Welcome, 2015!

As the New Year chimed in last night, I raised my glass to more laughs, more adventures, more opportunities and more priceless moments with my loved ones! Looking forward to trying out new things, meeting new people, travelling, and learning more and more each day!

The year of 2014 was full of adventures and stories worth writing about. Fears were faced, lessons were learned and blessings were counted. Some wishes became true, while others did not but I’ve learnt that everything comes in its own time!

So, go out there in the world and make all 365 pages of this new year memorable! Be fearless, embrace change, take chances and let every moment take your breath away! Happy New Year, everyone! 🙂

Estoril horizon

Le prix à payer pour la mode

Dans mon article précédent, j’ai parlé du fameux mouvement minimaliste que j’ai découvert récemment. Beaucoup de blogs abordent maintenant le thème de la simplicité, avec un nouveau regard sur la mode. J’ai brièvement mentionné ce documentaire intitulé H&M : Le côté obscur. Je l’ai regardé il y a un mois, mais je me souviens encore très bien de certains passages frappants.

Tout le monde aime H&M. Comment ne pas l’aimer ? On y retrouve toutes les tendances, tous les styles, pour tous les âges (à peu près). Combien de fois on n’a pas entendu le fameux « qualité à petits prix » ?

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J’ai un peu honte de l’avouer mais jusqu’à récemment j’y allais quasi toutes les semaines… avant que je change un peu de perspective. Très brièvement, le documentaire nous montre les coulisses des ateliers de confection de H&M au Bangladesh. Et ce n’est pas aussi beau qu’on veut nous le faire croire. Qualité à petits prix ? Un prix plutôt exorbitant quand on se rend compte des risques endurés par les ouvriers. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont même payé très cher lors de l’effrondrement du Rana Plaza.

Ce qui m’a le plus révoltée est l’impassibilité de la directrice du développement durable face aux faits indéniables. Bien sûr, ceci n’est pas seulement le cas de H&M. On pourrait écrire des milliers d’articles sur des géants comme Inditex, par exemple.

Évidemment, sur le coup, on est dégoûtés. On décide d’arrêter de soutenir ce système inhumain. Jusqu’où on irait pour être à la mode ? Puis, ceux qui ont des moyens modestes (c’est-à-dire une grande majorité, dont je fais partie) se demandent comment on pourrait éviter cette fast fashion quand on retrouve des H&M et des Zara à tous les coins de la rue ? Finalement, on n’a pas tellement le choix. Entre un jeans à 40€ et un autre à 100€, le choix est vite fait. Là-dessus, le débat est lancé à l’infini.

En fait, au plus j’y réfléchis, au plus je me dis qu’il y a sûrement moyen de trouver d’autres alternatives, comme des marques éthiques, voire même locales, sans pour autant être hors de prix. Comment est-ce qu’on se débrouillait avant la mondialisation, quand il n’y avait pas des H&M partout dans le monde? Quand il y avait des boutiques uniques, avec un seul atelier de confection local ? Les gens n’étaient pas moins bien habillés. Au contraire, ils avaient leur propre style et, surtout, la qualité était plus importante que la quantité.

J’avais déjà changé de perspective avant de regarder le documentaire. Je me souviens de toutes les fois où j’achetais tout et n’importe quoi. J’étais étudiante donc j’achetais des articles soldés la plupart du temps chez H&M, Zara ou même Primark. Et pendant tout ce temps, je soutenais ce qu’il se passe au Bangladesh et dans d’autres ateliers. Puis, j’ai fait un tri massif. En voyant la pile des vêtements à donner, je me suis rendu compte que j’avais dépensé une fortune pour des conneries. Pour ce prix-là, j’aurais pu m’acheter un sac de luxe… avec lequel je n’oserais pas sortir tellement j’aurai peur de l’abîmer ou de me le faire voler. Mais ça, c’est une autre histoire.

En ce moment, j’essaie de pondérer mes achats. Je veux bien payer plus pour avoir quelque chose de durable. Ce n’est pas pour autant que je suis devenue une snob des marques. Ce n’est pas du jour au lendemain que je vais me permettre des marques de luxe. Et encore, qui sait ce qu’il se passe dans les coulisses de ces marques ?

