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UEL alumna lands dream traineeship at European Commission 

Celia Gueto Melo wants to understand the human face of economics

Celia Gueto Melo, 22, is a University of East London (UEL) graduate on the frontline of today’s financial and political changes, thanks to securing a highly competitive ‘Blue Book Traineeship’ at the European Commission. 

The Blue Book Traineeship scheme offers a paid internship of five months with the European Commission, and counts Prince Felipe of Spain, Michael Froman, Deputy Assistant to US President Barack Obama, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, and Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, among its former trainees.

Celia said, “I’m living in Brussels and training in finance in the language section, so I have a front-row seat when representatives of the EU Commission and British Government meet for Brexit negotiations.

“And, as a native of Spain, I was again there during discussions when Catalonia made its bid for independence from Spain.”

Launched in 1960, the scheme is the longest running traineeship programme of its kind and the biggest in the world in terms of the numbers recruited annually. The trainees, or ‘stagiaires’ as they are more commonly known, work with the Commission's full-time officials on a wide range of tasks for a five-month period.

Celia studied for a BSc (Hons) Economics degree at UEL and originally dreamed of a job in finance. But it was a studying a couple of modules looking at the political and social side of economics that set Celia on a new career path. 

“I did a couple of modules with Professor Vassilis K. Fouskas on political economy and crises, and it opened up a new world for me,” she said. “I loved the readings and discussions, and it gave me more questions I wanted to pursue.” 

Celia’s final-year project involved an investment game using UEL's Bloomberg terminals, with the aim of making profit. As an academic exercise, she decided to combine her economic and social interests with a plan to invest in ethically controversial firms such as weapons manufacturers to see if the actions of such companies had any effect on their market value and ability to generate profit for investors. 

“It was a great experience, investing in banks involved in tax avoidance scheme, and weapons firms, and it opened my eyes to the power that the drive for profit can have over social ethics,” she said. 

Far from stopping there, she decided to invest her own money in real-life investment, opting for bitcoin before the rapid increase in value seen last year. 

“It was still early days I guess,” she said. “Bitcoin was volatile in terms of value, but I could see the potential it could have for the world of finance and consumer transactions, and I think cryptocurrencies will be a hot topic for 2018.”

Following her studies at UEL, she spent three months on a scholarship placement with the International Citizen Service, which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development. 

“I found myself in Rajasthan, India, working on a project to tackle child marriage, which is an ongoing problem, and there are economic factors that drive it, among others, so again I found a way to combine my developing interest in the human side of economics.” 

She then studied for a master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science focused on the political economy of Europe, with a dissertation examining the conservative social and political views of Spanish women. 

The traineeship programme is open to university graduates from all over the world, though 90 per cent of the trainees come from the EU Member States. Competition is fierce, with more than 14,000 applications per year for the 1,200 places available.

Celia said, “After my EU traineeship I’m going to keep learning, trying new things, and want to keep finding answers to what drives society and economics. Not everything can be explained by figures and statistics. I want to understand the human face of these issues.”