Having just reached the four-month mark of my first posting in the European Fast Stream, I think it’s as good a time as any to take stock of just how far I’ve come. Those first few weeks of information overload, and if I’m honest, more than a little cluelessness, thankfully seem like a world away. Having finally got to grips with my role as an international policy advisor in the Border Agency, I am finding it challenging, interesting, sometimes stressful, hugely varied and unlike anything I could imagine doing on any private sector grad-scheme. A normal day in the office could include anything from: writing briefings; coordinating with other government departments; attending networking receptions or academic workshops; to representing the UK at an EU experts group on migration. The Fast Stream has definitely delivered on its promise to enable graduates like me to impact directly on UK, and EU, policies on a range of issues.
So now I move on to the European bit of my Fast Streamer profile. Added to whatever I do as EU-External Relations policy and International Projects lead, I also have 3 hours of 1:1 French lessons a week, where my French tutor and I discuss current affairs, political theory and everything in between. This, plus intensive EU courses and workshops, an opportunity to do a 2 week Erasmus trip to Brussels and a 5-month stage in the European Commission, is all available to better prepare me and my fellow European Fast Streamers for the Concours, the competitive exam to gain entrance into the European institutions civil service. While it sometimes seems like I have a lot going on, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue building on my language skills and the support we receive from the Cabinet Office in making our recruitment into the European Union an exciting and attainable goal.
What is just as important for me as all the training provided, the opportunities for development and the hugely interesting range of tasks I am involved in, is the people I work with. I have found myself in a unit filled with people who are quick to help, hugely friendly and welcoming and from whom I have learnt an incredible amount. I am also lucky enough to be working to a line manager who is both extremely supportive, while giving me the scope and responsibility to make my role challenging and fulfilling. The Civil Service culture in general has taken a little getting used to, but 4 months down the line (and one insightful, if not intense 5 day Fast Stream training course) it is surprising how quickly you settle in, and that first day is but a dim and distant memory.