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Back to your roots: Leiden Alumni in Brussels Event

Over 100 Leiden University alumni gathered in the heart of Brussels for the annual Leiden Alumni in Brussels Event on 29 February. The European Banking Federation (EBF) generously hosted the event for the second time at their premises on Avenue des Arts.

The evening began with a panel discussion on the European elections, migration and the EU in a geopolitical world, with panel members Sarah Wolff, Professor of European Politics and International Relations, Niels van Willigen, Associate Professor of International Relations and Ben Smulders, Deputy Director General of DG Competition, European Commission (and Leiden Law School alumnus). The discussion was moderated by Dr Maxine David from European Studies.

Living and working in Brussels

Following the panel discussion, alumni had the chance to reconnect with old acquaintances, make new contacts and share their experiences over Lebanese snacks and drinks. We were lucky enough to welcome experienced mentors from our Mentor Network who answered questions on living and working in Brussels. Their perspectives and advice were invaluable to both newcomers to the city and those considering future career opportunities in Brussels. Read on to find out how alumni experienced the event!

Strong connections and shared experiences

Since graduating from Leiden University back in 2017 with a degree in European Law, Urszula Poturniak's journey as a lawyer at the European Commission (DG NEAR) has been both challenging and rewarding. Poturniak says that her work at DG NEAR has been immensely rewarding and has offered her a sense of fulfilment that balances out the less enjoyable aspects of navigating a difficult job market in Brussels, which include unpaid internships and frequent rejections. The Alumni Event in Brussels was both an enjoyable evening and a networking opportunity. It also resulted in a chance encounter with a colleague who also turned out to be a Leiden University alumnus. This funny coincidence was a reminder of the strong connections and shared experiences that connect Leiden University alumni. Reflecting on her student days in Leiden, Poturniak says it was a positive experience that shaped who she is today. In spite of the challenges (such as a complex housing market), Leiden's accessible culture and community spirit left a lasting impression on her. Poturniak says that while Brussels is beautiful and has a lot of offer, Leiden's atmosphere remains unique.

Nicolas Tubbs graduated from Leiden University in 2007 with a master's degree in Environmental Sciences, specialising in biodiversity and sustainability. His current position as International Programmes Director at WWF reflects his commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development. The Leiden Alumni in Brussels Event was a chance for Tubbs to reconnect with Leiden University  a place of special significance to him both professionally and personally as it's where he met his wife who was also a student at the time. This was the first alumni event that Tubbs has attended. He's keen to explore further opportunities to engage and reconnect with Leiden University and give something back to the university that gave him so much.

Beaudine Verhoek, a 2018 Humanities graduate, is a Strategic Communications Officer at the NATO headquarters, where she focuses on countering disinformation. Amid challenges such as the war against Ukraine and marking NATO's 75th anniversary, her role involves understanding hostile narratives against NATO. She still maintains strong connections with Leiden University thanks to alumni events and her role as an alumni mentor. She adds, 'One of my favourite memories is when I was writing my NATO application letter. I asked my lecturer, Dr Maxine David, to review my application. She told me it was absolute rubbish and that I had to rewrite it. I went away and did that, and I ended up getting in! I'm forever grateful for her honesty.' Now living and working in Brussels, she has fond memories of tranquil walks in Leiden's Hortus Botanicus, iced coffee in hand.

The 2024 Leiden Alumni in Brussels Event provided an opportunity to reflect on current European topics and reconnect with Leiden University and its alumni. We look forward to the upcoming alumni events in Brussels and hope to see you again soon!

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