What it's like taking part in the European Student Assembly in Strasbourg

Abir Zitoun is a PhD student of Educational Psychology and educational sciences at the University of León, Spain. She is an active member of the Students CO-Creation group and is one of the students who was selected to take part in the European Student Assembly representing the University of León and the alliance EURECA-PRO at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. In her blog post, Abir shares her three-day journey as a member of the Assembly and Panel 6 working on achieving a sustainable and fair digital transition for the EU in the context of raw material scarcity.

The Journey
The experience started on the 16th of April 2023 when we had our first online meeting to get to know the members of the assembly and how we will start our work. Later, we held online meetings every week with the members of my Panel 6 to start brainstorming and discussing how we are going to write our policy recommendations. The sessions were very diverse as we were of various academic and cultural backgrounds. This step has helped reinforce my communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills all in an online environment.

Day 1

The assembly took place from May 31st to June 2nd.  On the first day, we were introduced to the dedicated individuals behind the scenes of the steering committee and introduced to panel topics by the panel coordinators. The ESA coordinator welcomed us with enthusiasm and inspiring words. Notable figures, including the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Democracy and Demography, the French Minister for Higher Education, the President of the Franco-German University, and the President of the University of Strasbourg, also delivered encouraging speeches. This introduction set the tone for the upcoming two days. Additionally, we had the opportunity to tour the European Parliament, witnessing where Parliament members vote and make decisions that shape our future. This experience made me contemplate my aspirations and consider working at the European Parliament in the future.

Day 2

On the second day, our focus shifted to panel sessions, where each panel was directed to an individual meeting room for 5 hours of intense discussions and finalizing our policy recommendations. I had the opportunity to collaborate with two other students and develop two policy recommendations within the education theme of our panel issue. The first recommendation centered around ensuring human preservation and acceptance of AI and digital changes, while the second focused on courses offered by the EU for a more sustainable and resource-efficient approach. This day was particularly significant as it allowed us to transition from online sessions to face-to-face meetings, enabling us to come together as a group and formulate these recommendations. Furthermore, I was honored to be selected as the speaker for day three, where I had the responsibility of persuading other panel members to vote in favor of our policy recommendations.

Day 3

The highly anticipated day had finally arrived! Despite feeling the weight of delivering a speech and the responsibility to vote, I embraced the day ahead of me. The morning session was dedicated to delivering speeches, with each panel taking turns starting from Panel 1 all the way to Panel 10. As we approached Panel 6, the sense of stress and anticipation grew. However, I approached the podium with great enthusiasm and excitement, delivering my speech. This part of the journey made me feel valued and empowered, knowing that my voice was being heard. The celebration from my fellow panel members further validated the impact of my words. Following the speeches, we proceeded to the voting process, and to our delight, all of our policy recommendations received favorable votes. The satisfaction of knowing that our ideas were supported by the panel was truly rewarding. A Q&A with parliament members and certificate awarding session was followed.

To conclude the day, we engaged in a scavenger hunt, exploring the historic points of the beautiful city of Strasbourg. And guess what? My team emerged victorious as we answered all the questions correctly and finished with a record time. The scavenger hunt was a fun and memorable way to celebrate our accomplishments and further bond as a team.

All in all, my experience at the EU (European Parliament) with ESA (European Student Assembly) has so far undoubtedly been the highlight of my academic and personal life. It provided me with a platform to express my point of view and voice my thoughts on crucial matters concerning the European youth. As a PhD student, it not only allowed me to connect and network with other fellow PhD students from various fields but also provided a space to explore new perspectives and make use of my full potential. These experiences offered valuable insights into my career, guiding me towards a clearer understanding of my aspirations and the direction I want to pursue after completing my studies.
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