Traineeships at the EC: an insider's view

Traineeships at the EC: an insider's view
By Charlotte Cullen
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Did you know that the European Commission offers a range of traineeships from law and human resources to environmental policy? Even better, they reimburse you €1000 a month and travel expenses! Obviously the competition for places is pretty fierce but since 1960 over 40,000 graduates have completed their traineeship there. In this blog I chat to one of the current trainees to talk about her experience to get advice for anyone thinking of applying.

Hello Justyna, how are you?

Fine, thanks and you?

Great! Thank you for chatting with me today. So where are you from before taking this traineeship in Brussels?

I was born in Poland in a city called Wroclaw but I grew up in Baden-Baden, Germany.

So you speak Polish, German and English? I am struggling learning French at the moment and it is only my second language!

Yes, oh and French! At university I also learnt a bit of Spanish and Arabic, but I am a long way from speaking Arabic.

So what was your work or study background before you started your traineeship?

I studied European Studies. Currently I am enrolled in a Masters of European Public Administration. As part of the course we are required to take the third semester abroad. I was lucky enough to get a traineeship at the Commission. So actually I am still a student and will finish my degree in July.

So what is your role at the Commission?

I am at the Traineeship Office where my main task is to organise the pre-selection of future trainees. That means that I organise the meetings of different national groups who come together to evaluate the applications for a traineeship at the Commission. The Traineeship Office is in the Directorate-General (DG) Education and Culture.

And are there different types of positions available to trainees or are they just in that department?

Yes, there are different types of positions and most of the DGs at the Commission have trainees corresponding to their field of work. So as a trainee with the Commission you can work on many different things from Higher Education to the EU’s policy on Agriculture or Fishery. It just depends on which DG or unit you are in, and of course also on your own profile

What skills do you think you will gain from this internship that will make you different to other job seekers in the future?

First of all, I have learnt to work in a very multicultural environment and to express myself in several languages during the day. Furthermore, I think having worked at the Commission will prove that I have not only studied European Studies but that I have actually worked there and gained firsthand experience in the EU’s day to day work.

Concerning my physical tasks of organising the pre-selection of candidates, I have learnt to organise and coordinate events while taking into account different national habits and customs. I don’t think many other job seekers have experience in organising an Italian, French and Greek committee.


It sounds like a great opportunity! What would you like to do in the future, after you finish studying?

I would be very happy to stay in Brussels, preferably with the Commission as I enjoy working here a lot. But of course it is difficult to get in. During my studies I also focussed on Polish-German cooperation and I am also personally very interested to work in this field.

So has the experience been all about work? Has there been much time to enjoy your new city and meet other trainees?

Of course I have gotten to know a lot of nice people from different countries and have had the opportunity to meet them at events after work. I actually celebrated my birthday this Friday. I think that will stay in my memory as I have never been serenaded in so many different languages! Also the city of Brussels is particularly interesting for me as I am a huge flea market fan.


What a great experience! So what skills and qualifications are needed to get in?

Most of the trainees who get (pre)selected have a Master’s degree and have some experience abroad. Then of course it is appreciated if you have done some extracurricular activities and that you speak several languages. But of course you cannot generalise it like this. I would say that the most important thing is that you make your motivation clear in your application and that you can explain what you could bring to the Commission through your skills gained from studies or work.

Thanks Justyna for your good advice and for your answers. Good luck with everything in the future.

Get involved!

Although the applications for 2013 are now closed, the process will begin again in July this year for the 2014 intake (it is quite a lengthy process). This gives you some time to fill up those CVs and boost your skills before applying!

When the time comes, the first step is to find out if you meet the requirements, I suggest reading the FAQ to check if your work experience is relevant and that you meet the language requirements. When you are ready to apply, first you need to register on the Commissions website, next fill out the application form and finally gather and send off all the required supporting documents, such as, proof of qualification, evidence of languages and copies of identification. As Justyna said, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is required to be accepted, however, the Commission themselves say they make their decisions based on a combination of academic profile, language abilities and other personal qualitites.


If you get past the initial pre-selection process you have made it to the top 2,600 most suitable applications. This will then be cut down to around 650 for each session based on their requirements. If Justyna’s account isn’t enough to make your decision about applying, click here to read more testimonials from previous trainees.

Good Luck everyone!

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