From Language Student to Trainee at the European Commission: How My Language Degree Gave Me Much More than Fluency

Posted on: 16 November 2023 by Veronika Prokopova in 2023 posts

Alumna,  Veronika Prokopova
Veronika attending the Welcome Conference at the European Parliament

In this blog, Veronika Prokopova, a Modern Languages alumna of the University of Liverpool, discusses her new job as a Trainee at the European Commission’s Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels!

As an alumna of the University of Liverpool’s flagship programme Modern Languages: Triple Subject, I now work as a Trainee at the European Commission’s Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels. This is a European Union public body which manages funding for education, culture, audiovisual, and citizenship projects (such as Erasmus+, Creative Europe, the European Solidarity Corps, etc). This is how I got here:

I started at the University of Liverpool as a marketing student, which lasted me only one week before I realised that marketing was not for me. Luckily, with an A-level equivalent in Spanish and some foundations in German, I was able to change degrees the same week.  I decided to take on a challenge: Why study just one or two languages if I could study three! I had always wanted to learn French after all. Although the idea to simultaneously study three foreign languages in a language that was not my mother tongue sounded risky and challenging at the time, my instinct was telling me that this was the right thing to do.

Little did I realise that thanks to this degree I would not only become fluent in five languages in total, but more importantly, I would also gain skills that I would later use daily in my professional life. The European bubble, as people here in Brussels call it, is in fact a highly competitive environment, where an average trainee speaks three languages, so being a proficient speaker is not enough. Luckily, studying languages is about much more than becoming fluent. It teaches you how to communicate clearly, pay attention to detail, think creatively, solve problems, and work under pressure, to name a few. Moreover, more specific tasks that were a part of my university coursework, such as drafting articles, meeting reports, and creating posts, are now among my responsibilities at work.

Additionally, thanks to the programme’s year abroad, I was also able to gain professional experience from different working cultures. I worked as a Teaching and HR Assistant for a language school in Paris, as a Project Assistant in a translation and proofreading company in Vienna, and as a Spanish Teacher in Alicante. This experience helped me to become more flexible, adaptable, and independent, which is necessary in an intercultural work environment like the one at the European institutions. I continue to build on my experience gained during the year abroad, since, as a part of my traineeship, I contribute to the linguistic review of the language modules on the Online Linguistic Support (OLS) platform. Moreover, my advisor told me my application caught his attention when he saw that I was involved in the creation of a Spanish podcast during my undergraduate studies.

After graduating from Liverpool in 2022, I pursued a Master of Science in Language and Intercultural Communication at the University of Edinburgh. When I started looking for jobs back in April 2023, I knew I wanted to re-establish my multilingual lifestyle that I used to live during my studies at Liverpool. I walked from a German writing class to Spanish conversation to French grammar. Living in Brussels and working for the European institutions is in fact like living in all the member states at once. I can have a chat with my flatmates in French, speak with my colleague in English, ask my supervisor in German, then strike up a conversation in Spanish in my favourite café, and in the evening network in Czech. Staying true to my passion for languages, I have also signed up for Dutch courses offered by the state (for 2 euros only!) as well as continued my private Arabic lessons that I started during my masters in Edinburgh. I cannot wait to see where languages take me next.