Interreg: Province of Antwerp. IVY Volunteering experience of Amée Zoutberg

Growing up, I have heard both very positive and very negative things about the EU. On one side of the family, during summer trips to faraway lands, I was reminded of the wonders of Schengen and the euro that had connected the Netherlands seamlessly to Slovenia, Czechia, Sweden or France. On the other side, I was met with disdain when I told stories of the EU opportunities for the youth I had found online. Most responses sounded something like this: “I bet that that’s where our tax money is going.”

And they are absolutely right. Just right in a different way that most eurosceptics think. Yes, some of our hard-paid tax money goes directly into the EU’s funds - but this is not a waste of money, as that statement often seems to imply. The reasoning that any money that isn’t spent to very explicitly improve your daily life is wasted, is one that I can both understand and find illogical. The real issue here, to me, is that there seems to be a gap between knowing what the funds are used for, and how those initiatives affect the societies we live in. Positively.

I am a woman of actions besides words. This is why I was more than interested when my dear friend Corine Fontijn connected me to IVY, where European youth are given a chance to actively participate in the European Union. Not long after I found myself sitting in a 7th floor meeting room in the provincial building of the city of Antwerpen. The opportunity the province of Antwerp offered me in cooperation with the European Commission was one that both perfectly fit my professional and my personal ambitions. I got hired as an Interregional Reporter while studying for my two advanced university degrees. Next to the hefty university workload, this flexible volunteering position brought me invaluable practical experience in the field of my dreams: journalism. Now, four months later, I can proudly show my CV to future employers with the knowledge that IVY enabled me to tie two impressive organisations to my list of work experience.

On the personal side, I was very glad to contribute to something I believe in: that we should always make sure that what the EU is doing for its citizenry is adequately made known to the public. During my time at the Province of Antwerp, I interviewed multiple government officials and helped upgrade the Cohesion Policy project database. The upgrades made the database more up to date and accessible to anyone who would like to know more about what the EU is doing for us and the ones near to us. And I can assure you, anyone who reads up on the Cohesion Policy projects in their member state will no longer be able to say the following without now feeling pride: “I bet that that’s where our tax money is going.”

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