The main orientation for all students takes place during the first few days the program. Orientation includes informational, cultural, and social activities to acquaint students with each other and with life and business culture in Brussels. All aspects of the program are covered in detail during these meetings. In addition, students will attend orientation sessions at Vesalius College. Internships and classes begin after orientation.
A vibrant, multi-cultural and multi-lingual city, Brussels provides an excellent opportunity for students to experience European working culture first-hand in the “Capital of Europe”. The working languages in Brussels are normally French and Dutch. However, over the years EPA has developed a strong and select network of primarily English-speaking placements across different industries. Spring and Fall students work at their internships for at least 20 hours, or three days, per week, and summer students work full-time.
In most cases, the application process for a work placement is competitive. Typically, EPA will make initial contact with a company by telephone and/or email. EPA will then submit up to three or four of the most promising and suitable dossiers, according to the needs of the company and the application documents submitted by the student. The organization will select the student who best suits their company profile. In many cases, the organization will also request a Skype interview with the student concerned. Only after this will the organization confirm or reject a student’s application. They will pass this information on to EPA and to the student concerned. Students who agree to be interviewed, and who are subsequently offered a work placement, are expected to accept the position offered.
A student accepted to an internship will receive an official confirmation from EPA with the name and contact details of their supervisor, as well as further information regarding the next steps. The whole process can take a couple months just to secure one work placement.
Further details of potential work placements are provided below.
EPA has had success in the past in securing work placements with individual MEPs. Only a limited number are ever potentially available, and these largely depend on the willingness of the individual MEP to take on a foreign student. Occasionally, students have been placed with a non-English-speaking MEP. Such placements are not guaranteed and require a minimum of B2 level (very good – near fluent) to C1 level (fluent) on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).
Students should be aware that MEP offices are very small, often consisting of the MEP (who is not always present), one or two Accredited Assistants, and maybe one or two interns only. The interns are often drawn from the MEPs own constituencies (e.g. an Irish MEP may only take Irish students). Therefore, opportunities are limited. Preference will be given to the strongest dossiers and those in their Junior or Senior year.
Interns placed in offices of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are involved in research, handling correspondence, and attending committee meetings. The European Parliament works on a four-week cycle: three weeks of every month are spent in Brussels on committee work and political group meetings, and the fourth week is spent in Strasbourg for the plenary session of the Parliament.
Outside of the European Parliament, there are other possibilities to engage with the political environment of Brussels. Consultancies, business agencies, and other organizations act as conduits between the various organizations of the European Union, business, and the wider public. Students who secure a position with one of these organizations are often exposed to a wider range of responsibilities and activities than those placed in the Parliament!
EPA has a number of contacts with NGOs which have a European and International focus. These range in size from very small offices to those with thirty or more staff members. NGO placements have previously been secured with cultural organizations, environmental groups, and human rights agencies. NGOs frequently interact with a variety of other organizations. Due to the nature of their work, these positions are never guaranteed since they depend on the organization’s current priorities, their personnel, and their ability to supervise a student.
The working (and living!) languages in Brussels are French and Dutch. Many organizations will ask for both languages in addition to English. This is particularly true of the following sectors: Banking, Finance, Telecommunications, Computing, Sports, Marketing, Retail, Real Estate, Transport.
Please do not ask to be placed with the following European Union organizations. They do not accept applications from non-European citizens, or they have an application process which is not compatible with the service provided by EPA (EPA also maintains a fuller list of incompatible businesses and NGOs):
- The Council of the European Union;
- The European Consilium;
- The European Commission.
Many institutions in Brussels now will not accept students on an unpaid basis unless they can prove that they have the necessary money from an independent source (i.e. non-familial). Therefore, students in receipt of scholarships and/or financial aid should indicate this clearly. Where two students seem equivalent on paper, preference will be given in accordance with their seniority, GPA, scholarships, and work experience.
Obtaining work placements in Brussels is highly competitive and there is considerable pressure on organizations throughout the city. EPA is successful because of its reputation, the number of years it has operated in Brussels, and the extensive international experience of its staff.
EPA makes every effort to match students with EPA’s most appropriate partner organizations in accordance with the students’ own cover letters, interests, and experiences. However, given the length of time required to negotiate a work placement within an organization, any refusal of a suitable work placement may jeopardize the student’s potential of finding another position commensurate with their interests and experience.
|CBL-ACP: Belgian Chamber of Commerce: Africa, Caribbean, Pacific||NGO: Politics and Business|
|ACP-YPN: Africa, Caribbean, Pacific Young Professionals Network||NGO: Politics and Business|
|American Chamber of Commerce, Belgium||NGO: Business|
|EAPN: European Anti-Poverty Network||NGO: Human Rights|
|EHMA: European Health Management Assoc.||NGO: Health|
|ENCATC: European Network of Cultural Management and Policy||NGO: Culture|
|ENCC: European Network of Cultural Centres||NGO: Culture|
|EURAFFEX||Consultancy: Public Affairs|
|Grayling||Consultancy: PR and Public Affairs|
|Kreab Gavin Anderson||Consultancy: Strategic Communications|
|The Right Street||Consultancy: EU Communications and Advocacy|
Brussels students take courses at Vesalius College, the undergraduate English-language division of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB). The campus is located 20 minutes from the European Parliament. Students have access to all the facilities of the Vrije Universiteit including the library and computer resources. European Parliament interns also have access to the European Parliament library.
(Vesalius College, 2010)
During the summer session, Brussels students work full-time at their internships and do not take any classes.