En gros, il n’y a pas de solution miracle. Même si je resterai toujours tentée par les prix chez H&M, je ne regarde plus la marque de la même façon. Pareil pour d’autres marques fast fashion. La seule chose que je peux faire c’est m’orienter vers des « petites » marques, moins connues mais qui ne me font pas culpabiliser. Va falloir les trouver ces marques et ça risque de prendre du temps…

Enfin, j’aimerais juste préciser que ceci reste mon propre avis. Mon but n’est pas d’attaquer ou juger ceux qui font du shopping chez H&M. Ce serait hypocrite vu que c’était mon cas il n’y a pas longtemps. Si j’ai choisi d’agir autrement, au final chacun agit comme il veut, en fonction de ses préférences, ses moyens etc.

Peace, ok ? 🙂

Why Is Less More?

Recently, I have come across many blog posts mentioning minimalism. There seems to be a new trend, which embraces the “Less is more” motto. Rather intrigued, I went on jumping from one blog post to another and getting familiar with this lifestyle.

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It all started with a French fashion blog, Balibulle. One day, I came across one of her articles, where she describes her “Capsule Project” and her quest towards the perfect wardrobe, composed of carefully selected items. As I read on, I realised I missed out on a new wave on the blogosphere, inspired by Dead Fleurette. This new wave inspired other bloggers to embrace minimalism, buy less and less items and build a very minimal, yet chic wardrobe, reflecting their personalities and lifestyles. As a an ex-compulsive buyer, Fleurette came to the conclusion that a crazy amount of clothes, shoes and bags don’t bring you happiness. Rather, she experienced the I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear syndrome. Sounds familiar? “Ring A Ding Ding”, that sounded like me. She also points out how buying fast fashion can leave you frustrated after a while, since you can end up with 10 pairs of jeans but none of them makes you feel like you’re worth millions.

At some point, Fleurette also wrote an article about Parisian women, who always exude elegance and a strong inner confidence. One could hardly argue with that since, let’s face it, most Parisians do have that certain je-ne-sais-quoi in their look. She reflects on this “Less is more” philosophy, explaining how quality should always win over quantity. This also made me realise you don’t need to own many clothes to be stylish. More generally, you don’t need many things to be happy. After all, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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(Chic… minus the cigarette, please)

This doesn’t mean that I’ve embraced minimalism overnight but I’ve learned to be more selective when buying, not only clothes but everything in general. I have a different perspective now. This isn’t easy, especially when you’re surrounded by all the H&Ms and Zaras out there. Of course, I would still be tempted to buy cheaper clothes, even though I try to avoid fast fashion brands as much as I can since this documentary. But that’s another story. 🙂

Hello, post #100!

So many things have happened lately, it would seem unfair not to share them since… well, let’s face it, I haven’t exactly been the best blogger the last few months. So for this 100th post, here’s a little overview of what I’ve been up to!

First of all, I graduated this June and I was finally able to enjoy a well deserved holiday after a few tough months. Twitter may not have any secrets for me anymore but I’m certainly glad I could put all my thesis-related readings in a box and say: “That is done!”

I had the chance to spend 10 days in Portugal, more specifically in Estoril. A lovely little place, though a bit windy. We found out that it’s a very popular zone for surfers and… casino players. And while I was worried I would gain a few pounds because of all the food, I was pleased to find out that Estoril is hilly. Yes, quite hilly, indeed! Hello, free exercise! Needless to say I was happy to practice my Portuguese with some very lovely people! 🙂

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A very wise quote, if you ask me! Captured in a market in Estoril 🙂

I flew to Portugal with this huge thrill in my heart: right before packing, I got great news: I got a job as a Communications Assistant in the most friendly work environment anyone could dream of! Bonus: it’s also multicultural. What more could I ask for?

When I got back home, I remembered that I got a ticket for the Holi Festival of Colours in Brussels! It was the first time we had this in Brussels and I just couldn’t miss it!

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I had the chance to meet up with long-lost friends and we had a lot of catching up to do! All in all, great fun! We were a mess after all the coloured powder (I bet even my lungs were a nice shade of turquoise/pink/purple/yellow) and we got funny looks on the metro on our way back but who cares? It was one of these events we simply could not miss!

And to finish this memorable post on a nice, pink note, here is a lovely shot of Lake Hillier, on Middle Island, in Western Australia. I came across this picture a while ago and I had this “The world is full of wonders” moment. You can read more about it hereLake-Hillier

Yet another thing added on my travel list! Ain’t that lovely? 🙂

 

 

Communication: From science to feelings and instinct

What is it like to be a spokesperson for the EU Budget?

