Leonie Beck's combined degree of French and European Union studies set her on a career path in communications for organisations including the European Space Agency and the European Parliament. She's now working for the United Nations in Bonn and is gearing up to inform the German public about COP26 through social media, websites and a podcast.
French and European Union Studies
|Year of graduation||2012|
At the moment
On a train in Germany. It’s autumn and we are driving past yellow and orange trees, reminding me of walks through the Meadows when the colourful leaves would cover the ground and we were huddled up in thick coats, rushing to get inside. I’m feeling nostalgic for Edinburgh and my student days.
Your time at the University
Growing up in Brussels, I was aware and interested in what was going on with the EU. The organizations were on my doorstep and inevitably, you’d always hear about the latest political developments. So, it wasn’t surprising that when the time came to apply for a degree, I chose to go with European Union Studies. Though going to Scotland to learn about the EU may not have been an obvious choice, I felt it would be interesting to get another perspective, away from the EU bubble. I welcomed the option to study a language as well. Having learned French in school, I was delighted to see that there was a combined degree in European Union Studies and French, which wasn’t possible at most of the other universities I applied to. That’s how I ended up in Edinburgh.
When I started university there, I was quite shy - not least because English was my second language and I was insecure about my German accent. But I quickly became friends with the other students living on my floor in Turner House and before I knew it the accent was gone and I’d become much more outgoing. We went ceilidh-dancing, to fancy dress parties, up Arthur’s Seat, to a weekly pub quiz and out for food. We spent a lot of time at Teviot, both during the day and at night. Though we were doing different degrees, we’d meet up to study together in the library. Funnily enough, I also have fond memories of lugging books from the library to our flat, taking notes in lecture halls and even completing assignments last minute for tutorials.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After leaving Edinburgh, I went on to do an Erasmus Mundus Master in EU Studies, taking me to the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. I followed this up with internships at the United Nations in Vienna and the EU Delegation to the US in Washington, D.C., realising in the process that I most enjoyed working in communications. During my first job at the European Space Agency, I thus managed the social media accounts of the European astronauts who were on the International Space Station at the time and organised movie shootings at the European Astronaut Centre. Following 10 months as a social media manager at the European Parliament in Brussels, I started my current job at the United Nations in Bonn.
As an Associate Information Officer at the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), my job is to inform the German public about the work of the UN, be it through social media, public speaking engagements or organizing informative events. I am also the focal point for German media, ministries, or local authorities.
Currently, I am gearing up for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. During COP26, I will be covering the events in German on our website as well as social media to support our UNFCCC colleagues, who are on location now but usually right next door to us in Bonn. We started communicating about COP26 months ago, amongst other things in our podcast ‘Inside UN Bonn’, in which we share stories from the UN Bonn campus. I’m particularly proud of hosting and producing the podcast together with a colleague and one of the first episodes we recorded was about the preparations for the COP. It was fascinating to hear from our colleagues how they’re organizing this huge event.
In hindsight, one thing I’d do differently is quite simply to go outside more. Like most students, I was living in Edinburgh on a budget, so to save money I’d spend days in a row inside – studying, watching series or hanging out with my flatmates. And while I have wonderful memories of those cosy moments together in our Marchmont flat, I do wish I’d appreciated Edinburgh’s beauty more at the time, instead of taking it for granted. Anytime I go back now, I walk around for hours, trying to take it all in. So that’s it: go outside!
Literatures, Languages and Cultures
COP26 and the University of Edinburgh
Inside UN Bonn podcast (external)