I recently got back from a very interesting week in the European Parliament in Brussels. I joined 20 college students from 11 different countries for an eventful programme which allowed young and ambitious teens to get a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and experience the inner workings of the European Union. For myself, a politics student with a strong interest in international relations, finding out I had been selected for this programme was a huge honour.
After travelling from London to Brussels, I arrived at the EU Members’ Salon where I met the rest of the group and proceeded to eat the fanciest meal I have ever eaten! During the lunch, I got to know the other students and we all got on straight away; from that point, I knew that the week was going to be wonderful. We also got to speak with Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch MEP and Vice President of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament, who welcomed us to the event.
We then visited the House of European History which covered the histories of the EU countries and how the EU came to be what it is today. One exhibition which stood out to me was a single, lone gun about the size of my hand; it was one of the three guns used in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, ultimately the beginning of World War One. As an aspiring peacemaker, seeing this really hit home: to think such a small, trivial object could be the cause of millions of deaths was shocking.
The remaining four days were just as interesting, informative, and insightful as the first. We took part in a range of activities each day, including visits from NGOs, attending conferences and meeting with MEPs and journalists. The theme of the programme was Youth and Democracy in Europe therefore the majority of activities were focused around disinformation and its substantial increase due to the emergence of social media.
While everything we did was brilliant, my personal highlight was speaking with MEP Mlinar from Austria. I found her incredibly motivating and a fantastic spokeswoman who answered every question that we fired her way. She is an advocate of migration (a topic which is also of great importance to me) and of gender equality, and on top of all this she is a lawyer, another profession which I am interested in. MEP Mlinar gave me helpful advice on how to get where I want to be, and I hope to one day achieve what she has. Another amazing moment was meeting with my very own MEP, Lib Dem Catherine Bearder. I was able to have lunch with her, where I asked questions about the environment and other topics.
The Liberal Young Visitors Programme has been one of the best weeks of my life, one that has allowed me to make friends from across Europe and get the hands-on knowledge and experience of which most can only dream of. I have been inspired, and I hope that this week is the beginning of my life in politics and my journey to making this world a better, safer, and happier place for all.