The first-ever international meeting of Masaryk University graduates living in the Benelux countries took place on Saturday, 3 June, in Brussels. More than ninety graduates from MU’s seven faculties gathered at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU.
“Working in Brussels is a dream come true. In 1999, I completed a one-year study programme at the Faculty of Economics and Administration with a focus on Czech and French public administration, combined with internships. My studies in Brno pointed me towards the European level because we took a lot of courses on European institutions and public administration,” recalls Kateřina Wolfová, who has now been working as unit head at DG Home for three years. After her studies in the Czech Republic, she went to Paris to further her education. From there, her path led her to Brussels. “From Paris I travelled to Brussels several times and when I saw that it was a very international environment where students from all over Europe come together, I had the desire to work for a European project and in a European environment," she said. Nowadays, she has 25 people of many nationalities from different European countries on her team, working on the issue of migration and the integration of foreigners. “We are in charge of funds that finance specific projects and activities in European Union member states to help improve the reception conditions for asylum seekers, asylum procedures, and the integration of foreigners. When I travel to the countries, I see small successes. Perhaps Czech citizens do not realize it, but there are no more democratic processes than those I have experienced in Brussels. We are lucky to live in a time when this structure exists and we are part of it,” says Kateřina Wolfová.
Dalibor Jenne, an alumnus of the MU Faculty of Social Studies, is a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels. “I studied international relations, European studies, and security and strategic studies, and I was naturally drawn to the world of diplomacy, so I was already thinking in this direction when I chose the school," says Jenne. He considers his studies at MU to be good preparation because they taught him how to work with and analyse texts and information, as well as how to read in English. He considers both to be a normal part of diplomatic practice. That is also why he likes the current emphasis MU is putting on internationalization. “I noticed this effort when I was studying at MU – there were plenty of opportunities to go abroad. I went through Erasmus to Poland, and I also studied in China. At the Faculty of Social Studies, I took several courses taught by international professors in English. Going out into the world is a tremendous experience that broadens your horizons. You can practice languages, experience new environments, and learn to independently solve problems outside of your own comfort zone. Every trip abroad has pushed me tremendously, and I love remembering them. I definitely recommend it to everyone!” says Jenne. He also suggests that the Czech footprint in Brussels is not insignificant. “From the position of the ministry, we are trying to promote the Czechs not only in European institutions but also in NATO structures. The more Czechs there are in Brussels, the stronger our voice and our ability to influence things,” he explains.
The meeting in Brussels was also attended by trainees currently studying at the University. Among them was Faculty of Social Studies student Nikola Řezáčová, whose five-month internship representing the South Moravian Region in the European Union was coming to an end. “We are in charge of everything dealt with in the regions – the most frequent topics are research and innovation. We go to conferences, we organize our own events,” says Řezáčová about her Brussels internship. “It's great to try working in the heart of the European Union, where everything happens. I enjoy the regional dimension focused on the European Union, and I learned a lot about regional politics through my internship. The representation really gave me a lot,” adds Nikola.
In addition to the opportunity to meet former classmates and MU representatives, a rich programme awaited the participants in Brussels. MU student Adéla Bezoušková, who is currently studying in Brussels, performed on the flute, and it was also possible to see an exhibition presenting important figures associated with Masaryk University. MUNISHOP was also a great success, bringing a new special ALUMNI collection to Brussels. In his greeting, Rector Martin Bareš mentioned the social role of the University during the COVID-19 pandemic, the tornado in Moravia, and the Ukrainian crisis. David Póč, director of the MU 2021+ Strategic Project, reminded the audience of the progress MU has made in the more than one hundred years of its existence. He mentioned the study opportunities, the international dimension of the University, the emphasis on internationalization and strategic projects such as SIMU, MUNI BioPharma Hub, and the vision of an expanding Science and Technology Park with the construction of dormitories and other infrastructure.
“It has been an amazing discovery for me how the University has evolved in recent years. Brno and MU have made a name for themselves in Brussels as a hub of science, research, development, and progress. MU has its place in this area, and I am absolutely thrilled. When I go to Brno, I definitely want to see for myself how the campus is being built and growing. My fingers are crossed,” says Kateřina Wolfová, commenting on what’s currently happening at MU.