EYP Alumni community in Brussels

In every city across Europe, we have amazing personalities from the Alumni pool who find ways to stay involved and support the EYP network. We had a chance to talk to one of them – Tiago Correia Machado – an alumnus from Portugal who currently lives in Brussels and coordinates the Brussels-based Alumni group. Tiago’s first EYP session was the 10th National Selection Conference of EYP Portugal in 2003. After that, he attended many EYP events in different capacities, ending his EYP career in 2016 as President of the Euro-Ibero-American Youth Forum in Braga. Tiago works as a Legal Consultant, working closely with his clients to help them respond to their transnational and EU law questions.

Tiago, could you please describe yourself in one sentence?

That’s not an easy request… but, if I really must, then I’ll go with: meticulous, sociable, a friend to my friends. There, that’s one (very short) sentence!

What are three things from EYP that you use in your work?

i) Writing skills. I always thought of myself as being able to write good text, but EYP really helped me take that to the next level. Maybe it was all those Academic Prep Kits… or maybe it was the long rants on countless Facebook posts? Whatever it was, I am thankful for it, as writing effectively is a major part of what I do every day.

ii) Speaking skills. I did a lot of debating and public speaking, so, unsurprisingly, I liked to think that I was good even before EYP. What is perhaps surprising is that it was only a few years after having started in EYP, especially once I began presiding to sessions more frequently, that I truly developed my speaking skills; not just in public or for larger audiences, but also in smaller settings, to different kinds of audiences, often with no script and in very unexpected circumstances. Today, talking to people (understanding them, helping them, convincing them) is a major part of what I do, so I’m glad I had the chance to rack up considerable experience before having to prove myself ‘in the real world’.

iii) FIRO. That might sound generic, but those ‘in the know’ will surely get what I mean. In essence, I believe being able to not just ‘read a room’ but ‘read individuals’ has helped me greatly in my work, as I often find myself as a conduit between two parties or an arbiter of sorts amongst larger groups. Knowing how people relate and having a somewhat advantaged perception of how they might position or project themselves in given situations has been of great help to me.

How does the Brussels-based EYP Alumni group work?

Not as well as I’d like it to, to be honest… but probably still better than in most other cities, simply because we have so many Alumni who end up in the city, mostly by virtue of what they chose to do in life (and that is often very much a function of having done EYP). It’s quite simple, otherwise: we have a Facebook group (‘EYP networking in Brussels’; any Alumni already living in Brussels or planning to move here soon are very welcome to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/132348020795492/), which currently counts 86 members and 20 nationalities, where someone (usually me) posts a poll with a set of proposed dates for our next get-together. Then we pick a bar (we’ve tried a few, which has been fun), make a reservation for the chosen date and, on the day, we all meet there for some drinks and chats. We usually do this once a month, which I suppose is not too bad. In the future, though, I would personally be happy to also start organising some more ‘serious’ events, mainly because I think we’re currently missing out on the more network-y side of things. This is a much longer topic, and something we haven’t yet been able to discuss fully with all our members, but, in short, I believe that, with so many different people in so many interesting positions, we should be capitalising on that. Not for capital gains, obviously, but for professional gains. If you are (or will soon be) a Brussels-based Alumnus/a, I am happy to discuss this in more depth, so feel free to approach me.

What do you especially like about networking with EYP Alumni? Why is it necessary or how can the EYP network profit from it?

Oh, I love it! I had a great time in EYP and many of the people I met became my close friends. Now that I live in Brussels, I’m lucky that I get to spend a bit more time with some of them. As for why is it necessary, I think that’s obvious. What I would add is that, as a network of individuals, there is something we still don’t do well in EYP – passing on our knowledge, helping our fellows. If you look at most major organisations’ networks, even here in Brussels (LSE, INSEAD, ELSA… even MUN), what you’ll see is that they all have a proper structure, partners/sponsors, and they all organise a string of events for their members. Amongst other things, they do what all networks are meant to do: they bring together more senior Alumni with recent ones, or with people who are still active in the organisation. Moving to Brussels and starting a career in a city that is quite fast-paced and full of little idiosyncrasies can become much easier if you know there are people here who’ve already gone through it. But we don’t really do this… at least not beyond very informal ‘one-on-ones’… and if you don’t already have contacts here, you are unlikely to profit from the fact that there are so many EYPers who would gladly help you in this process. In this vein, the otherwise very recent EYP Mentorship Programme could be interesting for us to explore. Ultimately, while none of this is absolutely necessary, I personally think it would make a lot of sense. And people who get something from EYP not just during their active time but also after, it seems to me, are also a lot more likely to give back… not just financially (though I maintain that as little as €1/month from even just a fraction of all EYP Alumni would make an enormous difference), but also with access, promotion, support… and that, I believe, is how EYP as a whole would profit from cultivating a stronger networking culture amongst its Alumni.