Curiosity, Positivity, and Enthusiasm at the Core


The ELP is about personal and professional growth. It opens a career pathway for those youngsters who want to become European leaders. It also gives them the possibility to decide how to manage their life in Brussels and define their learning process. The ELP involves commitment, effort, interest, curiosity, meeting deadlines, participation in sessions and discussions and community life. With the purpose of inaugurating the 3rd Cohort of the ELP, JESC interviewed two Fellows to dive through their impressions, expectations, ambitions and general thoughts linked to the Programme and their new life in Brussels, the EU Capital.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Swedish citizen. I grew up and studied in Sweden. I realized my LLM in Lund in southern Sweden and did my university exchange in Maastricht. I specialised in European Law and Competition Law. Currently, I am a Bluebook trainee handling procurement matters in the European Commission Directorate-General for Growth. My Unit is responsible for governing the EU interests internationally; this involves negotiating procurement agreements with third countries. Especially now with the COVID crisis, the authorities and the hospitals need to procure under extraordinary measures, products such as testing devices, and different protection garments. This falls under Case Law, where the situation is already covered by extraordinary procedures. We are drafting these procedures in a very simple way to send them to the national authorities to ease their tasks. 

Q: How did you hear about the ELP?

I saw it on Facebook, announced in one of the groups related to Brussels.

Q: When you saw it, what was your motivation to apply?

I really love the European Union and I think the idea and the purpose behind it are great. To work for the European Commission has been a dream. As I said, I started my career here and went back home because I missed it, and now I returned again to work for the Commission. I just want to indulge myself in this bubble as much as I can, so when I saw that there was this possibility to live with a community but also be offered lectures and increase my knowledge of the European institutions while providing the possibility to personal growth, and spiritual growth. I couldn’t help myself from diving in. 

Q: Which of the five pillars (Politics, Learning, Accompaniment, Service & Community) were you most attracted by?

I liked the community aspect. I have been living with other people in different settings by choice for almost 10 years now. Before I came to Brussels I lived with 50 people from 22 different nationalities and we were really trying to create a conscious way of living together. I was attracted by the idea of continuing that path, although I would say in general my motivation was increasing my knowledge of the European institutions. 

Q: What is your opinion on the Programme’s structure? 

I like the structure. One feedback I would give is having it split into two modules. I don´t know if I consider it to be compatible with having a fulltime internship on the side. Now we are in quarantine, so I haven’t experienced this internship fulltime for real. I did experience it during the first two weeks but I also had events with the Commission every evening. I like the ambition of the Programme, and intellectually demanding-wise I love it, but time-wise it is quite challenging. 

Q: Have you been able to enjoy the ‘accompaniment’ sessions?

To be honest, these are special times, so I would say no. Nonetheless, I think I have been encountering the spiritual here and there, approached in some lectures that were not aimed to spirituality but I understood the actual lecturer is a believer himself, so there are a few comments which I considered to be interesting even when I did not necessarily share his views. I become more of a learning observer when topics I do not believe in are raised.  

Q: How are you finding the volunteering experience?

In these times it is difficult to answer objectively. I was looking forward to that pillar but we started confinement after no more than 14 days after arriving here and then the regulations came in so we are not allowed to meet with more than one other person outside of the household. Within the framework of the ELP, I have not been able to contribute, volunteering wise, but what I have encountered is that this situation has given room for volunteering in different settings. I have set walking schedules for the trainees in my Directorate-General so that we have someone to talk to while being out in nature while respecting the rules. This is still a way to volunteer in these times.  

Q: What do you aim to get from the Programme?  

My aim was to increase my learning in any sort of way related to the European Union by reflecting, analysing and experiencing life here. Anything else would be a bonus. 

Q: Three words to describe yourself?

Enthusiastic, curious and positive.

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

The demand time-wise. If we only had to show up 2 or 3 times a week, that would also have been critical but in this case, we have to accomplish daily workload and communicate daily with the ELP team. Coordinating the different communication channels, especially in this period, is also a challenge.

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

I would love to meet Herman Van Rompuy. He was not sure that he would give a lecture for this cohort, but if he agrees to one more session with the ELP that would be extraordinary. I would love to be able to ask him some questions I have in mind. 

Q: What are your interests or hobbies external to the Programme?  

Architecture is very close to my heart. I love beautiful buildings and walking around anywhere new- including Stockholm. Especially here in Brussels, the details in the building and the materials used are very beautiful. Besides, I am an old fencer so I practice it a bit now and then. Politics is also a core interest of mine, but that’s a given. 

Q: Cherry on the cake – Any inspirational person or quote? 

A source of inspiration for me is definitely Christine Lagarde. I would also say Ursula von der Leyen as well. What really stands out about her character is that she went into politics at a rather late age, late thirties. On top of that, she has seven kids, and she still managed to become the president of the European Union. I think this makes her truly remarkable. 

I have three favourite quotes. “The grass grows where you water it,” for instance, if you want to become good in the field of European Law, the more you study the better you will get, whilst if you do soccer you will not progress in your aimed learnings. It is a basic one. The second one is “sooner or later,” meaning you might not reach your goals immediately, however, if you continue putting in the effort and watering the grass, then sooner or later you will reach what you are longing for. The third one is that “no one remembers a coward,” meaning that if you hesitate you might lose the opportunity, so it reminds oneself to just go for it. 

Interview to Hanna Engström
3rd Cohort ELP Fellow
by Alba Requejo