Bonjour et Bienvenue à Bruxelles!

Martina was born and raised in Canada, but she has Czech heritage. She moved to Denmark in 2007 and began studying at Metropol. She loves running, doing yoga and any physical activities that can be done outdoors. She also loves being a student and has aspirations to be a teacher, and maybe pursue a PhD someday.

After graduating from GNH, Martina decided to take a  Master’s Degree in Integrated Food Studies at Aalborg University, and she is now doing an internship in Brussels at the European Commission while writing her MSc. thesis. During the graduation ceremony at GNH in February 2014, Martina made a speech for the new graduates that you can read here. In this post she will talk about her experience as a trainee at the European Commission.

The experience of being a trainee at the European Commission has been utterly amazing! The opportunity to see the things I have only studied in theory happen practically right before my eyes in real life has really put food policy work into perspective. I have been able to attend various platform meetings where food and health related policies are discussed, member states and industry are represented and we (the commission) facilitate the dialogue. The first meeting was probably the most exciting and it happened just as I expected, just as our role play exercises in class with Aileen Robertson.

I have been working on different policy documents, initiatives, and action plans – just generally giving feedback as well as discussing terms of reference for future projects and work. Being here in Brussels where it all happens has really been an eye opener in terms of understanding the legislative procedures and temporal aspects associated (things happen very slowly!). It has also been interesting to see that the role of the public, private and civil sectors of society are as obvious and transparent as we are taught. For example I never expected to sit and listen to a person from Nestle defend their CSR efforts, and continually propose volunteer actions to avoid hard regulations being put into place, or for NGO’s to be so aggressive in standing up for their values on new policy discussions.

All in all the work life is busy! Busy but great – there are also many other trainees which makes for a fun, enthusiastic learning environment also allowing for exposure to many other fields and perspectives.

Brussels is also a fantastic city! The beer, the frites, waffles, the chocolate, the amazing Art Nouveux architecture, it never gets boring. There is a great international feel to the city, with many different cultures represented and a large expat community (made watching Canada win the Gold in Men’s hockey at Sochi almost feel like home :-)) Since it is not too far from Copenhagen I have also had some friends come to visit which makes the weekends spent as a tourist so much more fun.

My day to day is up early for work, I am in the office by 8.45am after a 40 minute walk and some days have meetings from 9-5 (for which I might have to take minutes or create power points), others I am also less busy and able to work on my thesis at my desk if I am lucky. I then spend my evenings teaching yoga at a studio not far from the Commission, or training for my next marathon here in Belgium (Antwerp April 27th!) or working into the late evening hours on my thesis. So far my weekends have been filled with lovely tourist social outings and very minimal attempts at French.

Finding time to balance work, my thesis, sport and social life has been tough but it’s only a few months and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!

Martina Jensen

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