The Palais des Congrés was electrifying on Saturday 7th February 2015 when 700 students descended upon Paris for the annual Your Future in Europe conference, this year sponsored by Erasmus+ UK. BBC Radio presenter and journalist Kirsty Lang returned to chair the day. Documenting the history of the Eurozone, Kirsty explained how the expansion of Europe has had some causes and effects within the member nations.
Liberty leader and human rights advocate Shami Chakrabarti gave insight into the history of the human rights act and the part Liberty plays in the fight for all people's right to freedom. Some challenged her views: Prior Pursglove asked why it isn't more important to protect the majority from the offending and dangerous minority. Shami explained: "If the wrong kind of person got into power the majority vote could be used to abolish the Human Rights Act or delay a General Election. It's important to have referees too".
The newest frontman for Newsnight and our very favourite economics expert Evan Davis broke down the crisis that was happening in the Eurozone. He touched upon Greece's recent election, the overall strength of the Euro, and described the EU's attempt to replicate the United States model. Wirral Grammar School for Girls asked later if we would ever be like America. Evan simply said "I think the borders in our minds are going to be very hard to break"
After a short break (and a million photos with Evan) we met Ben Lindsey who had just completed the Erasmus+ programme in Hungary. Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. Running until 2020, organisations and institutions are invited to apply for funding each year to undertake creative and worthwhile activities across Europe.
Ben explained how easy it was to apply for funding and how exciting the opportunities were for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train abroad in Europe. He also highlighted that he didn't need to learn another language as all of his lecturers were in English. "My lecturer was actually Scottish! I still found it difficult to understand him" he joked. "But that's about as different an experience as it got, compared to University in England".
Ben was joined by Zoe Diderich who spoke more about working aboard, starting out first as a theatre set designer in her native Luxembourg to travelling over 5,500 miles to Los Angeles! "I met with an agent who told me I needed to work in Budapest for a while and then come back to LA to get a Green card", Zoe recalls. "I decided then that's not what I wanted to do and decided to train to become an interpreter."
Next, Andrew McMillan got into his view on business and how a customer service experience could be the deciding factor for a consumer. Andrew built his reputation on the back of John Lewis and its stellar service which has been emulated in other businesses across Europe. He spoke briefly on his role as a consultant, taking more time to reveal the businesses he admires through their advertisements and customer charters, whilst giving away some tidbits that would help any business get off the ground.
We broke for lunch so we could prepare for the main event. The Question Time panel was bound to be an exciting event with two former cabinet ministers Alan Johnson MP (Lab) and Dominic Grieve QC MP (Con) and UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe taking to the stage with Evan and Shami to debate questions fielded by our audience. Kirsty kept time as the panel debated UKIP and its policies, the government's stance on immigration and if the education system is actually any good!
We want to thank Kirsty, our amazing guest speakers Shami, Evan, Ben, Zoe, Andrew and our panelists for the most exciting Your Future in Europe conference yet! How are we going to top it next year!? Wait and see!
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