We live in an expat bubble in Brussels which makes it hard to really blend in

Made in Maastricht: Lea Pfefferle

Lea Pfefferle

In 2008, Lea Pfefferle, 28 years, decided to study European Studies in Maastricht.  She is originally from Kerpen, Germany and has been keen on learning more about politics from a young age. Additionally, “I was quite interested to do my bachelors in English and at that time in Germany there weren’t that many universities that were offering the opportunity for a degree in English.”

“Of course, I did the Inkom. Actually, it was very, very good”. She emphasizes, “I met really nice people there and I’m pretty sure I attended the Cantus event as well, where they threw beer and sang. It was very impressive.” Because of the beer part or the singing part? She laughs “Everything, it was a very interesting event, I had never seen something like that before.”

How did she experience the first months in this new country in a new study program? Lea: “I remember it was very interesting but also quite overwhelming to have exams right away after two months. You were always a little bit in a state of panic, but it was also very interesting to have different types of courses. I really loved Problem Based Learning. I think it is the best way to teach people. Or at least, to teach people who need discussion to learn,” she stresses.

 “I have great memories of both my bachelor paper supervisors. Anke Schmidt-Felzmann, who later went to Sweden, and Dr. Schah, who was originally from Iran. She brought in a different cultural view and also invited us to celebrate the Iranian New Year with her. We had interesting discourses with her. She had left Iran only two years before and had experienced an oppressive regime. She tried to make us more aware of the fact that we needed to be more politically active to protect our freedom.”

London, Berlin & Brussels
“After we graduated, a few of my classmates and I went to universities in London, including the University College London, the Kings’ College and the London School of Economics. These are competitive schools, but the Maastricht degree gave us a good background.”

After graduating in London, she went to Berlin for an internship, then to Brussels for a traineeship at the European Commission and after that she started a traineeship Public Affairs at Novartis which turned into a job. “I really enjoyed working in public affairs, but you need to find an area to specialize in and I chose healthcare.”

After two years and a restructuring, her job was made redundant. Did she regret that? “Even though this was not an ideal situation, it gave me the opportunity to do something different for a while; I took a few months off and went to Italy to do a language class. I did some freelance work for a non for profit startup platform called Politix EU. This platform explains EU legislative proposals for a broad audience and you can vote if you like the proposal and if politicians should consider it or not. We try to close what we call the feedback loop. We see that there is a gap between the public and the politicians, there is no possibility to give input and the voices of the public are not heard. We also would like people to gain more understanding but most of all ‘have a voice’”. Eu.politix.io 

5 years from now?
“I could see myself in many places around the world”, she says. “Brussels is one of these weird places, very much like Washington D.C. We live in an expat bubble. People move here because of their jobs, I live here because that’s where the institutions are and actually it is a great environment. In no other city do you have such a diverse international community that is so highly specialized in one area. We all ‘do politics’ which is great. However, in terms of living here long-term it is a bit difficult since we often do not really blend in and stay in our expat bubble.”

Why should anyone study in Maastricht?
She laughs. ”I would say it is a very tough school. You will have to put a lot of continuous effort in. You’ll get to interact with and have a close contact with your professors and teachers. I would say in terms of what you learn and how you learn, it was the best way to do it!”

Lea Pfefferle, graduated from European Studies (BA) in 2011.

Denise  Villerius, Alumni Officer
November 2016