As a student from the European Studies in English bachelor in Clermont-Ferrand (the same as Lisa Robillard, who was here in 2016), I had to spend my third year abroad. I spent the first semester in Scotland, before moving south for two internships. This bachelor combines a wide range of disciplines, and gives us the tools to understand how the European Union came to be as it is today, but it is, in the end, very theoretical. This is why I decided to find an internship in an organisation that would have a close link to the European Union, so as to develop my knowledge of its practical functioning. EDCs have existed since 1963 and were devised as a mean to foster European integration. I have always felt more European than French, and in a post-Brexit context, working at the EDC seemed like an exciting prospect.
I was lucky enough to start at the same time as another intern, Giulia, and we were able to support and help each other when we needed. First, we were trained on how to create new records in the European Sources Online database, and assigned a European institution, the press releases of which we would index every day. As a way to familiarize ourselves with the process, we started by indexing articles from academic journals, before moving on to the actual institutions. Indexing press releases is not a solitary job, for several institutions might cover the same topic, and good communication between us is important to make sure that we do not create redundant records.
Once we had mastered the art of indexing, we were given secondary tasks by Cardiff EDC Director Ian Thomson, ranging from information guides to updates, to fixing records with broken links, and bringing series up to date. I especially remember indexing reports from French-speaking think tanks in Belgium and France. Some reports from the Egmont think tank in particular, while being very serious and professional, were also very sarcastic, and more than once my fellow interns looked at me as if I was crazy for laughing out loud at international politics… After two weeks, when we were fully settled in, we also started shifts at the front desk. Finally, we had the chance to participate in the celebration of Europe Day on 9 May.
Working for three months at the Cardiff European Documentation Centre, and monitoring the functioning of the European Union every day by indexing the press releases of its institutions has allowed me to develop a more instinctive understanding of it. I no longer feel the need to get back to my class notes every time I come across the name of a certain body, ‘just to check’. But working here has allowed me to use my knowledge much more efficiently by calling on more than just one competence. Reading reports from external organisations has given me a more concrete understanding of the challenges that the Union is facing, and the way outside events have an impact on political relations of the Member States within and outside of the Union. Whereas I tended in the past to focus on theoretical knowledge and history without much care for the present, being confronted to the political and non-political news every day, several times a day, from various sources, especially in a time as rich in elections as this, has made me into a more active and critical observer of the world. I also developed my computer-related skills quite a bit!
Overall, I enjoyed experiencing the professional world in the United Kingdom, for it is more laid back, the sense of hierarchy is weaker here than in France, and this made for a good work environment. It is very interesting to see how the Cardiff European Documentation Centre follows the European Union’s principle of the mutual respect and acceptance of other cultures in its choice of staff and interns (at the time of writing, 5 nationalities are represented among EDC staff, although it was 7 just a few weeks ago). As do most foreigners when they get together abroad, we often had exchanges on cultural differences and our respective countries, each contributing a valuable piece of information or anecdote. Working in an intellectually stimulating context such as this makes the prospect of going to work every morning exciting. We all got along very well, and my co-interns and I will probably stay in touch!
Having lived in each nation of Great Britain, I can say that Wales is the second best place to be (after Scotland)! Cardiff offers a mix of cultural and popular entertainment, beautiful surroundings, and friendly people, it makes you feel at home even if you’re in another country!
I’d like to thank Frederico for never turning down my (incessant) queries, Ian for keeping me busy at all times, Ceri and the part-time interns for always being friendly, and, finally, Giulia and Filippo for getting me out of the house in the week-end, and not judging me for my ‘secret’ stash of biscuits and sweets!
Camille Rey, June 2017