As a student in your last year of Multilingual Communication, you are bound to think more and more about your future job. Over the last few months, I have found myself thinking about thousands of options such as becoming a social media consultant, assistant in human resources or even a spokesperson. Well, why not? Becoming a spokesperson will definitely not happen overnight for an (almost) freshly-graduated student like me but I was still curious to find out what this job involves, aside from simply being an excellent communicator.

Patrizio Fiorilli answering journalists' questions

Patrizio Fiorilli answering journalists’ questions

Mr Patrizio Fiorilli was very kind to meet with me at the Berlaymont. You might think that meeting the spokesperson for the European Union’s budget made me nervous but Mr Fiorilli was very friendly and easy-going. You can tell that he has got a genuine interest in people and communication. Why meeting the EU’s spokesperson for the budget? Budget is clearly not my field of expertise but I was rather impressed with Patrizio Fiorilli’s rich professional background, which he modestly describes as “purely journalism and communication”. After his studies at the ULB in Brussels, he moved to London to work as a journalist for the BBC World Service while being the UK correspondent for various French and Belgian media. Then, he wanted to become a communication consultant to be “on the other side of the fence” and to help big companies improve their communications. Before becoming the spokesperson for Budget and Financial Programming at the European Commission in 2010, he also worked as a press officer and a communication director, while teaching communication at the Institut des Hautes Études de Communication Sociale (IHECS) in Brussels.

What encouraged him to become a spokesperson was simply curiosity. He certainly misses a few things from his previous jobs but “it is great to be involved in the decision-making process and to defend a position.” What about his way of communicating in everyday life? Has it been influenced by his job as a spokesperson? He answers that it is not linked to his job as a spokesperson but rather linked to his professional career in communication. “You are taught that the first principle in communication is to adapt your message to the audience. That is what we do – all of us – every day in every single context.

Some people have got a negative picture of the European Union’s budget, its purpose and the ways it is used. Other people simply do not understand it. If he needs to describe the EU budget to an ordinary citizen, Patrizio Fiorilli uses a very simple yet effective metaphor: “Imagine there are 28 houses next to each other, facing a river. Rather than each of the households building their own little bridge to cross it and you would then end up with 28 bridges […] they put the money together to build one single bridge that will be much stronger and much cheaper, more convenient […] and that is what the EU Budget is about.”

Another thing that encouraged me to get in touch with Patrizio Fiorilli is the fact that he also works in a multicultural environment, which makes him the perfect interviewee for a student who aspires to work in a multilingual environment. When you work in a multicultural institution, one of the first things to keep in mind is that “whatever you will say or write will end up being translated. Therefore, you have to be really careful in terms of wording.” After all, “keeping simple is the second rule of communication, whether it is multilingual or not”.

As if his professional background was not impressive enough, Patrizio Fiorilli also proves he has got a solid general knowledge and a soft spot for literature. A while ago, he actually started a blog where he publishes short stories in French. He has been interested in literature from a young age and thinks that “rather than letting sheets of paper rot in a cupboard, just let them rot on the Web because it’s safer”, he adds laughing. “It is also a way to escape and create lots of different characters and situations”.

As the 15 minutes were getting closer and closer, I asked him whether he would advise someone to become a spokesperson. According to him, some people are just not spokesperson-material, no matter how smart they are. Communication is more than science, “it is about feeling and instinct” and involves other aspects as well such as psychology, sociology and many others. One thing he insists on is that journalists need to teach something new to their readers or viewers. But in order to do so, a journalist will need the spokesperson to convey a clear and concise message, summarised in words that ordinary citizens would understand. The first thing defining a spokesperson is “the notion of service”. Spokespersons are there to help journalists do a good job and promote their employers’ interests and views. Which is why he adds that “at the same time you are on a boxing ring with the journalists because you have not got the same agenda”. All in all, “it is like a Rubik’s Cube challenge, it is fun”, he adds smiling. I, for one, am convinced. Aspiring to become a spokesperson is now officially on my list.

6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

I felt very welcomed from the first day at MDI. All of my colleagues did their best to make me feel at home and were always patient with me. Everyone was much focused on work but very relaxed at the same time, which made it a comfortable environment to work in. I had a very good relationship with my colleagues. There were also three other interns who were involved in the same types of activities as myself.

