A brief taste of Eurocracy – applying for a Masters at the College of Europe, Warsaw

As with any university application, there is a good deal of paperwork involved in the admissions process at the College of Europe. Normally, as soon as the piles of paperwork are out of sight they are quickly forgotten about but looking back on my brush with bureaucracy one line remains engraved in my mind.

“The College of Europe is a unique living and working experience”

This sentence featured on a medical form that my GP had to sign confirming that I was of sound mind and body and capable of participation in the study programme. Having never had to sign such a form before, I was a little taken aback by this statement and the prospects of what lay ahead.

Now, six weeks into term here at the Natolin campus of the College, just outside of Warsaw city centre – I can see exactly what they meant.

It is indeed a unique living environment, this year at Natolin there are 127 of us from 34 countries in and around Europe. Students are all housed on campus and we dine together three times a day in a communal canteen. Discussions at mealtimes range from national stereotypes to post-nationalism and everything in between. It might sound stuffy but ultimately the social side depends entirely on your “promotion” or class group, and the composition of this varies exponentially from year to year.

The academic programme here is equally unique, classes are facilitated by a “flying faculty” of experts and are normally held in block seminars. In the first week here, I completed an introductory course to EU substantive law in 2 days. Language classes are held in the mornings and evenings, and at the weekend there are a multitude of added-value workshops to participate in.

Natolin differs from the Bruges campus in that there is only one Masters programme offered here, European Interdisciplinary Studies, and it is open to students from all academic backgrounds. In Bruges, the College offers four separate degrees in Law, Economics, International Relations and Politics while the degree I am undertaking encompasses all of these aspects while allowing us to specialise in the second semester and through our thesis topic.

Because of the way the study programme is set up, attendance at the College is a lifestyle change and definitely a commitment. Class schedules are issued on a weekly basis, they can change quite frequently and it’s not uncommon for class to take place on a Saturday afternoon.

One can easily liken signing up to this degree as ceding one’s personal sovereignty for the greater good in the same way that member states do so in delegating their powers to the EU. The aspiration is that after a year of eating, sleeping, breathing, and occasionally drinking Europe students will have greater understanding of the workings of the EU, its role in a global context and what it means to live and work in a multi-cultural environment where the European Union slogan “united in diversity” could be any more true.

If this does sound appealing, the first step is unfortunately the arduous admissions process I’ve already made reference to – if you do want a career in EU affairs, eurocracy is something that you simply have to become accustomed to. The procedure begins with an online application including a motivation letter before a handful of successful candidates are invited to be interviewed by a national selection committee. The interview is your first taster of the intense expectations of the College – imagine sitting in front of four people and being asked to give the highlights of your CV in thirty seconds. My advice is to show your motivations for study at the College because the interview is not based purely on achievement rather also on aspiration and if you can prove to the panel that you really want it, there’s no reason why you too couldn’t find yourself studying at either campus of the Eurobubble too.


by Erica Lee, BA European Studies, 2014

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