By Panareti Neophytou , Year 12 Student at The International School of Paphos (ISOP)
Euroscola offers an immersive experience in the chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, allowing high-school students to learn about European integration by experiencing it first-hand. Students from the 28 EU member states are selected to become Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for one day. They take the floor in plenary and committee sessions to debate and vote on resolutions on current affairs, practising their language skills and making friends with fellow students from across Europe. Teachers also have the opportunity to meet their colleagues and exchange feedback about their own classroom practices & experiences.
After receiving an award for an essay about Europe in my mother language, Greek, I was honored to be one of the 12 students from Cyprus - and the only one from Paphos - selected to represent my country in Strasbourg at the Euroscola conference on the 30th of November. During the conference, I was chosen by a majority of votes to represent the Environmental Committee as its spokesperson, addressing the serious problem of Climate Change. Seizing the opportunity, my faith and hope for a united Cyprus gave me the strength and courage to address the MEP, Inés Ayala Sender, and the EU parliament about the sensitive issue of the division of Cyprus. This was based on the entrapment of Cypriots in a divided nation, whose human rights are suppressed by the Turkish occupying forces. I felt the need to ask the EU ambassador for the European Union’s stance on this issue, as Cyprus is the only divided nation in the EU. My voice echoed the voices of all those Cypriots who urge strongly for a united, free and democratic Cyprus. Throughout the conference, we shared our viewpoints on the climate change issue and suggested possible solutions, including greater EU funding, changes in fiscal policy and adjustments of the already existing programmes to achieve greater efficiency and to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit, thereby creating incentives for the discovery of new, innovative ideas for utilising our renewable energy resources. Similarly, we emphasised the need to raise awareness of the external costs that arise from global warming, aiming to fill the information gap of the people, who must alter their lifestyle to a more environmentally friendly one. Our resolution passed with the majority of votes in favour. The conference definitely enhanced my organisational skills, as I was challenged to prepare a structured speech in a limited amount of time. I had the opportunity to interact with students from 22 different member states, specifically during the “Eurogame”, where we collaborated with students from three other countries to answer questions written in different languages. The trip to Strasbourg was an unforgettable experience where I gained many friendships that will hopefully last for a long time. During our tour of the city, we discovered the history of the place through its beautiful architecture and we witnessed some of France’s traditions at the multiple Christmas markets. Subsequently, I felt a sense of freedom, when we easily passed the border from France to Germany to visit the city of Heidelberg. There, in an exceptional educational experience, we visited archaeological sites, not only discovering parts of German history but also embracing the beauty of nature while it was snowing! This experience will always be carved in my heart and has definitely encouraged me to learn more about the EU in the future. I believe in adding to the skills and knowledge that the educational system provides for us. This was a great opportunity to represent not only my city, Paphos, the European Capital of Culture 2017, but also my school, The International School of Paphos, which has offered me the knowledge and skills to become its representative. I would like to thank the teachers who accompanied us and the Euroscola programme for such an enthralling opportunity!