My Erasmus+ Work Experience in Brussels – Yuko Hanada

For today’s guest post, Yuko Hanada, MA Advanced Practice in Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution, describes her experiences at the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QUNO) in Brussels.

Yuko (right) in Brussels during a visit from our Career Consultant Kenneth (centre)

How did you find the placement?

While writing my dissertation, I was also looking ahead to my future career path and was a little bit apprehensive. I assumed that no organisations in Europe would accept me because of my nationality or my English language level, and I think I was planning to go back to Japan although I wanted to gain work experience before my departure. Around this time, I received an email from the Department of Peace Studies and International Development (PSID), which I belonged to, about a placement at the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QUNO) in Brussels. I found it interesting and close to what I’d learned in MA Advanced Practice in Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution. The chance to work outside of Japan with non-Japanese colleagues in the field of peacebuilding in Brussels, the centre of international diplomacy, was a great opportunity and I was determined to apply for it.

Can you tell us about the role?

I started to work at QCEA as a Peace Programme Research Assistant in October. My main role was to research for the missing elements in the discussion on the environment and security nexus to tackle climate change and I had some great opportunities to attend conferences relating to this issue. I had been interested in environmental issues since I was little, yet I had little experience to look at climate change and peacebuilding simultaneously. Moreover, as this task required critical thinking, critical analysis and research skills, it entailed me to utilise all of these skills practically at QCEA. I am so fortunate to see a variety of peace practices at QCEA, which concerns people whose voice are not heard such as refugees and provides seeds of peace from Europe to the world at the advocacy level.

Through meetings with different stakeholders including experts in this field from international organisations to the civil society, professors, ex-commanders, and diplomats, I realised the importance of network skills to be involved in peacebuilding as many different groups and issues are interlinked in this field. In addition, knowledge and skills that I have gained during my MA course such as conflict/gender sensitivity helped me a lot to play my role at QCEA as they were significantly related to my research on the nexus of the environment and security, and I don’t know how many times I appreciated that I had chosen the PSID during this placement.

What was it like living in Brussels?

Throughout my stay I was receiving the Erasmus+ Work Placement Grant from the University of Bradford which help to support me financially as the cost of living in Brussels is higher than in Bradford.

As I had been surrounded by many friends and colleagues from all over the world with a different background in Bradford ahead of the placement, nothing was a problem in terms of accepting the different cultures in Brussels. Yet, what shocked me the most during my internship was the large number of homeless people even around the European Parliament. Needless to say, living or working in a different country to ours gives us a wider view of gender, religion, culture, society, and nationality, etc., but it also shows social issues that the country is facing and initiatives including coexisting with “refugees” and “migrants” and the use of bicycles for the environment, which I rarely see back home in Japan.

Final thoughts and next steps

I am pleased to be the first student from the University for this initiative with QCEA to strengthen a cooperation between Quaker Peace Studies Trust and PSID, which has been lasting since 1972. I would like more students of the University of Bradford to explore the world to think critically and act practically to make a use of their degree. I am keen to utilise my experiences at both PSID and QCEA for my next step to contribute to conflict prevention.

Thanks Yuko! Find out more about study and work abroad opportunities on the International Opportunities SharePoint page.