Freya van Ellen - Parliamentary Assistent at the European Parliament
Freya van Ellen graduated from the University of Groningen in 2016. She has been parliamentary assistant at the European Parliament in Brussels, after which she went back to university to finish her Masters.
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What did your job entail? “My job was very diverse. A parliamentary assistant is the right hand of a Member of the European Parliament. Dr. Christian Ehler, the member I worked for, was very active. He was the Chair of the Delegation for the Relations with the United States of America, Chair of the Intergroup “Creative Industries”, Vice-Chair of the Committee for Security and Defence, member of the Conference of Delegation Chairs, the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy, the Special Committee on Terrorism and Substitute member in the Committee for Foreign Affairs and the Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula. I was responsible for the Intergroup, the Security and Defence Committee, the Terrorism Committee, the Delegations and the Conference of Delegation Chairs. Especially Members of the European Parliament, who are as active as Dr. Ehler, do not have the time to prepare for every meeting by themselves, and to manage their office and travels next to their busy schedule. That is the task of the parliamentary assistant. The tasks within this field are very broad, including speech writing, event organization, communication with other European Union organs, embassies, other organs outside the EU and the local office, memorandum writing, attendance of meetings, legislative work (writing policy proposals, making amendments, bringing in new legislative proposals, etc.), but also office and travel organization. It is very busy, but it also never gets boring, since your job is different every day.”
What were the biggest challenges in your job? “The biggest challenge in my job was to finish everything I had to do on time, especially with a lot of external factors adding to the equation. I knew how to organize my work in order to be done on time, but external factors made it more difficult. An example: I had organized a conference in the European Parliament, including catering, arranging speakers from many EU organizations (including for instance Commissioner Gabriel), taking care of the 100 attendees, and more. At eight o’clock in the evening before the day of the conference, which was supposed to start at 10 o’clock the next morning, I got a call that it was impossible for Dr. Ehler to be at the conference due to problems with his flight. Since he was the host, it was necessary to reorganize everything. Instead of cancelling the conference, it was necessary to organize a new speaker, inform all participants, etc. The work is busy, often leading to very early mornings and very long evenings.”
What did IRIO teach you that you use often in your job? "IRIO taught me how to think in an interdisciplinary manner. In my job I encountered many topics I did not know anything about before. However, I learned in IRIO how to cope with these new topics and look at them from many different perspectives. Also, the knowledge gathered about the EU and other international organizations helps a lot in the job.”
Was this the kind of job you imagined to have when you started studying IRIO? “I actually never thought I would get to this position so fast. I visited the European Parliament with Clio during my first year and saw one of the parliamentary assistants of the Member we met. I thought that that would be a very interesting job. When I did an internship at the office of Dr. Ehler I did not expect to be in this job this fast. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”
What advice would you give to yourself as a student? “An advice I would like to give to myself as a student is to be less worried about my future and to enjoy more. Be a good student and study hard, but also make time to waste time. I did not do that enough during IRIO.”