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EC Traineeship – Pre-selection & Eligibility – NEWS!

Pre-sel news


Time to be active and feed more info about the latest changes related to your applications: the pre-selection and eligibility. The Traineeship Office has been full of surprises this year.


A few days ago, those of you who applied for the March 2014 session received an automatic e-mail containing some instructions. It asked you to prepare for the upcoming end of the pre-selection.



There will be a follow-up e-mail to inform you if you passed or not, but in anticipation of this follow-up e-mail,


“Should you consider that your application is solid enough to be pre-selected for the Virtual Blue Book, I would strongly advise you to start preparing copies.”


A bit too subjective… Regardless, you have to be prepared and you have to start collecting all the documents you declared in your application because you’ll have only a week or so to mail them to the Traineeship Office. The deadline is very tight, so start collecting the facts and put them in a nice A4 envelope (just as before).


As you may have noticed, the process is now reversed. In the past, you used to send a paper file, which would be checked if eligible and only then would go through the pre-selection phase. Now, you go first through pre-selection and only if you pass it, you’ll have to send your paper file. So, the eligibility is done after the pre-selection. It’s a bit tricky, because this means that there is still a chance for you to fail if you don’t send the right documents. So be extra careful!


I’ll recap below the docs you need to mail as recommended by the TO:


  • Printed copy of the application form, dated and signed (hope you saved a copy in your computer when you applied);
  • Copy of passport or identity card (NO copies of driver’s licence accepted!);
  • Copies of all university diplomas you have declared to hold in your application, together with the corresponding university transcripts  or Europass Diploma Supplement;
  • Proof of registration to ongoing studies, if applicable;
  • Official proof for each short-length study period and seminar, university exchange programme abroad, if applicable (i.e.: attendance certificates);
  • Proof of declared language/s knowledge, which could be presented in the form of language certificates or diplomas obtained in the referred language or official courses followed in that/those language/s;
  • Proof of all declared working experience.


It goes without saying that I’m rooting for all of you. 😉


EC Traineeship – Online Application – NEWS!

what is new from TO


What’s new from the Traineeship Office? It seems that 2013 is the year of refreshments. A new website and now new online forms and… surprise, surprise… no more paper file to be sent by post to the Traineeship Office. Yes, you read that correctly! As from the March 2014 application session, it is no longer required to mail your application by post to the Traineeship Office.


But don’t get excited so fast! You will still have to mail copies of your diplomas, language certificates and other proofs later on, if and only if you pass the pre-selection. Once you pass the pre-selection, you will be required to mail them to the Traineeship Office.


Let’s just say that now the process has become easier for you as you’ll have more time to collect all the proofs you need to justify whatever you declared in your application. And it’s all written on the Traineeship Office website.


I decided to fill in a mock application to see how it goes. First things first, you’ll have to create an account with an ECAS password where you save your personal data and application. The first menu is the one related to “personal data” (full name, birth date, nationality, etc.). Not so much different from before.


As you save your data, there will be a button just below that says Click here to access the application form. Click on it and you will be further taken to a page where you have to choose the type of traineeship you apply for. It’s either “administrative” or “translation”.


After the selection of your traineeship, you are redirected towards a page with a very intuitive menu. The structure of the former form has remained virtually the same. You have: contact details, educational background, professional experience, languages, skills and motivation.


I noticed though that the Skills section has a “communication and organisational” sub-section where you’ll have to describe “your main strengths in terms of communication and organisational skills” (obviously). Now, not all of you may have such skills as not all of you may have had a previous work experience. Even so, assuming you didn’t work at all in an “institutionalised” environment, you still must have contributed to a group assignment during your university studies, or maybe you volunteered somewhere, or maybe you were a member of the student union, examples are countless. Think about it and try to twist those experiences to your favour.


The Motivation section is also slightly different. There’s still a general motivation part, where you have to explain “why you are applying for a traineeship at the European Commission, what your expectations are and why you think that you are a good candidate.” I’ve already discussed about this in my previous posts and comments, so browse through.


Then, you have to select an “area of interest” from a drop-down menu. This area of interest is pretty much related to what you studied and the field you wish to work in as a Blue Book trainee at the European Commission. There is also a list that can help you get a better idea, which I am pasting here, but it’s also available right on the motivation page.


Please note that you will have to motivate your choice of “area of interest”, but also you’ll have to describe why you consider your profile suitable for this area. These are two different motivations related to your “area of interest”. Make sure you know exactly what you want to do in terms of professional career and make sure you know how to put that into words.


