Profile of Aileen Donegan
Council of the EU Media Monitoring Department
I studied English and Philosophy in NUI Maynooth and, after graduating, undertook an MA in journalism at DIT.
Shortly after I began writing professionally for websites and newspapers, I realised I wanted a more proactive role in current affairs. Instead of reporting events, I wanted to be someone creating them. A friend told me how wonderful his 5-month EU traineeship in Brussels had been so I decided to look into it.
I applied for a traineeship in the Council of the EU. The application process seemed long and daunting at first, but the time I put into completing the online form was worth it. A few months after submitting, I had a phone interview and was offered a position. Before I knew it I was packing my bags and flying over to Belgium.
I worked as a trainee in the Council’s Media Monitoring department for five months. It was a great experience, bringing together all my interests: current affairs, EU politics, media relations and Irish affairs.
Trainees typically work 9.00-5.30pm. Monitoring papers required me to be in a little earlier… 6.30-3.00pm. It sounds terrible, but was actually great! My team and I read various-language newspapers and compiled EU related articles for the cabinet of the President of the European Council. Every week, as President Donald Tusk met with Heads of State and guests from other countries, I helped to prepare Media Intelligence Reports – short reviews of EU-related news the media in that specific country, which the President drew on before his meetings.
Life in Brussels is pretty exciting! Working in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment, with young people from all 28 member states was a great experience. The number of Irish people in the EU also surprised me - I never imagined I’d need a “cúpla focail” in Belgium, but you’ll find, along with dozens of Irish pubs, that there are hundreds of Irish people working in the institutions, including many Irish language translators. The Traineeship Office was very helpful in helping me to settle in and the work life balance just about perfect.
What would I recommend to Irish graduates considering applying for an EU traineeship? Don’t be put off by the application form. Just do it. Apply and see. Know what Institution you want to work for. And don’t let your language skill worries stop you from trying! You’re probably much better than you think you are.