A unique partnership continues to thrive

Last year’s 24th annual European Career Fair (ECF) at MIT, held in early 2020 before the pandemic shuttered campus, was a resounding success, with over 2,000 in-person attendees meeting with over 100 employers from 10 different countries. First-year students chatted with the consul general of the German Consulate Boston while postdocs and PhD candidates met with university presidents. Students, graduates, and young professionals alike interviewed with corporate recruiters from industry leaders such as Airbus and Roche, as well as vibrant startups like Lilium and Picnic. The Johnson Athletic Center was abuzz with activity, creating a powerful atmosphere of transatlantic interest and personal exchange.

“Thanks to the fair in 2020, I was able to secure a tenure track assistant professor position at one of the leading technical universities — Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands,” says Natalia Barbour, then a postdoc at MIT.

This connectivity and interaction abruptly halted when the campus shut down during the spring semester and personal exchange the way we knew it was no longer possible. Yet the ECF organizers, who make up the the student-run MIT European Club (EuroClub), were still hard at work as they were adapting to the changes and challenges ahead. “Our club’s mission is to support transatlantic friendship and foster cross-cultural collaboration between MIT and Europe by organizing the ECF and hosting in-person events for the MIT community,” says Jonas Lehmann, co-president of the EuroClub and lead of the fair. “When personal meetings were no longer possible, the whole board rose to the challenge and pivoted our club’s format, organizing a series of virtual events for our community to stay connected. We also remained committed, during these times of limited personal exchange and broader isolationist tendencies, to supporting MIT students to do internships in Europe.”

This year’s 25th anniversary of the European Career Fair took place online Feb. 25, and proved to be just as successful as in previous years. Breaking last year’s record with more than 3,900 candidates signed up, ECF 2021 was also the largest single career fair event at MIT during this academic year in terms of attendance. Dozens of video broadcasts and over 2,600 video chats between candidates and recruiters showed the enormous interest in connecting between the United States and Europe — and brought the servers of the host platform intermittently to their limits.

EuroClub officers were dedicated to making the 25th anniversary of the fair just as successful despite having to adjust to the new virtual format and ways of collaboration. “Through hard work, our team was able to maintain strong participation from European employers and attract organizations from new countries like Poland and Belgium,” says Mustafa Doğa Doğan, co-president of the EuroClub. “The virtual format also allowed more flexibility for candidates, since before only people from the Greater Boston area were able to physically attend the fair.” While the lower entry barrier made the fair more accessible to both attendees and recruiters, Doğan notes that they saw an enormous interest in MIT students as companies and research institutions still look to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for recruiting top talent.

“As we were in the process of converting our in-person internships to be virtual, the EuroClub told us it was preparing for its 25th ECF to be virtual, too,” says Alicia Raun, managing director of the MIT-Spain and MIT-Portugal programs. “Since we work with many of the same partners and had similar challenges, deeper collaboration in this ‘new realm’ for both of us made sense.”

Each year, MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) matches over 1,000 students with internship, research, and teaching opportunities at leading companies, research institutes, and universities around the world. Based in the Center for International Studies at the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), MISTI is MIT’s pioneering international education initiative. It features a broad array of European programs: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Working with many of the same European partners, MISTI worked to overcome similar challenges. “Although we had to cancel our in-person internships for the summer of 2020, we were able to convert many internships to virtual format, which had surprising success,” says Justin Leahey, managing director of the MIT-Germany, MIT-Netherlands, and MIT-Switzerland programs. “Building on that, we’ve offered virtual internships with international partners this academic year — including in a new European country for us, the Czech Republic — and we’re well-prepared for this summer, regardless of whether student travel will be possible. And the EuroClub’s support has been invaluable.”

This new chapter is just part of a long-term cooperative relationship. Thanks to the success of the 24th ECF, the EuroClub was able to provide $40,000 for MISTI to sponsor internships at European companies and research institutes, continuing a yearly tradition. “For the past 10 years, the EuroClub has given an annual contribution to MISTI sum totaling $320,000,” continues Raun. “This funding converted into over 70 internships, which has been incredible support for MISTI, especially for our smaller European programs.”

The EuroClub is a student activity club of undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scientists. The club’s current executive board members are co-presidents Jonas Lehmann and Mustafa Doğa Doğan, Vice President Isabella Pedraza Pineros, co-treasurers Serena Booth and Botond Oreg, Secretary Anna Rasmussen, Digitals Chair Lily Tsai, Publicity Chair Kevin Wang, Liaison Chair Leanne Morical, and social co-chairs Alexandra (Ola) Zytek and Joshua Robinson.

“Companies and institutions from Denmark have enjoyed joining the European Career Fair for many years,” says Madeline Smith, program manager for the MIT-Denmark Program. Despite the uncertainty brought by the pandemic, the EuroClub’s commitment to fostering collaboration between MIT and Europe remains steady. “We celebrate the success of this year’s milestone ECF and can’t wait for next year. It is always a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in a potential career in Europe and for European employers seeking top talent!”