on the Programme’s structure? Do you think it’s a good combination to combine Knowledge with Spirituality?

Yes, I think that when thinking about our personal and professional growth, they go hand in hand so while working on our Professional steps, we should also look at our inner side and this is a Programme that helps you to do both. As Fellows we are all interested in European Affairs, Multiculturalism and Volunteering or serving the society and hence, being in projects such as Serve The City, living with each other will be a way to progress in the inner self sphere.

Q: What do you think about Volunteering?

I think it can be a life changing experience. I already worked for a couple of years for the Red Cross so I have experience in this but I think that trying different arenas and countries where to volunteer can provide you with different understandings in every level. If you consider to work for an international organization or at the European Level for an organization serving other people, I think that volunteering now can give added value to taking part in this future projects.

Q: Do you feel like these soft skills were taught to you in the past, or do you consider this Programme will cover some of the gaps from your past education?  

I think that University covered this partially because I was educated on the theoretical side and this gave us some hints to do volunteering or to also develop ourselves, but it was left more up to you. I finished my master ́s so I have the theoretical basis covered but I still want to develop this self-part of me because apart from the education I received I feel we need to put the theoretical part into practice, all the things we learnt and I believe by volunteering and community living we can work on this. 

Q: Three words to describe yourself?

I am talkative, open-minded and curious. I think these are in my core skills. I think those elements are really transparent, they are elements that you can find in me whether I am working, socialising or living the community life. I think being open minded, being flexible and curious are elements much needed to be the best version of you. 

Q: Three words to describe the ELP?

Diversity, Commitment and Spirituality. 

  1. Diversity because it makes a lot of people gather with different mindsets, we are not the same and we come from different backgrounds and countries;
  2. Spirituality because the ELP works in a Spiritual way as well and gives the possibility of having coaching so I can see how the ELP really cares about our self-development;
  3. Commitment because the JESC and the ELP care also about Ecology but also Leadership, and these two are buzz topics nowadays, especially for young people. Ecology, for example, is one of the current recurrent topics. 

Q: What do you think will be the most challenging part of the Programme? 

I think maybe adaptation will be a challenge and also finding a way to fulfill all the goals of the ELP simultaneously in a strict amount of time. 5 months is not a lot and the Programme is very intense.

Q: What part of the Programme you are looking forward to the most; meeting any speaker, a specific lecture or activity?

I am looking forward to step up my soft skills and I think having a really colloquial lecture with the host, the speakers and the teachers will be a way to understand how to act after the Programme and how to insert myself in Brussels professionally.

Q: What are your interests or hobbies external to the Programme’s areas of focus?  

I am very sociable, I try to experience as many activities as I can; I like drawing and doing some sports and travelling, which is one of my favourites. I have travelled to European countries such as Belgium, France, UK, Spain, Chezc Republic and besides, Africa, I went to Tunisia. In Tunisia I did an internship for three months for my Embassy. I was the only intern so I basically gave support. I worked a lot with the Cultural and Press Office so I did Press Releases, so essentially the Communication branch. I also engaged in Event management and gave support in Administration to the Secretariat of the Embassy. 

Q: To wrap up your account, do you have any inspirational person or quote? 

Yes, besides my family, the exMajor of Riace, a little town close to my city. He created a new model to integrate migrants in the region; And despite the legal controversies of this period he really showed commitment to opening our culture and Southern regions to the others. He developed a new way of integrating refugees in society, with new projects or working projects, it was also a way to repopulate small regions in the South. 

Barnabás Felicián Tóth

Barnabás Felicián Tóth comes from Budapest, Hungary. He studied Political Science, first a BA and consecutively a Master‘s Degree at the Central European University. He did a summer internship at one of the leading Hungarian News Sites where he was a trainee journalist. Besides his University studies, throughout the years he has been involved in the Hungarian College movement, which encompasses a set of student self-organised organizations providing some sort of time and management programmes and he took an active part of this community for several years, holding different responsibilities there. 

Q: What topics did you write about on the articles? 

I am mostly interested in Hungarian minority politics. There are quite large Hungarian minorities in Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine, so I was writing about them, the performance of their parties in the European Parliament elections, and how they use the state grants. My major project involved travelling two days to Serbia to make some interviews, along with a photographer, and I made quite a thorough article of the financial aid given by the Hungarian state to the local economy to develop the region and that was a serious media coverage because it has not happened before, so it was quite a serious topic.

Q: How did you hear about the ELP? 

One of my friends forwarded the email sent by Botond Feledy as he knew that I wanted to go to Brussels. I applied and I am happy to say I was recruited, I was given this opportunity. 

Q: What was your motivation to apply to the ELP, besides your previously mentioned interest in political representation and advocacy? 

I have several motivations. I was living in a College for five years so I developed a strong sense of Community; I was very active in the social life, when you always have someone to talk to, to organize and some event going on. In this sense, the ELP is a very good way of making a smooth transition period between a very active college life and adult life; in between you have a community to live with. The other main factor is that I like getting involved in responsibilities within the Community I live with. Somehow the ELP fits with my character.

Q: Which of the Five ELP Segments are you most interested in? 

Well, it is a hard question. As I mentioned I am very interested in the Community life, the Leadership sphere is attractive and seems to fit with my interests; but one of my major goals of enrolling in the ELP is getting to know better the European Union institutions and how they work. The ELP gives an additional possibility to other EU traineeships and I am also quite happy that we have this Spiritual part. I come from a non-religious background and I have always been curious about religion and I think it’s an opportunity to learn and experience.

Q: At university, you majorly learn at a theoretical level, so what kind of Soft Skills do you think you will acquire mostly in the Programme? 

I think we will acquire many soft skills, certainly. One of the most challenging things for me will be to have conversations with leading politicians or Leading Representatives, because I had some occasions like this but not the same as I have here. As we will be only eight of us, in comparison to when there are twenty or thirty students in a lecture, we will have more direct communication. So I am very much looking forward to practicing how to ask questions, be talkative in such situations and be aware of the topics brought up. I studied at the Central European University, one of the most international universities in the world, but still, living in this Community with people who come from different backgrounds and cultures is something to learn from. 

Q: What are your expectations of the ELP? 

I expect it to be very dynamic and intense as we also combine it with an internship and the duties we have connected to the Programme. We will have to be conscious about the different tasks and learn about self-time management. By the end, I expect to feel much more comfortable here in Brussels, within this European Union bubble and to feel more comfortable with multicultural and institutional interaction.

Q: Three words to describe yourself? 

I am a Community person, I think it is important to take part actively in the community life and matters. I am active, I always keep myself busy with things I have an interest in. Besides, I am ambitious and demanding in terms of what I expect from myself quality wise and my performance.

Q: Three words to describe the Programme? 

It is a possibility; it depends a lot in how we exploit this possibility. The Community, which I will enjoy a lot; and the third is challenge. To live within this opportunity is the challenge for all of us. We have to realise what this can give to us, very practical things to apply to our professional career and teach us how to proceed if we feel more anxious or challenged. 

Q: Do you have an inspiring person or quote to fuel your hopes while embracing situations? 

I like very much the quote ̈ Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm ̈. It is attributed to Churchill. It is a humble sentence and it tells you to be persistent. This is very true and sometimes we are not aware that success is not good luck but something you have to persist on.  

Interview by Alba Requejo

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