Ben Plumer, EU Affairs Intern and University of Bath Politics and International Relations student, has recently come to the end of his placement in the Bristol and Bath Brussels Office. Ben joined the office in November 2020 and has been working as EU Affairs Intern as part of him placement year. Ben has been a brilliant asset to the International Relations Office, working to provide important insight into the EU educations landscape.
Ben reflects on his time in Brussels:
Moving and working abroad is not something that many people are able to say that they have done recently, but I am a lucky exception. For the past six months, I have been working as EU Affairs Intern for the Bristol & Bath Brussels Office as part of my placement year at a very historic time for EU-UK relations. As part of my role I have been working to support some of the University’s actions in Europe and other partners in the South West region. The placement has given me a real grounding in the European political environment and decision-making machinery, having been very involved in understanding how EU political decisions impact organisations, and also the numerous opportunities that it can bring.
For the University, I have regularly attended and reported on EU events that were of relevance, such as potential EU funding opportunities through programmes like Horizon Europe and remained vigilant on Brexit updates, looking at whether or not UK entities could participate in certain EU programmes. I have provided support for the Placements Department in researching new placement opportunities in Europe and clarifying the new placement rules after Brexit. We’ve also helped recruitment, raising awareness of funded PhD opportunities at Bath at European universities for foreign students and have looked at what the future of the European Universities Initiative could look like, through both position papers from stakeholders and also events put on.
I have enjoyed working in a small team as it meant that I got to be involved in wider range of activities, such as working on the social media side, which I had not had experience of before. This has allowed me to widen my understanding of communicating messages to a wide range of people, and even created video content. I also contributed to the planning of an event for Brussels based alumni and placement students, which was more complicated than usual due to the pandemic (as most things were!). This gave me an understanding of the level of coordination required to organise a remote event, such as ensuring that the technology worked for the number of people who had signed up. Attending EU events has also improved my ability to pick out the key information in what often very wide ranging discussions, which I hope will leave me in good stead for future readings for final year.
Living in Brussels was a unique experience, and I was able to do and visit quite a lot despite the pandemic. It was nice to be able to visit the city’s sites without the usual number of tourists, and most importantly, it was nice to show off my ability to have a haircut to my very jealous friends in the UK! There were many green and spacious parks to enjoy, and Belgian chocolate shops somehow wrangling essential status and remaining open during the lockdowns was a very welcome surprise. It was also nice to see the various EU buildings that are so consistently splashed all over the news. I have had a great time abroad, particularly during such a pivotal moment in the UK and EU’s shared history.