Having spent the majority of my life in the Netherlands and Malta, I’ve seen two extremes within the European Union. From über-organisation and rule-following in the Netherlands, I launched myself into a world of carelessness and relaxation.
And since I moved out of my tiny hometown in 2017, my life has been entirely international. From Lija in Malta to Melbourne, Australia and many countries in between, I moved more than was healthy for a developing mind.
I became a global, or better said European, citizen. From north to south, I learnt to understand different realities and mindsets throughout the continent. And beyond being diverse, multicultural and radically different, I found that we have things in common.
Over the past months, I've covered the European Parliament in Strasbourg and attended a journalism training programme by the European Commission in Brussels. It made me see the EU in a way I never had: as a union of the people, for the people.
My trip to Strasbourg was to cover the Conference on the Future of Europe for Lovin Malta. The conference was unlike any other: instead of MEPs and politicians discussing the most important issues the EU deals with, it saw 200 citizens from all corners of Europe discuss and debate.
Representing different ages, genders and education levels, these citizens were personally invited to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to debate what the future of Europe should look like.
Although the press couldn’t attend the actual discussion (because that’s what I am now - not just a citizen, but ‘the press’!), it was inspiring to see all kinds of Europeans come together and speak about what they think is important for the continent they live on.
Learning about their differences and similarities, people from all over the continent got to speak about what worried them and what was on their minds. And while the issues in every city and region differ, empathy and understanding set the tone for the conference.
In October, I spent a week in Brussels. My article was selected out of more than 500 admissions from all over Europe and beyond, and I was invited to participate in a programme for young and aspiring journalists.
The programme was organised by the European Commission during the European Regions and Cities week, which focuses on bringing the EU closer to its citizens.
It has been more than inspiring to meet ambitious and enthusiastic journalists from different backgrounds, speaking different languages and doing different things. These kinds of programmes always have an immense impact.
A week with like-minded and super interesting journalists and a programme packed to the brim are the main ingredients for connections like no other. And meeting and bonding with Europe’s most promising journalists while spending an incredible week together made me remember why I do what I do.
Meeting European journalists taught me how much we need local reporters to fight and write for justice, and once again emphasised the importance of press freedom. And our potential as young journalists is limitless.
If anything, the training has made me want to do better and more. It reminded me of why I wanted to study Communication Studies and International Relations in the first place: to understand the complex, and communicate it simply.
Because that’s the main challenge the EU seems to face: understanding. Locally, the institutions and Brussels seem far away and disconnected from daily life. It doesn’t matter what the MEPs say when the local issues reign people’s lives.
And if this week taught us anything, it is exactly that - understanding.
Understanding the complex issues that journalists deal with - from Ukraine’s censorship and Sweden’s northernmost mines to Estonia’s artificial forests and Malta’s abortion ban - we’ve heard stories from all corners of the continent.
But also understanding the biases that each of us come with, and the challenges that we face as individuals. The path of becoming a journalist is a never-ending one, and learning from peers is a brilliant way of improving and becoming our best self.
And isn’t that, in the end, what cohesion is about? Caring for each other, even if our problems vary, simply because we understand that we are all human.
Stay tuned for my next update - it's going to be a major one. Lots of love!