200 students from all over Europe taking over the European parliament in Strasbourg for three days? That must be the European Student Assembly 2023 😀
Judith Wahl, our EELISA FAU representative, took part in the European Student Assembly. Let’ go through her experience in this conference!
In fact, it was far more than a three-day event: The selected students from all over Europe began working in panels long before the actual assembly in Strasbourg. I decided to participate in the panel on Digitalisation, and in our group of 20 students, we worked remotely on European policy proposals tackling the question ‘How to ensure a fair and sustainable digital transition in a context of exploding demand and raw material scarcity?’.
After consulting experts, attending weekly online meetings and drafting our proposals, we all arrived in Strasbourg on May 31, 2023. Our festive welcome address took place in the heart of the European parliament, the Robert Schuman Hemicycle. Sitting in the very chairs typically occupied by European politicians, we listened to the Welcome and Keynote Speeches delivered by the French minister of Higher Education and the President of the University Strasbourg. It was at that moment when the magnitude of the event truly sank in.
Following each panel’s presentation of their topic and problem statement, the spotlight shifted to Ukrainian students. A hybrid meeting was held with students from Kyiv, Ukraine, where they shared how life at their universities had changed since the start of the Russian aggression. They also described their efforts to rebuild parts of their campus that had been destroyed. The Ukrainian students emphasized the importance of the support network they had found among fellow Ukrainians studying in European universities.
I had the pleasure to meet three other EELISA students who were working on different panels, as well as representatives of the EELISA office Inês Roquero and Ayse Aylin Bayar, at the assembly. The European Student Assembly also served as a platform for European university alliances to come together and share experiences among each other.
The second day was primarily dedicated to finalizing our policy recommendations within our respective panel groups. We exchanged thoughts with students from other panels, and made final adjustments. After submitting our final policy proposals at 5 pm, we had time to socialize with students from other panels, and explore the charming old town of Strasbourg.
On the final morning of the assembly, the most important and thrilling part awaited us: the plenary assembly and adoption of the proposals through a majority vote. We got the opportunity to use the professional voting machines in the parliament, making the moment feel very meaningful. The voting process was exciting, with each panel delivering a brief presentation and objections being raised. The votes were far from unanimous, and objections were passionately expressed. Some proposals faced rejection by the majority of the assembly. However, the majority of proposals were adopted.
We then spend one last evening together with our newfound friends from all across the continent. The next day, as we prepared to head back home, we left with a sense of purpose and empowerment, knowing that we, as students, have the ability to actively shape our future.
The policy proposals of each panel are now being disseminated to European policymakers. In June, representatives of my panel had the opportunity to present our proposals at the VivaTech conference in Paris.
I highly recommend all EELISA students to keep an eye on the website of the ESA to stay updated on when the application for the European Student Assembly 2024 will open. Personally, I learned a great deal about the panel topic digitalisation, how difficult policy making is, and how European politics works. Thank you, EELISA, for giving me this opportunity!