An interview with Rakel Nilsson
The European Union Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports the government relations efforts of the Church at the European Union. Based in Brussels, Belgium, the office focuses on issues related to faith, family and freedom of religion or belief, and join forces with other churches and organizations to promote and secure the free exercise of faith and religion for all people.
Rakel Nilsson, a member of the Church with a Bachelor degree in International Relations from Helsingborg, Sweden, has recently completed her internship at the European Union Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brussels.
Could you explain a little bit about yourself and why you decided to apply for an internship with the European Union Office?
Rakel: Well, like you mentioned, I have a bachelor degree in International Relations but haven’t ended up working so much in that field so when my bishop showed me this internship possibility I thought it would be a good experience to brush up on my international skills and see if that is something I still want to pursue. I have always been interested in international relations and intercultural exchanges. There is something very appealing in building bridges between different cultures, opinions, views and ideas. Also, spending a couple of months in Brussels did not sound like a bad idea.
Could you describe an average day in the office?
R.: I don’t know if you could say that there is an average day at this office. Being subject to what is going on in the rest of Brussels makes it hard to have one normal routines. Things I did included going to the different committees at the European Parliament, writing reports, preparing for meetings, attending events, doing research and much more. Sometimes all of it was done in one day. I think it is important to be flexible in an office like this because plans for the day can change in an instance, which I think has been fun.
You mentioned that you have been working on some projects. Could you go into some further detail?
R.: I have been involved in many different projects. One example of a project was to follow the ongoing discussions in the Parliament with the Commission and Council on a proposed directive regarding entry to the EU for third country nationals. I started by looking at the procedure-file found on the Parliaments website to see the history of the proposed directive, I then analysed the document, listened to the discussion in the committee in the parliament and contacted the office of the rapporteur to have certain things clarified and to know the predictions. It will be interesting to see what will come of the directive.
Another example of projects I have been involved in is the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID) that the EU Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints is a part of. I assisted in the preparations for a breakfast they were hosting for assistants to the members of the European Parliament and I have attended meetings with the platform.
What has been the highlight of your experience?
R.: I think I could say that there have been three highlights:
1. The Chair and ambassador of the United States Commissioner for International Religious Freedom came to be part of an event in the European Parliament and we were fortunate to host a reception in their honour. I was lucky enough to part of that process by planning and organising the reception, which I thought was very fun. It was challenging and a great opportunity to grow and learn new things.
2. Elder Patrick Kearon, of the Europe Area Presidency, came to attend the high-level meeting with religious leaders at the European Commission. I was part in the process of preparing Elder Kearon for the meeting. It was an enjoyable experience because I learned a great deal about the people that attended the meeting and the organisations they represented. However, what made the most impact was the example of service and Christ-like love that Elder Kearon showed, I will carry that with me always.
3. Just the overall experience of being in in Brussels, one of the political melting pots of the world, and to be able to attend meetings in the European Parliament, Commission, at embassies to promote religious freedom. Also a highlight have been the people I have met and the things I have learned. This experience has been priceless and I regret nothing.
Thank you, Rakel!
If you are a graduate student member of the Church with an interest in EU affairs, international relations, freedom of religion or belief, and would like to know more about doing an internship at the European Union Office, please write to EUOffice@ldschurch.org.