Broadening one’s horizons within a European organisation – Féline discusses her recent internship at EUMETSAT
There are many divisions within EUMETSAT that cover a lot of subject areas. Perhaps you think that your studies are not relevant to what we do here, but you might be surprised as Féline found out!
Féline was able to complete her internship with us after realising that combining her international relations studies with the world of space and satellites was a good match – read on to hear what she got up to during her short time with us, and benefit from some advice in case you’re looking to gain some practical work experience in the future!
1) Can you please introduce yourself and your role?
I’m Féline and I interned with EUMETSAT’s Strategy, Communication, and International Relations (SCIR) Division. At university (TU Dresden) I study international relations, thus, I was mainly working within the international relations field of SCIR. This is my first “proper” internship.
2) What are your main tasks?
During my internship, I had three main tasks: supporting one of the International Relations Officers during the Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) conference, researching socio-economic benefit studies/cost-benefit analyses of the value of meteorological satellites, and researching EUMETSAT-China relations.
3) What made you choose EUMETSAT and when did you first hear about us?
One aspect of my course at university is public international law, which includes space law. I started looking into internships broadly within this area because I realised how comparatively few regulations there are concerning space. I then came across EUMETSAT’s internships and thought that, actually, weather is quite impactful on everyone’s everyday life – not only for deciding what to wear but also for so many sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, and so on.
Real-time weather and forecasts play a vital role in disaster risk reduction, too, essentially helping to save lives. Supporting an organisation that operates meteorological satellites and thus making real-time weather and forecasts possible, seemed a very worthy endeavour.
In addition, the Earth observation (EO) data collected by the satellites is useful for research on climate change.
Furthermore, my interests are quite diverse, so working in a rather technical organisation was an interesting opportunity to combine science/technology and international relations.
Lastly, the internship description made very clear that China will be an important part of the research – so it seemed quite useful to learn how development within the country impacts different sectors.
4) Can you speak a bit about any special projects you were involved with and how you contributed?
One of my tasks for the CGMS conference was to compile all points of action raised. I also researched current trends and satellite launches in the Chinese EO sector and looked into EUMETSAT-China relations. Furthermore, I prepared an overview of different studies on the value of weather forecasts to different sectors and the economy in general.
5) What were you doing before coming here?
As I mentioned I am studying international relations; a course covering international politics, international economics, and international law, with language training. This course also includes a mandatory semester abroad, which I spent at the University of Oxford.
6) What are your plans after leaving?
If Covid allows, I will be doing another semester abroad, followed by two more internships and a postgraduate degree within the field of international politics and international law.
7) What were you most looking forward to before coming to EUMETSAT and has your experience met your expectations?
I anticipated working in an international/European environment and experiencing what working in an intergovernmental organisation is like the most, amongst others of course. In both areas, the internship has met and exceeded my expectations.
8) What do you think you’ll take away from this experience and how will it help you in the future?
Well, I value the importance of (and work behind) weather forecasts much more and will happily share that with anyone who complains about the inaccuracy of weather forecasts 😉
The internship has definitely underlined the advantages of working for an intergovernmental organisation. Furthermore, it has given me a good insight into the meteorological, and to an extent, the space industry. I will also take away that there usually are practical solutions that allow countries to exchange information and opinions despite issues in other areas.
9) What have you enjoyed the most about this experience and did you come across any challenges?
Getting to know the day-to-day life of working in an intergovernmental organisation was a very enjoyable experience. It included hearing about four to five different languages a day, being able to talk to people from other countries and cultures daily, becoming aware of all the tiny quirks (nearly all advantageous!) of working for an organisation like this, as well as being surrounded by and working with talented and driven people.
In addition, working on a project with a country/region outside of Europe made it even more international. Sometimes interns also co-organise a conference with international partners, like Mimi (the previous intern) did.
Furthermore, I enjoyed working in a field where science/technology and international relations overlapped. Knowing that the organisation’s work is essential to so many people globally was also very satisfying.
The main challenge that I came across was the usual Covid-induced challenge: building relationships while teleworking (though restrictions were lifted towards the end of my internship, which for example made having lunch/coffee together possible).
10) Is it your first time living in Darmstadt?
This is my first time living in Darmstadt. What is lovely about the city is that everything is quite close and there are numerous parks. It also has some great museums and a UNESCO natural heritage site nearby, which is quite cool. I do think the city should look into its traffic light system though!
11) Have you had any memorable moments during your time here?
Quite a few, despite the pandemic! This of course includes the first day and, if we are talking “short moments”, even the first 15 minutes on-site because I had heard four different languages by that point already.
Furthermore, I enjoyed every time we met face to face with parts of the SCIR division, e.g. on a birthday or on Mimi’s last day.
In addition, EUMETSAT celebrated its 35th anniversary while I was interning here. It happened, of course, virtually, but it gave me a great insight into what the usual atmosphere is within the organisation. There was a goodbye party, too, which included an eventful programme and again showed how people interact here and how much they cherish each other (generally).
12) EUMETSAT aside, what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy baking, cycling, reading, meeting with friends, and travelling (though the last two are a bit difficult to do at the moment).
13) Do you have any advice for our younger audience that might want to follow in your footsteps one day? Things for them to think about when considering EUMETSAT as a place to intern…
The usual tips for applying: prepare for your interview (not only knowing what you mentioned in your CV and letter of motivation, but also content-wise). For SCIR, this could mean being aware of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO’s) mandate and of current developments in the region the internship will be about (e. g. China or Russia). It is of course advantageous if you can show that you know about specific satellites of said region but this is definitely not necessary (this is what I would consider to be the 20% of knowledge that you get with 80% of the work). You will learn this here pretty quickly. You should have a rough idea about EUMETSAT’s mandate and its satellites, but since you are currently reading this interview, you are very likely to be aware of those already.
If/once you are offered and have accepted the place, try to be as proactive as possible, especially if we are still in a pandemic. This was incredibly enriching for me, personally. Ask your colleagues if you can join them for lunch, have a look into the organisation’s structure and locate people in different divisions who you think might be interesting to talk to and send them an email. Most of them are happy to take half an hour or even an hour out of their day.
This will not only help you understand the inner workings of EUMETSAT more quickly and thoroughly (given you are only here for about three-to-six months), it is also insightful in terms of getting a sense of the atmosphere here, and in terms of orientation for yourself, i. e. seeing how people got here, where else they have worked, and what keeps them at EUMETSAT.
Some fantastic advice there for any aspiring EUMETSAT interns! We’d like to thank Féline for her insightful answers and for taking the time to talk to us – we’re sure she has a very bright and interesting future ahead of her!
To see more of what life is like #InsideEUMETSAT, follow us on Instagram for more regular content.