Once you filled in all the fields of the online form, I suggest you save the form and you let it rest for a day or two. After that you can come back and re-read it, ensuring yourselves that there are no mistakes (spelling-wise, or simple data entries for your studies, etc.). Maybe you get inspired more if you let it rest and then you can improve your motivations with fresh ideas. And even if you don’t have time to let it rest, then still re-read it and when you’re sure it’s all perfect, click the submit button. That’s when you’ll receive a registration number and when you’ll be able to keep a pdf copy of your application. Keep that registration number as you will refer to it in the future.


Please see the Traineeship Office website for more technical details about the submission of your application.


If you have anything to add or if I’ve missed anything, please leave a comment. I’d appreciate it. Bonne chance! 😉


EC Traineeship – Claiming the travel expenses



Claiming the travel expenses is a serious thing that all trainees should settle with the Traineeship Office once they’re in Brussels. It’s money that you spent on travelling to come to Brussels (either by plane, train, car or anything else) and which you are entitled to get back (if not entirely, at least partially).



I noticed that in the past the Traineeship Office amended a few times the rules about the reimbursement of the travel expenses, probably in an attempt to show a bit more flexibility towards a generation that is constantly travelling abroad for studies, internships, finding a new meaning of life, etc.


So, before you book your plane/train ticket to Brussels, make sure you have read the rules on claiming the travel expenses, make sure you understand them and if not contact your File Manager for further guidance. These rules come with the placement offer.


However, there’s a few basic rules that each of you should know before even starting to calculate how much you’re entitled to be reimbursed for the travel expenses.


1. You can claim the travel expenses even if you come to Brussels from a different location than what you declared on your online application form.
» For example, you will still be reimbursed if you declared your home town is Lisbon, but you actually come to Brussels from London  because you did your Master’s in London.


2. There are deadlines set by the Traineeship Office for claiming the travel expenses. If you don’t claim them within the deadlines, you will not be reimbursed.
» Make sure you put a reminder in your calendar! The sooner you hand out your claim papers, the smaller the risk to misplace any important piece in the puzzle.


3. There are ceilings applied to each and every trainee, which are calculated based on the distance to Brussels from the place they come from.
» Calculating the ceiling is the trickiest of things. You can do that yourselves, but if you have any doubts at all contact your File Manager.


4. Bear in mind that sometimes, for various reasons, the price of a plane ticket may be higher than the ceiling. Because you have no choice but to buy the ticket, you’ll only be reimbursed the ceiling and not the entire amount you spent on it.


5. You need to show proof for the amounts you spent on your travelling (e.g. flight reservation or e-ticket or the ticket itself or a bank statement, etc.).
» So, make sure you don’t misplace anything. If you do misplace, you can contact the airline by e-mail and ask them to confirm in written that you were aboard a specific flight on a given date.


6. Plan ahead and try to buy your plane ticket in advance so that you can get a good deal and avoid extra costs that you might not be reimbursed (see the ceiling issue).
» Only economy tickets are reimbursed. NO business and NO first class.


7. If you decide to come to Brussels by car, be aware that the rules for reimbursement are somewhat different.


8. Train tickets or bus tickets from Brussels or Charleroi airports into the city of Brussels are also reimbursed. Keep them together with the other proof! Don’t throw them away in the nearest trash bin.


9. Check with your File Manager to see when you will actually be reimbursed. There will be a separate payment from the monthly allowance on your bank account.
» In the past the reimbursement of travel expenses was done towards the end of the traineeship, but now with all the changes, it may be different.


10. If at any time you realise there has been a mistake in calculating your entitlement for the travel expenses, contact immediately your File Manager.


Although I mainly referred to plane tickets above, the same thing applies to any type of tickets, whether train or coach or bus, you name it.


Also, although I mainly referred to trainees coming to Brussels, the same rules apply to the trainees going to Luxembourg or any other city where the European Commission has representations or delegations. When reading the text above, simply replace Brussels with the name of the city you’ll be in.


Well, this is all I could think of for the time being, but I hope it’s been helpful either way.


New Year – New Facelift for the TO website



New Year – New Facelift for the TO website, which I’m sure you all have noticed.



I think it looks rather better, brighter colours, better structure, which makes it easier to navigate, but there is also less content and less useful information. Maybe they will decide to populate it later or maybe not. We shall see.


Due to the new structure of the TO website, some of the back links on my blog are no longer functional. I’ll work on updating them or deleting them, depending on the case.


Meanwhile, you keep on working on that application, time is ticking! 😉


By the way, how do you find the new TO website? If you have time, leave a comment or open a topic. I’d be interested to know what your views are. (Thanks!)


Atypical Trainees


Atypical trainees” is an atypical phrase in itself (most probably a rough translation of the French “stagiaires atypiques“). Well, although it sounds weird to me, just to be very clear, atypical trainees have nothing to do with Blue Book trainees. (Except for sometimes attending events and parties together.)


