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Last week dozens of European students gathered in Cagliari, Italy. All of them invited by the European Union for an exclusive event to discuss the European progression and gain better understanding of European Policy making. VUB student Denisa Chvojkova who studies the master of communication studies, new media and society, was one of the lucky ones. We asked her how she looks back on her adventure.
What was the purpose of your trip to Italy?
We just returned from the beautiful city of Cagliary, Italy where we participated in a week long student exchange, an initiative from Erasmus+ program. Our main task was to simulate the working sessions of European Parliament and to gain better understanding of European policy making. Being originally from Slovakia, growing up in Prague (Czech Republic) and studying my bachelor in The Hague (Netherlands) and master in Brussels (Belgium), this was a great opportunity for me as I consider myself a true European citizen.
What was the project exactly about and what’s your role in it?
Me and six other participants from Belgium were chosen to represent our country and NGO organisation “Centre for European Progression”. We were divided into political parties and consequently separated into different representatives of committees as civil rights, immigration, economy, internet and future of Europe . I was elected as the president of the committee for civil rights and I acted as a moderator of the discussion in my committee and main speaker and reporter during our final discussion in simulated parliament setting.
Why is the project so prestigious?
It is a great opportunity for every student who seeks to get some practical experience with how parliament discussions work. Since I was elected as a president of the civil rights committee I also tried the role of a moderator and speaker, this was an opportunity that you do not get every day. Not only we learned many new things about lobbying but we also met other students from five different nationalities. Of course I have to mention the wonderful setting as well, we had a chance to travel to Cagliari, Italy where we learned some more about different culture and our trip was fully sponsored by Erasmus+.
How did you end up joining this initiative and why do you pay that much importance to it?
I was interested in getting new experiences which would help me decide in the path of my future career. Also, during my studies in VUB we have plenty of courses about European Union, European Parliament and so on, however these courses only teach us theory and I saw this exchange as a once in a life time opportunity to put my theory into practice.
What did you learn from the experience?
On top of learning about new culture and meeting new people, my dream of putting my theory into practice came true. There is nothing more valuable than having a chance to “learn by doing” and this exchange was exactly like that. On top of having a great time, I am also taking home a YouthPass certificate which is a valuable asset for your resume and an idea to where to steer my career.
How do you see the future of Europe?
That is a very interesting and difficult question to answer. I personally see it from the pessimistic point of view. Elements as mass immigration, top-down approach of politics and businesses, no army and economic slowdown could all doom Europe. But this question is impossible to answer and varies from person to person. It is difficult for me to predict where my future lies, not to mention trying to speculate where the future of Europe is.
Will you use your vote in Europe during the upcoming European elections?
I will be voting during upcoming European Parliament elections because I see voting as an opportunity for change. By not voting you give up your opportunity to choose the leaders who will represent you. Several times I heard young people criticise leaders who were elected and their actions, but once I ask these young people who did they vote for I hear: ”oh no, I didn’t vote, it’s useless”. And this is something I do not understand, you cannot give such a critique to something you had a chance to change or at least influence and you chose not to. It’s a problem of today, lack of young people voting. But luckily there are several initiatives that are trying to spread the word and encourage young people to vote, for instance https://www.thistimeimvoting.eu/. So don’t forget, from 23rd to 26th of May it’s your time to cast your vote!