Vivian Rivera Completes 2018 Hawke EU Centre Ambassadorial Scholarship

EU Parliament

Hawke EU Centre Ambassadorial Scholarship

The 2018 Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre Ambassadorial Scholarship was awarded to University of South Australia Psychology and International Relations undergraduate student, Ms Vivian Rivera.

Ms Rivera won a 2,150 Euro scholarship, supported by the Europa-Institut in cooperation with the ASKO EUROPA-STIFTUNG, the Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen, the Centre international de formation européenne (Cife) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Through this scholarship, Ms Rivera attended a European Summer Course in Otzenhausen, Germany, which included field trips to the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Upon completing the 2018 Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre Ambassadorial Scholarship, Ms Rivera wrote the following report.

A journey into the European Union. Highlights of the European Summer Course- Between Integration, Globalisation and Nationalism (Germany 2018)

By Vivian Rivera

Where everything started - The Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen

The European Summer Course was hosted by the Europa-Institute at Saarland University. The course is a well-established academic program that brings together renowned international experts in European law, politics and economics who offer valuable insights into the European Union. The program is designed to provide participants with experiential leaning through group discussions, seminars, workshops and excursions. We had a fantastic group of organisers and seminar leaders, Dr Elisabeth Schmitt, Mareike Fröhlich, Lisa Roth and Peter Beck who were incredibly professionals, encouraging and supportive. The First week of the summer course kicked off with Joseph Leinen, member of the European Parliament from Germany who spoke about the future of Europe and where the European Union stands. He emphasised the need for initiating a deeper and more consensual dialogue about the future of Europe and EU’s institutions, the need for member states’ leadership, and the importance of regaining trust in the Union to safeguard EU’s common values and fundamental interests in a Globalised World. Also, in the first week, the simulation on Decision-making in the European Union was without doubt one of the best components of the Summer Course. The workshop was conducted by Professor Sebastian Zeitzmann who is an expert in the field of European Law and European Integration. Within the simulation we took the roles of Member states of the European Parliament, Ministers of the Council of the European Union and Commission Representatives. The simulation went for over four hours and it provided a vivid impression of the several stages involved in the standard decision-making process used in the European Union. 

A vivid experience of the European Union and its institutions

Some of the best things about the summer course were our field trips to Brussels and Strasbourg. The first week we travelled to Brussels which is home to many important European Institutions. We experienced the vibrant atmosphere of the world’s largest transnational parliament with a visit to the European Parliament hemicycle, and the exciting and dynamic corporate atmosphere of the European Commission.  Not only we had the opportunity to access some of the EU’s most important buildings but also had meetings with experts of the European Commission and the European Parliament where we found out more about the EU, its values, its history, main contributions to Europe’s economic development and political stability, and fascinating facts about the overall transformation of Europe for over six decades. 

Gaining significant confidence to think and act globally

I must admit that one of my main expectations of the course was to learn more about the EU’s strategic international cooperation, including economic partnerships, and building strong ties with counties like Australia. I must say that the sessions that I had the opportunity to attend exceeded my expectations in this regard. At the European Commission we explored the dimension of the EU as an International actor, which is one of the roles of the European Commission as the EU’s Political Executive. I learnt in great detail about EU’s global strategy including the way the EU operates worldwide with EU delegations in countries like Australia, for example, and the building blocks for cooperation in the region, spreading prosperity, promoting human rights and democracy, supporting stability and good governance.The content of these sessions ignited my interest in looking into EU-Australia bilateral relationship and how Australia’s engagement with the EU has the potential to advance Europe’s understanding of the region and support a framework for cooperation that can respond to future global challenges.The atmosphere, the conversations with experts at the information presentations and the insightful discussions about crucial aspects of the EU and its role as a global actor gave me a sense of being internationally engaged and gaining significant confidence to think and act globally. I felt a sense of readiness to put my ideas into action and become a global changemaker.

World class lecturers, insightful discussions and active engagement all the way

Our course continued in week two with a series of lectures and seminars by professors from Trier University and Saarland University. Professor Uwe Jun from the University of Trier brought an insightful perspective into Globalisation and its effect on political systems. His research offered an evidence base for the implications of a globalizing world on Europe, particularly its influence over citizens’ trust in the EU and its institutions. His work has contributed to fulfil a research gap in the understanding of the rise of populism and the quality of democracy. I was fortunate to engage in an interesting conversation with Dr Uwe about how social media has influenced public debate and the challenges that democracy faces today. I am hopeful that Professor Uwe can visit us at the University of South Australia and share his ideas and approaches about how we can better understand democracy, the public debate and the growing populist movements.The European Summer course offered a good mix between academic content and opportunities to engage in cross-cultural exchange and discover more about the richness and diversity of Europe’s’ cultural life. In week two, our excursion to the city of Strasbourg, in France, home to the European Council, was not only academically enriching but also culturally enlightening. The organisers of the European Summer Course diligently allocated time with expert guides who took us around this charming city with medieval atmosphere and impressive public buildings and talked us through its cultural and historical heritage. 

An exceptional wrap-up of the course

Two intense weeks of world class lectures, exciting workshops, insightful discussion groups, cross-cultural exchange came to an end with the most enriching and forward-looking seminar about scenarios on EU’s future development by expert Dr Andreas Marchetti, social entrepreneur and Senior Fellow at the Centre for European Integration Studies at the University of Bonn. I was particularly interested in Dr Marchetti’s lecture and workshop in relation to the scenarios of the Future of the European Union. I was eager to explore how the EU can harness globalisation, advance and promote cooperation with third countries, and strengthen its role as a global actor through strategic partnerships that facilitate economic and public diplomacy, people to people contacts, economic cooperation and development. I was eager to develop further insights into how Australia’s engagement with the EU can advance the values emblematic of the EU, and how, looking ahead, this cooperation can build win-win solutions to respond to pressing international challenges at all levels, political, business and civil society.The session by Dr Marchetti was exceptional, he was an excellent presenter and encouraged us to engage actively with the content of the lecture. I was impressed with his high-quality teaching. The workshop he ran enabled us to explore and develop an informed reflection on the future of the European Union on a whole range of different fronts. At the end of his session, I was thrilled to present my views and reflection on the European Union as a global actor, and as a predominant entity in the international arena with the power to harness and reap the benefits of globalization, through enhanced cooperation and engagement.Overall, this was an exciting education experience that broadened my academic and cultural horizons. I met lifelong friends from all around the world and built valuable networks. I had the opportunity to engage with academics and world-class experts in Political Science, European Law, and the European Union. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am hopeful that we can keep building strong ties with our European partners, the Europa Institute and Saarland university. I am also hopeful to see more academic exchange, research cooperation and some of the excellent speakers and presenters of this course invited to public lectures in South Australia.