A life-changing experience
Why did you choose a traineeship in the program at NSC?
I have always had a strong interest in international cooperation and development, and more particularly in the role of youth in constructing inclusive and prosperous societies for the future. Growing up in the Mediterranean region, where young people represent the biggest share of the population, I am firmly convinced of the imperative of empowering youth as actors of governance.
The Council of Europe, and more particularly the North-South Center (NSC), have one of the most dynamic and innovative youth empowerment programmes. The Youth Cooperation Programme of the North-South Centre provides renown training and capacity-building activities for young people and youth organisations and is a major actor in the facilitation of their participation in decision-making.
A traineeship at the NSC was thus a unique opportunity to have a closer look on the youth field at global and European level, as well as to discover unique bodies such as the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe, which is composed of representatives from youth NGOs and networks that provide opinions and input on all youth sector activities.
Was the application process difficult?
The application process was composed of two steps: sending a CV and a motivation letter through an online portal to the NSC programme of interest, and then in a second phase, if shortlisted, an interview with its team. The process was focused on the personal motivations of the candidates rather than on their previous knowledge or technical capacities, to ensure that the selected trainee would be a good fit in the NSC team. It was therefore not difficult as it was aimed not as a test, but as an exchange to learn about the ambitions, interests and dispositions of each candidate.
What did you do during the traineeship?
As a trainee in the Youth Co-operation programme of the NSC, I have assisted the programme manager in organising the main activities of the second semester 2016, namely the 17th University for Youth and Development and more particularly the 5th Global Education and Youth training for trainers implemented by the Center under the iLEGEND project, co-financed by the European Commission. The University for Youth and Development is one of the flagship activities of the Center and gathers, for a week, more than 250 young people from all over the world in Mollina (Spain) to participate in several training activities organised by various youth led and youth serving organisations (European Youth Forum, Youth for Exchange and Understanding, the Spanish Youth Council…).
During the preparatory phase of the activity, under the supervision of the programme manager and in coordination with the international and local partners involved in the organisation of the event, I have drafted and edited main working documents and communication outputs, supported the selection of participants and arranged the logistical details of their travels and stay in Mollina. I took part of the coordination meetings with the partners during the event and had the opportunity of participating myself to interesting seminars on youth policy organised in this framework. After the implementation of the activity, I focused on its follow-up, assisting with the organisation of evaluation meetings, the drafting of its internal and external reporting and the design of its next edition.
More generally, I have also supported the whole NSC team in horizontal activities, such as the organisation of the 22nd edition of the Lisbon Forum and the preparation of NSC governance bodies’ meetings.
What was the most interesting and the hardest task for you?
The hardest task I have carried out during my traineeship at the NSC was also the most interesting: assisting with the general coordination of the University on Youth and Development. Having to deal with the arrival of more than 250 participants and arrange a safe and stimulating working environment for them during a week was very stressful but it has made me, at the same time, develop valuable and fundamental skills. This responsibility pushed forward my teamwork, stress management and problem-solving abilities. It has enhanced my intercultural understanding and gave me the opportunity to meet inspiring young people that lead very interesting projects across the world in the youth field. It was a life-changing experience and I cannot thank enough the NSC team, and particularly my supervisor, for the trust and the opportunity!
What did you learn at NSC?
My traineeship at the NSC has given me key competencies to evolve at professional level. It has, on the one hand, enabled me to acquire a broad understanding of the youth field, with its policies, dynamics and actors, as well as a deep knowledge of project management and financing, particularly of EU-funded projects. The traineeship was also a beautiful human experience. Working with its small and friendly team has taught me, alongside the technical skills mentioned above, to work under pressure autonomously and independently, as well as within a dynamic and very multicultural framework; always keeping a proactive and positive attitude.
Does every trainee have a tutor in the department where they are being trained?
Every trainee has a designated tutor in the Programme he/she has applied for. The tutor is generally the Programme manager, who plans, oversees and follows up the tasks of the trainee during the whole traineeship period. All the Programme managers generally organise sessions to present their projects and activities to the team of trainees from the start, which enhances contacts between the teams and creates a thriving working environment.
How did you spend your time outside of work?
Lisbon is a marvelous city to discover. On top of its fantastic weather that allows to go to the beach very frequently (short winters and long warm summers), the city offers a laid-back and affordable lifestyle with a vast range of cultural activities for young people. The various neighbourhoods across Lisbon present a very interesting mix of historical heritage and vibrant new creative hubs to explore. Moreover, its cafes and restaurants are cheap and always buzzing with friendly locals as well as international students. The city is indeed very multicultural and allows to meet new people very easily. Besides the city itself, Lisbon is surrounded by beautiful beaches, parks and reserves, and is very well connected to the rest of the country. With cheap train or plane tickets, one can easily access over a weekend the other big cities of Portugal.
Is the trainee's salary sufficient?
Unfortunately, the NSC does not offer remunerated traineeships; the trainee has to cover his/her own fees during the duration of the experience.The North-South Centre does however cover the trainees for medical and accident insurance during the traineeship period.
Did the traineeship help you to find a job you were interested in?
This experience has been decisive regarding my professional perspectives. Indeed, I have found a job after the traineeship at the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), an intergovernmental institution bringing together 43 countries to promote dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with a strong focus on young people’s potential to promote stability and development. It has established close institutional relations with the NSC in the past years. Therefore, a traineeship within an intergovernmental organization such as the NSC, with the extensive knowledge and skills it has provided me, was key to evolve in my current position at the UfM.
What would you say to people who would like to apply for a traineeship at NSC?
Go for it! The professional and human experience that the traineeship at the NSC offers, added to the possibility of a stay in Lisbon, are a unique chance to take. Do not hesitate to apply.
Interview by Agnieszka Góralczyk