6 months under 12 stars – an enlightening experience

August 29, 2014 Comments (0) Culture & Education, Indonesia & The EU

My name is Julie, I am 25 years old, from France and I spent the last 6 months in Indonesia doing an internship at the Delegation of the European Union in Jakarta. Jakarta is a surprising city. It is like a shy, wild person who might reject you at first, but if you take the time to listen to her and learn to appreciate her, you will be really surprised and will have difficulties to leave her. I could write an entire article about Jakarta but this is not the right place.

So instead, let me tell you a bit about my experience as an intern at the EU Delegation in Jakarta. What was it like? Here is a little illustration:

Julie in-article Pic

Joking apart, there is of course more to being an intern at the EU Delegation in Jakarta. During the last 6 months I have learned a lot about the EU and its work in Indonesia. But what is more important, I have also thought a lot about what the EU and being European really means.

Like many European citizens in their mid-20s, I do not have strong memories about a currency other than the Euro. I also consider it normal that travelling from one EU country to another is as easy as travelling within my own country – no border checks, no visas, and not even a passport is needed to travel in Europe’s Schengen area. And, just like many of my fellow European students I took it for granted to spend one year abroad in another European country thanks to the Erasmus programme. An experience that has broadened my horizon and that gave me an opportunity to make friends from all around Europe. In short, we are the generation that grew up with the EU without being too aware of what the EU is and what being European means.

To be honest, although being a European citizen has a clear impact on my life, I have never really thought about my EU identity – unlike some university friends of mine who majored in European Studies and who were living and breathing for the EU. Yes, I was convinced that the EU enriched our lives and I was in favour of a greater and deeper cooperation among European states. But when I decided to do this internship in the EU Delegation in Jakarta I did not have very precise expectations.

I can say now that before working for 6 months in this Delegation I had never fully realized how unique and beautiful the EU is.

Being abroad and feeling at home at the same time is what you can feel when you work in an EU Delegation. I remember my first day – after getting lost in Jakarta, I entered the office: 28 flags, a map of Europe painted on the wall and 12 stars. Something familiar at 11 000 kilometres from home; something meaningful.

I also remember the first meeting I attended during which we talked about the motto “United in Diversity”. It has never appeared more relevant to me than after these 6 months. The people working at the Delegation speak several languages and have their own national identity that they are proud of. But they can also build on amazing working experiences that they acquired in Europe and around the world. Beyond their own stories, they share strong values they believe in. They work to help societies improve and develop. And more than that, they are related to something bigger than just themselves: the EU identity. They are like a family.

During my time at the Delegation, I have also attended several Member States meetings – and they remind me of big family reunions. Through regular meetings representatives of the Member States get to know each other well; they build personal contacts and professional relations, exchange views and discuss their national interests. These reunions, just like family gatherings, also help to find a common ground. To some extent, this common ground is the joint interest of EU Member States. But it is also more than that – it is neither below nor above the national interest, but in a completely different dimension. A dimension that representatives of the Member States and EU workers are creating together. For me, this is the most beautiful thing about the EU. The EU is not only a compromise between different national interests but the result of a common will, which transcends them. Every EU worker and every EU Member States diplomat, every day, everywhere in the world, participate in creating and making wider this space, this new area of possibilities.

It is a family working to ensure peace, build trust and respect and try to help those who are not part of it. And even though Europeans are not always conscious about their European identity, leaving Europe clearly makes them realise that Europeans have something more that binds them together. They have memories and every day they create new ones.

They share a common future.

We share a common future.

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