Monday, 27 February 2017

Luxembourg and Brussels, a guide to enjoying study trips

Utrecht University students at the Court of Justice of the European Union

When it comes to study trips, everyone is keen on forgetting the long and studious days or nights before the exams. Along with my classmates of the European Law masters programme we had a very fruitful, professional and also fun study trip to Luxembourg and Brussels. A number of EU institutions welcomed us in their headquarters, providing numerous workshops, presentations, guided tours and even challenging quizzes. After leaving Utrecht at the first hours of the day (in a very comfortable bus) we headed towards Luxembourg, where upon arrival, the Court of Auditors (ECA) was waiting for us, the eager students, to show aspects of the daily functioning of the institution. I must say that this visit was quite interesting, since for a large number of students, it was probably the first contact with such an EU institution. Established to audit the EU’s finances, the results of the ECA’s work are used by the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and the Member States to oversee the management of the EU budget and, where necessary, make improvements.

However, the day after was overly exciting due to the visit to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Our enthusiasm could be easily perceived. Finally we were stepping to that institution which is one of the main actors in the shaping of European law as we know until present days. It was extremely valuable to come in touch with the real place and people that develop EU’s case law, as much as it was inspiring. More than half of the Court’s human resources are made of translators and interpreters, and it was charming to see the swiftness with which they contributed to make the communication between all official languages of the Union possible. During our visit at the CJEU, we had the great chance to attend a court hearing concerning a Dutch tax law case, quite technical in nature as it entailed the explication of the “regulated market” concept, but nevertheless very interesting to attend. Equally nice and enriching, was the meeting with Judge Sacha Prechal, who welcomed us in a private informal lunch. The stay in Luxembourg was quite hectic, as immediately after we paid a visit to the European Investment Bank (EIB), again a “new” institution as regards our knowledge which actually is the world’s largest multilateral borrower and lender. It was interesting to understand that they provide finance and expertise for sustainable investment projects that contribute to EU policy objectives. With this, our Luxembourg visits came to an end and we were fully prepared to spend another fruitful day, this time in Brussels.

What else could be the main attraction for an EU law student in Brussels, either than the European Commission? And of course, this was our next step. The DG for Communication had prepared a list of interesting meetings and workshop for us, starting with the presentation given by Mr. Ludo Tegenbosch on the role of the European Commission as the political executive of the European Union, continuing with the informal meeting with Mrs Simona Constantin, member of the Jourova cabinet, responsible for justice, consumers and gender equality and finishing with Mr Harrie Temminik and his commitment to the digital single market. Our Brussels adventure came to an end with the visit to the Dutch permanent representation to the EU, where very committed Dutch members explained what was it like to work every day with the EU institutions trying to maintain your national country’s interests at the best level. Undoubtedly, it was a true lecture of negotiation.

The Luxembourg and Brussels trip was one of the best memories that students will cherish forever and I want to heartily thank our professor Diane Fromage for her commitment, organisation and of course, patience.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Exams, stress and redefining the meaning of life

Hello everyone! I am Klea, an Albanian girl studying at the vibrant University of Utrecht. In addition, I am going to be the blogger for my masters programme, European law, until the end of the academic year so thank you for joining and hope you enjoy my posts! As an introduction, let me guide you to the starter pack of dealing with exams and paperwork in UU. Off we go!
It’s almost the end of January and by this time the exam period is freshly over, at least for the European Law master programme. Making a quick throwback, I can say without hesitating that it was one of the most stressful parts of my student life, and let me tell you that no matter what you do, at least some little stress and excitement will accompany every each of us during this period and that it doesn’t have to be something inherently bad.
Let me describe what a normal student faces in Utrecht. In a period you are expected to take two courses, with intense studying, tutoring, lectures, seminars, papers, presentations and nice little extra work included. Sometimes you will also have very close deadlines. Such, I had a paper deadline on Friday 13th (!!) 6pm and another the same day, but midnight. So you get the picture. I have the great ability to somehow stay organised and put my writing and my thoughts together always some time before the deadline, but my classmates were coming at the library and quietly saying that “Oh, I have 0 words”. Believe me, that is not a position you would want to be in, especially when your professors are strict! In addition to that, the exams were approaching. For my course on competition law, to somehow ease us from the time pressure of the written exam, the professors thought it was a good idea to propose a take home question. Quick explanation for the ones that maybe are not familiar with the concept: in such a thing, the professors publish a question on Blackboard and expect your answers back by the end of the day. Hence, you are free to do it at home, consult books, friends and everything that crosses your mind. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Well, it was rather the opposite.
The case we had to deal with was obviously long and complicated, but I believe that the more time you are given to resolve something, the more you tend to be insecure and in the end your mind wanders around the most remote and unexplored places. “What if” questions arise one after the other and in the end of the day, you are rushing to meet the deadline. Mostly everyone in my class was experiencing the same thing and when finally it was over, we could only think about food and sleep. The worst thing was that the day after, we had another final exam. And again, after the weekend, the (finally) last one.
Therefore, studying in such a pace is not for the faint hearted, but in the end, everything falls into place. The feelings after exam period are mixed. I always smile when I encounter in daily life very simple products, such as bananas or salt, that were put in market by those companies, the story of which us EU competition law students know by heart. But also, that makes me hate bananas or salt for quite a period of time. Nevertheless, when you come home from the last exam, there is this strange unknown feeling that you’re suddenly free and don’t have to study anymore. So what to do now? Time to find a new meaning in life!

P.S: things are not as sombre as they might look. Soon you’ll get updates about the European young lawyers on their trip to Luxembourg and Brussels! (Trump voice) It’s gonna be a great trip. It’s gonna be absolutely fantastic.