On 26 January, 24 Stroud High and Marling Sixth Form students went to Strasbourg to represent the UK at the European Parliament for EUROSCOLA, an event for students from the 28 member states of the EU to experience the European Parliament as if they were MEPS.
The students who study Politics for A Level spent all of 25 January, from around 6am, travelling from city to city, from London to Paris to Strasbourg. Although it was a long day, there was still moments for us to enjoy, such as the momentary stop in Paris which gave us just enough time to grab a beautiful French macaron in the amazing city. Whizzing past beautiful scenery and cityscapes on 2 trains across France, we had time to research and rehearse points for our committees for the following day. After reaching the hostel in Strasbourg, we had time to relax in our hotel and meet some of the other European groups who were staying in the same hotel as us.
The second (and most important) day of the trip had all of us busy for most of the day. We arrived at the European Parliament building at 8am and after some security checks, we had a short coffee break with all the other students which allowed us to meet some great people! After this we travelled to the Chamber and sat in the MEPs' seats - this was a great experience and made the whole trip seem more real. Each country had one or two students who made a short speech about their school and area in a language that was not their native tongue; this was a display of some of the amazing talent the youth of the European Union possesses. We were then given an opportunity to ask questions to an MEP via video chat. Many interesting and well thought out questions were asked - I myself even got the opportunity to ask a question about tolerance and equality in a time of hateful rhetoric and nationalism, a topic which is very close to my heart. The questions spanned many topics from Common Agricultural Policy to refugees to environmental law and regulation, though a repeated concern was Donald Trump's presidency and the refugee crisis.
We were then given some delicious lunch and played the 'Eurogame' - we had to get into teams of 4 with each member being from a different country and then had to answer a series of questions all written in different languages. This taught us teamwork and just how valuable it is to be multilingual (or just how funny it can be to watch your team trying to decipher another language and be completely useless!). We then left the cafeteria to go to separate committee rooms where we debated the topics we had been given before left the UK: environment and renewable energies; security and human rights; development aid; the future of Europe; migration & integration and youth employment. The teams had been given questions to debate and we debated these in a roundtable discussion form with a European Parliament official and people from every country. After spending 2 hours debating these themes we returned to the Chamber where someone from each committee (who had been previously elected as a spokesperson) presented the results of the committees and the over 400 students voted on the proposals, just like real MEPs do in the process of passing EU legislation! To end the day there was one final round of 'Eurogame' with 4 teams, with one our own students, Jasper Newport, making it to the final. Just before we left they played the European anthem and we said goodbye to all the friends we had made that exciting day.
After we got back from EUROSCOLA, we rested in the hotel for a while before venturing out into Strasbourg. The 24 of us split into smaller groups and went to explore Strasbourg town and get some fantastic food. Some of us tried the local specialty of 'flam' which we found to be like a really thin pizza and was absolutely delicious! The town of Strasbourg was beautiful and had an awe-inspiring, massive cathedral which had incredible carvings and was lit perfectly in the night. After a night out on the town, we returned to the hostel for one last night in France and some people took this opportunity to spend some more time with our European friends.
Early the next morning we left the hostel and travelled back to Paris again. The further away from Strasbourg we got, the more people missed the European Parliament and our new friends. We learned so much on our trip - the importance of cooperation, how the European Parliament works first hand (which is incredibly helpful as we study this as part of our A level course) and much more. We are so grateful for this opportunity and can't wait to share our experience with those back at school!