If you want to become an atypical trainee at the European Commission, you don’t have to meet any of the criteria that Blue Book trainees have to meet. For example, you don’t need your BA. You may still be a student and still qualify to apply for an atypical traineeship. In fact, all you need to do is send your CV with a letter of motivation to the HR unit of any DG you want. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a traineeship right away.


Although sending your CV and letter of motivation may be easy enough for you, things are not as simply as they seem in the HR unit. There will be probably a selection of CVs as you’ll not be the only one applying. There will be also a problem of budget (provide you an office, a phone, a computer, etc.). How long will be needed the atypical trainee? In practice, not more than 3 months. Can’t think of other pertinent questions now, though I’m sure there’s more.


Contrary to Blue Book trainees, the biggest constraint that atypical trainees have to face is the lack of a monthly grant. As an atypical trainee you will be unpaid, therefore you will have to provide for yourself or most likely your parents will have to. If you ever get a contract as an atypical trainee, make sure you have enough money for your stay in Brussels (rent, food, travel, etc.).


Another issue would be that there are few atypical traineeships granted at the level of the entire EC. Each DG has its own way to deal with atypical traineeships. Unfortunately, I have no stats or numbers or details about it.


On the bright side though, there is no specific time frame to start or end the traineeship (it can be at any time), there’s less paper work (only CV and motivation letter) and probably less time to wait.


Yet, no guarantee!


EC Traineeship – Who’s Who




Everyone is familiar with this term and the trainees even produce a Who’s Who themselves at the end of the stage, but I am writing this post mainly to clarify who are the people who play the most important roles in your life as a trainee at the European Commission (family and friends not included). It kind of looks like a pyramid. I’ll start explaining from the top and go towards the bottom.


Traineeship Office: Is a team of EC staff running the traineeship programme. I don’t know exactly how many they are, maybe 10-12… From what I could understand, each of them is responsible of a specific nationality, so make sure you know who is the person responsible of your nationality. This way, you know whom to call when your grant hasn’t been paid (hope it won’t be the case). Not only that they are responsible of your files, but also of your well-being. If you have questions (about the grant, travel expenses, insurance, etc.) call them or write them. And if you’re not a trainee, but still have questions related to your application, you can also contact them through the contact form on the website.


Stage coordinator: There is one in each DG. You will meet them during your first day in your DG. They are responsible of the trainees in the DG, they make sure you have a desk with chair, a phone, a computer and they make sure you have encoded your absences correctly. Of course, they are also there to help you. They know the protocols in the DG, so if you are in a fix, but don’t know how to sort things out, just make a simple call or see them.


Adviser: The person in your unit responsible mainly of your work, but also of you and integrating you within the team. They are supposed to give you work to do, to guide you and advise you. Be sure to cultivate a nice relationship. 😉


Stage Committee: It’s a body of elected trainees (no more than 4 or 5), who are in charge of planning your social agenda (not everything is about work and being locked in your office!). Yes, they are elected from among the trainees. If you are hyper active, full of ideas and love to plan events or parties, you may consider running for a position with the Stage Committee. Bear in mind that being a member of the Stage Committee does not exempt you from working as a trainee in your DG and your unit. The Stage Committee does voluntary work every evening.


The Stage Committee is NOT the Traineeship Office. The Stage Committee is there to entertain you: sell you tickets for parties, advertise jobs and accommodation, send you weekly newsletters and so on.


Does all this make sense? I certainly hope so. 😉


EC Traineeship – The first day in your DG


After all the buzz and fuss of the administrative welcome and the conference, you may proceed to take a deep plunge into work.


Well, not before you are given yet another info session about all the dos and don’ts in your DG… Patience is a virtue, they say. Now you will get to know even better the other trainees in your DG, you’ll become a solid group, decide to have lunch together, organize parties together, elect your spokesperson and do other elating things as such (not necessarily in this order).


The info session over, the friendships “cemented”, time to finally meet your advisor, your team, taking your office, your computer and your phone, set your Outlook contact list and breathe in and out in between.


To be frank with you, by the time I met my advisor and co-workers I felt already tired and had to put some effort into remembering their names. Then, when I had the talk with my advisor about my job description and tasks, I was relieved to actually start doing some work. That’s what I was there for after all.


So, have the talk with your advisor about your job description. It’s essential to know where you start, where you’re heading and what path you ought to follow. Discuss in detail each task, make sure everything is clear and well understood (if not, simply ask more questions!). Show you’re willing to do the job, show initiative, don’t be too pushy, but don’t be shy either.


And although some may argue that work comes first, showing social skills and being part of the team are equally important.


Have fun! 😉