“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”
It’s been quite a time since we had a voice of the past share some personal experience with all of you, interns, trainees, expats and Brussels lovers. Looking forward to the sunny weekend in the city, my mood is promising and so is the portrait of a former EU trainee whose university and professional life I would briefly describe with the following three words: languages, translation, Brussels. This week’s voice of the past, Olga Mourogianni, is a former trainee at the Directorate General for Translation of the European Commission.
Interviewed by Georgios Vardakis, UNRIC Office for Greece and Cyprus
Share with us your studies and professional experience in a nutshell.
I’ve always been passionate about language learning. This is why I studied translation and interpreting at a graduate and postgraduate level at the University of Corfu in Greece, as well as at the University of Strasbourg in France. I think that my life was influenced to a great extent by my short-term stay in Brussels as an Erasmus student some years ago at the Haute École de Bruxelles (ISTI). Right after the end of my studies, I was invited for a traineeship at the Directorate General for Translation (DGT) of the European Commission from October 2013 to February 2015. After the traineeship and without giving it much thought, I decided to stay in Belgium and here I am now, currently working at a global health services organisation since March 2014.
A traineeship in translation in the DGT of the European Commission is considered by many as the best possible scenario for a translator. According to your 5-month experience, where does the prestige of such an internship really stem from?
In an era where traineeships and placements in general are the compulsory first step for kicking off any professional career, the European institutions are undoubtedly the most prestigious employer: an international environment, ideal working conditions, excellent salary and numerous opportunities for growth. A traineeship there can provide you with valuable insight into the EU processes and policies and can definitely set the basis for a future career as an EU official. Moreover, multilingualism is a founding principle of the EU. Especially for translators, the importance of the European institutions is highlighted by the fact that 24 languages enjoy equal rights as official and working languages. Even relatively “exotic” languages, such as Greek in my case, are given the importance they deserve as official languages of an intergovernmental organisation. The above reasons are just an indication but I think they are more than enough to prove that this traineeship is indeed “the best possible scenario”.
Any hints for future applicants? Were there any points during the application and selection process that you think need some special attention?
There’s nothing tricky about it that would need special hints. Actually, the procedure is pretty straight-forward. The online application is very easy to fill out and all the related information is available on the official website. Two paid traineeship periods of 5 months are held per year by the European Commission, starting on either 1st March or 1st October. The European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, the European External Action Service as well as various smaller agencies also offer traineeships with a different duration. All the information can be found on the official website of each institution. Just be careful not to miss any deadline, as the application period usually closes quite early (e.g. end of January for a Commission traineeship starting in October). There is no walkthrough that will bring you closer to being selected as the competition is really high, especially the last couple of years. However, a master’s degree is considered a must, and any experience abroad can definitely help you score some extra points.
Brussels is the place to be for a traineeship with the European institutions. Tell us 3 things that you love about Brussels and 3 things you wished you didn’t have to deal with in your everyday life.
Brussels is the heart of the EU and home of the most important European institutions. As such, it’s the ideal place for people who are looking for challenging jobs in the European sphere. Apart from the job opportunities, this city has an amazingly international colour. You can meet people from every nook and cranny of the world on a daily basis; no one feels a foreigner here and I find this particularly intriguing. Last but not least: guess what! You don’t even have to speak French in order to survive!
On the negative side, Belgian administration and red tape is a significant drawback. I will never forget the endless hours of queuing patiently outside the Commune just to get an official stamp. Secondly, the weather in Brussels can drive you crazy. You can see all four seasons passing before your eyes in a matter of minutes. Last, Brussels is a crossroad; many people will stop by but few of them will put down roots in. People constantly come and go and this might be frustrating for someone who actually wants to settle down.
Finally, describe shortly why people should keep on pursuing traineeships or internships.
It’s an amazing experience and it’s worth trying. I applied twice for this traineeship and I only made it the second time. So, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it the first time, and always keep in mind that where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. Good luck!