Gerard Fernández, IBEI alumni 2014-15
Name and Last Name: Gerard Fernández
Master studied at IBEI: Master's in International Relations
Current working company, position and city: Communications Assistant at the European Forest Institute, Barcelona (Spain)
1. Why did you choose the IBEI Master’s in International Relations?
After finishing my university degree in the Netherlands, where I took some subjects in the field of the European Union, I was interested in specialising in this field and combining my inquisitiveness in foreign policy, diplomacy and international political decision-making with my experience as a journalist. My aim in choosing the master's degree was to try to link these two interests: communication and EU policies, and I think that IBEI offers a very transversal curriculum that allows students from very different backgrounds to specialise and build a solid career.
2. What is your experience at IBEI?
My experience at IBEI was really positive. Not only it’s an institution located in a privileged site in Barcelona, but it also has a very helpful administrative staff and, specially, a very qualified faculty who knows how to arouse students' curiosity by giving interesting and practical classes in which debate, analysis and research are fundamental pillars of the teaching style. In addition, the atmosphere was very enriching as I shared class with people coming from all over the world, speaking different languages, with different cultures and insights that made my time as a student a life-changing experience.
3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI
During my time at IBEI I was lucky enough to be able to do an internship at the European Commission’s office in Barcelona. Thanks to that experience, many other opportunities emerged such as working with the communication and press team of the European Union Agency for Railways (France) where I was involved in projects aimed at promoting the Single European Railway Area (SERA). Back in Barcelona, I worked a couple of years at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, an international educational and research centre, and currently I’m part of the European Forest Institute’s staff.
4. What is your professional experience (your current position, your main functions)?
I am currently working in the Communications Office of the European Forest Institute’s Mediterranean Facility (EFIMED), which aims to provide relevant information for policy and decision makers in European countries in the field of forestry, as well as developing research to promote forest conservation, bioeconomy and fight against climate change.
My job at EFIMED is to disseminate the work of a broad network of organisations across the Mediterranean, which carry out crucial initiatives and projects for forest management and wildfire protection in Southern Europe and North Africa. Through different communication tools (web, social media, publications, events, press) the aim of the office is to expand this network with more partners, entities and individuals, as well as to raise public awareness of the importance of forestry for the environmental political agenda and green economy.
5. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?
The master programme provided me with a wide range of knowledge, mainly related to the functioning of the European institutions and foreign policy, which in a way are indirectly related to my current work: EU research policies, neighbourhood policy in the Mediterranean, global governance, diplomacy, etc. These studies are also designed to develop students' critical thinking capacity and equip them with the proper skills to analyse and research a wide range of issues affecting the global arena.
6. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?
Absolutely! Today I can say that I’ve achieved my goal of working in the field of communication for international institutions and I truly believe that my experience at IBEI has been crucial in making it happen. If someone had told me four years ago that I would now be working in an international organisation in my hometown, collaborating on projects together with the European Union and many other regional bodies in the Mediterranean basin, I wouldn't believe them at all.
7. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?
Make the most of all the contents of the Master's programme, attend the conferences, take part in the activities organised and network with alumni, guest lecturers or professionals invited to the centre. Information can be powerful and getting first-hand advice from people working in the field of your dreams is a unique opportunity not to be missed. And last but not least, enjoy the Barcelona experience, make lots of friends and keep in touch with them: maybe you'll bump into some of them again on your way or, in the future, they may be the call you've always been waiting for!
8. What do you miss most about the IBEI?
I miss the passionate debates we had in class about the events taking place all over the world, the geopolitics and the political agenda of different countries and regions...And, above all, the interesting talks in the bars, the outings with classmates and the sunny breaks in the Parc de la Ciutadella!