I never thought of applying to LSE, until my late professor at the University of Vienna pushed me towards it. ‘They’ll never accept me.’ ‘They might if you apply.’ ‘I can’t afford the fees!’ ‘You might get a scholarship.’ So, I applied, I was accepted, and I received a graduate support scholarship: without which I could never have attended LSE. It was well worth it. My time at LSE has transformed my entire life. The fact that I would like to re-do the entire thing – while being envious of everyone else’s LSE experience – is testament to how great and unique the LSE experience really is. I really wish I could have another, but I know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
You shouldn’t get the wrong impression: life after graduation was not necessarily a cake walk. Most in my year immediately got jobs, or traineeships at the European Commission or other similarly impressive workplaces. I am one of the few who didn’t. But LSE is not just about fast career progression, or the prestige, but about the bonds you forge with your fellow students and the mindset you adopt throughout rigorous academic studies.
Being surrounded by the best of the best can fill you with self-doubt; but I learned it’s important not to compare oneself with others, but to forge your own path through life. After unsuccessfully seeking a job back home, a friend from LSE helped me out. The UK embraced me back with open arms, with work and study in both London and Glasgow. Before I knew it, I was teaching a summer school in Oxford. Then with the EU referendum I wound up in Brussels, where to my surprise my career really took off.
I started out as a policy adviser trainee at the Committee of the Regions and then moved over to the European Parliament. Suddenly I was interviewing Guy Verhofstadt on the future of Europe and participating in trilogue negotiations with the European Commission and the Council. Simultaneously I was volunteering for the 89 Initiative – a think-and-do-tank housed at the European Institute to this day – which I co-founded with my LSE colleagues and friends during our studies. At the end of this wild ride in 2017, I needed a break to reflect on everything and chart a new course for myself. I founded the European Future Forum in Vienna and built it up over a year, together with a few other LSE EI Alumni. Then I returned to Brussels as the editorial coordinator of the Eureka Network, where I sharpened my editorial skills and publishing know-how.
In the summer of 2019, I published my first novel, followed by another book on policy; I decided to establish myself as a freelance writer, which I’ve managed to do with relative ease despite the recent coronavirus outbreak. Concurrently, I also transformed the European Future Forum from a civil society organisation into a fully-fledged incubated R&D start-up. And why stop there? I had already made a name for myself as an expert in EU affairs; so, in the middle of the recent corona pandemic, I have started advising the Austrian Savings Banks Association, Austria’s largest corporation, consisting of forty-nine banks, on digital policy. To think that I almost didn’t apply to LSE…