LSE student at the 2022 European Student Assembly

Mathea Bernhardt shares her story

The Assembly is designed to ensure students have a powerful voice in the Conference on the Future of Europe, a strategic EU initiative to debate Europe’s challenges and priorities, and suggest impactful solutions.

Use the chance to make our generation's ideas heard, and actively get involved in European policymaking.

Mathea Bernhardt, LSE student

Over 200 students from across Europe gathered in Strasbourg for the two-day European Student Assembly in March 2022. Mathea Bernhardt, a postgraduate student in International Relations, attended on behalf of LSE and CIVICA. Here she explains how she got involved, why she's passionate about sharing the policy proposals created, her top tip for delicious Strasbourg eating, and advice for other students.

How did you get involved in CIVICA and the European Student Assembly?

I seized the opportunity and applied to become one of LSE's CIVICA student representatives at the European Student Assembly after I read about it in our department newsletter.

The Assembly focused on the theme the Future of Europe. What were your ambitions and thoughts for the future of Europe before you went?

The future of Europe is currently being challenged by unprecedented crises such as rising populism, the COVID-19 pandemic, demographic change, and climate change to name only a few. Movements such as Fridays for Future highlight the importance of our generation's participation in the European democratic process.

For this reason, I wanted to engage in the Conference and advance the youth's perspective and ideas for a sustainable and inclusive future to help overcome the coronavirus crisis, the climate crisis, and any future crisis.

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Mathea Bernhardt at the European Student Assembly

The Assembly lasted two days: how busy was your time there, and did it increase your interest in politics?

The two days were extremely busy but also incredibly interesting - 275 student representatives from 28 different countries, 38 alliances and 144 universities attended. We had the chance to visit the European Parliament, listen to speeches of MEPs and attend panel discussions.

However, most of the time was dedicated to our working sessions where we discussed and drafted our policy proposals. Seeing how politics is made in the European Parliament but more importantly, actively contributing to the policymaking process definitely increased my interest in politics.

What did you think of Strasbourg? Did you have any good food while you were there?

Strasbourg is a picturesque city that charms its visitors with the historic cathedral, old town and river promenade. Of course, I also ate a tarte flambée during my visit, which is a speciality of the region.

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Sightseeing in Strasbourg

How did you negotiate the final policy proposals with fellow delegates?

To develop the policy proposals, we split into ten thematically different working groups each of which gathered, sorted and drafted ideas for their dedicated topic several months before the assembly. In Strasbourg, we finalised our recommendations and the Assembly democratically voted on the overall report to be submitted to the European institutions.

Which of the policy proposals are you personally the most interested and excited about?

All proposals were integrated into our overall report which will be submitted to the European institutions, encompassing topics such as cyber security, pandemics, degrowth, regulating social media and education. While all panels are tremendously important for the future of Europe, I am most interested in the topic of climate refugees which is why I applied for this panel.


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Sightseeing in Strasbourg

What do you think the main challenges are to getting your proposals heard and accepted?

I believe the main challenge is to make sure that our proposal does not simply vanish into the depths of a bottom drawer. The European Student Assembly is a great initiative to foster student cooperation and make their voices heard. However, the success will be determined by whether people are willing to listen or not.

What plans do you have to make sure policymakers across Europe really engage with the Assembly’s proposals?

We are currently working on disseminating our policy proposals by involving different stakeholders, directly contacting Commissioners and MEPs, organising events in our communities, and gathering feedback. Further, we present and discuss our proposals with policymakers across Europe such as Tine Delva who is the Deputy Head of Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture.

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On stage at the European Student Assembly

What was the highlight of your whole experience?

My highlight was meeting so many inspiring people, with different cultural and academic backgrounds who are united in their aspiration to collaboratively drive change in our society.

How does the CIVICA alliance reflect your hopes for the future of Europe?

The CIVICA alliance reflects this spirit of working collaboratively with like-minded people to engage in international dialogue and develop solutions for the complex challenges of our time through a combination of research and innovation, education and civic outreach.

What advice would you give to LSE students thinking of applying to be part of the next European Student Assembly?

I would definitely advise them to apply, not only for their personal development but also to use the chance to make our generation's ideas heard and actively get involved in European policymaking.

Interview by Greg Taylor (Head of Public Affairs, LSE)

Read the Policy Proposals on the Future of Europe produced at the Assembly

Contact us

If you have any questions about LSE and CIVICA please contact the Global Academic Engagement team at LSE by emailing global@lse.ac.uk.