If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve always loved travelling and have loved living abroad ever since my Erasmus exchange in London. In the years that followed my ten-month exchange there, I lived in Valencia and Moscow for shorter periods and loved every minute of it. Last year, I was accepted for a traineeship in Luxembourg and decided to rent a room in a border town in Belgium called Athus. I didn’t enjoy the experience, to say the least.
Translation traineeship at the European Commission in Luxembourg
I applied for this traineeship for several reasons. My master’s in translation sadly didn’t include any practice, and despite having worked in translation before, this traineeship was to be my first full-time «job» as a translator. The second reason is that a traineeship at an EU institution is something that’s supposed to look great on a CV. The third one is simply that I didn’t have any better opportunity waiting for me. Also, my family encouraged me, and so did my boyfriend, Alvaro, and my friends.
Thinking about it now, I think I applied and went for all the wrong reasons. Even before applying, I knew that I didn’t want to work as a full-time translator. I love languages, and I enjoyed my bachelor’s in English and Russian (which included lots of literature too). But even though my master’s studies were focused on translation, I didn’t see it as my profession. Also, I never saw myself living in Belgium or Luxembourg. I wanted to visit Brussels as a tourist, but nothing more than that.
How to apply?
If you’re interested in working for one of the EU institutions in Luxembourg or Brussels, you can apply through this website. At the bottom of the page, you can see the deadlines, the vacancies and the locations (there are some other cities too). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!
Just a disclaimer: traineeships have nothing to do with EPSO exams. You only need to pass the exams if you want to work for the EU as an actual employee. I know very little about them because I knew this wasn’t the job or location for me about three weeks into the traineeship.
It could’ve been an amazing experience if …
there was no pandemic
Many ex-trainees describe EU traineeships as “like Erasmus but better”. Well, it obviously wasn’t like this for us. We were only able to go to the office in October and spent the remaining four months working from home. I did meet some of the other trainees for lunches, drinks or trips in the first few weeks, but that also stopped in November. Consequently, the main similarities between this and Erasmus were gone: no parties, no travel, and no hanging out.
Also, there are lots of activities in which the trainees are supposed to be able to participate: lectures, webinars, trips to Brussels to see the other EU buildings, etc. We didn’t go to Brussels, while everything else was cancelled or done online. We didn’t have the opportunity to go to the office, talk to colleagues and meet people there either.
I hadn’t chosen such a lousy place as Athus
Athus is a shithole. It’s small, ugly and boring. I wrote about it, Lux and some other places in this blog post.
I actually liked Luxembourg
Lux and I just weren’t made for each other. I liked big cities and beaches, Lux is basically just fields and villages. It rains all the time.
I enjoyed the work more
In all honesty, this traineeship made me realise that full-time translation isn’t for me. The texts that I was given to translate were very technical and official (obviously, it’s the Commission). I did learn a lot about using Trados Studio (a translation programme), I got to see what kinds of texts the Commission produces and deals with and visited a couple of the EU buildings in Luxembourg. Working from my room every day meant that I didn’t ask as many questions as I would’ve otherwise and that I didn’t get to chat with people or change my environment. However, my mentor and coworkers were all very kind and helpful, and I think that as a whole it was a valuable experience.
my boyfriend was here all the time
Alvaro only ended up spending two months here because of the travel restrictions, the expensive tests and the lack of work. This hit me especially hard when I came back after Christmas.
I lived with more people
The accommodation situation was a bit funny. At the end of September, I moved into a house in which the renovation wasn’t finished yet. Until a week ago, I only had one other flatmate, a fellow trainee with whom we get along very well, but it was still just me and her in this huge house. If we had more flatmates, we would’ve been able to organize parties or at least get-togethers, just like we used to with my flatmates on Erasmus. Four people moved in last week, but we’re moving out in two.
I spoke French
I wanted to learn French when I first came here and even bought some books and got into Duolingo, but I gave up after about a month. The thing is that I already speak five languages, and there’s room for improvement in each of them (in some plenty). Also, I don’t see myself living in a French-speaking country any time soon. However, if I spoke French or really wanted to learn, I’d probably be happy to be here because it would give me the opportunity to practice. But I don’t, and I’m also not that into Belgium or Luxembourg (or France for that matter).
I’m 100% that this would’ve been a lovely experience if not for covid and if I had perhaps chosen a better location than Athus. I still think that the whole thing has taught me a lot. I am now sure that I cannot work as a full-time translator because the lack of creativity and communication with other people makes me miserable, nor do I want to live in a place with no coast, shitty weather and where a language that I’m not interested in is spoken.
This experience also made me realise how fundamental it is to be surrounded by the people you’re close to. I haven’t missed my family, my friends and Alvaro this much ever before.
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