I had no issues with my internship supervisor. I admit I was sometimes hesitating or asking too many questions but he was always patient with me, explaining my tasks thoroughly and always encouraging me.

I really enjoyed working at MDI: one immediately detects a sense of solidarity and generosity. I also learned that it is not always easy to carry out team work. Sometimes a crisis may make one re-prioritise. Sometimes, one needs to delegate or to make another choice. That is why I felt grateful to feel helpful in the office, even if it meant a modest contribution.

Before coming to MDI, I imagined an internship to be quite challenging. Of course, there were moments more challenging than others but I never felt any kind of pressure from any of my colleagues. In fact, I was always encouraged and I learned something new every day.

7. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Conclusions

I believe this internship was a fulfilling experience, which helped me learn and discover more things than I imagined. I never thought I would have the opportunity to take part in designing MDl’s social media strategy and related activities. I felt part of a unique team which helped me experience solidarity and team spirit.

I was inspired by MDI’s policy on diversity. I have always thought that diversity should be promoted as an asset and richness instead of being presented as a trigger of fear, discrimination and conflict. I am glad I was a member of a team who encourages tolerance and understanding between different groups and cultures.

I also gained more confidence. It may sound irrelevant but I used to be afraid of answering the telephone and deal with someone while one of my colleagues was unavailable. The most important lesson I learned was to be professional, never give up good work ethic standards and believe in communication based on common sense.

I do agree that one thing I need to work on is initiative. I was eager to learn but at the same time I always tried to avoid any kind of mistake. To be honest, I was sometimes afraid of being overconfident or overdoing   something.   However, my internship supervisor advised me not to feel discouraged because initiative will come with more experience.

I honestly do not have anything to criticise. In fact, I feel grateful to have had this unique opportunity, not only in London but also in a great organisation with friendly and welcoming people, who are a model of perseverance.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment

 

5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme

I believe my first MA year helped me achieve key skills and knowledge. The courses and the seminars prepared me to perform well.

My language and social skills always came in handy, no matter the situation. I obviously went through the Cross-Cultural   Communication course again before starting the internship as I anticipated the communication with different people from different cultures. This helped me a great deal, not only to understand other cultures’ points of view but to also remind me to always put things into perspective and try to find a compromise.

Communication means a great deal of respect and compromise. For example, when dealing with our partners in Algeria or when I was in touch with our colleagues in Morocco, I always kept in mind a number of things while avoiding stereotypes. Our way of setting up a meeting in Western Europe is completely different with the one in North African countries. Time is a much more flexible notion and very often has no dimension. I have to admit that at the very beginning, I was feeling stressed when I had to postpone a telephone or Skype call and did not set up a proper meeting. Then I tried to put things into perspective and realised that the way of dealing with time in North African countries is much more relaxed and flexible.

So, instead of feeling upset or stressed, I tried to learn from this and became more relaxed myself. I also felt there was mutual understanding and I tried to deal with several things with a sense of humour. I also feel that speaking French might have helped a lot: it was a common ground, which made us feel more comfortable and familiar. Getting to know other cultures from an early age and speaking a number of languages is key to tolerance and understanding.

The last year Corporate Communication course played an important role in understanding communication planning and strategy. While working in the two projects, I always had in mind what I learned at the courses: identify the communication purpose, context and audience. In addition the following communication variables were crucial: stakeholders (partners, trainers, journalists etc.), communication strategy (both online and offline) and communication plan. I always tried to keep in mind the golden rule in communication, which is called “The Five Ws and the H”, without which a report or broadcasted information would not be complete.

  • What happened?
  • Who says it or who is it about?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

This helped me draft a number of articles for the website, while doing research or interacting with stakeholders of our projects.

Obviously, my contribution to staff recruitment and reference gathering as explained earlier is related to my Human Resources Management course. It was a good opportunity to apply the theory I learned and understand certain procedures.

As mentioned earlier, I was often involved in communication and logistics. I helped out with “traditional” public relations tasks such as sending out invitations to guests and answer to RSVPs. However, I learned how much potential social media have as a PR strategy. MDI’s Twitter account became the most used and handy channel for our event at the Frontline Club. I never imagined that our activity on Twitter would get such a great feedback. I am glad to use my new social media skills while working at my MA dissertation project and interacting with other Twitter users.

1. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Introduction
2. Sharing an internship experience abroad: About Media Diversity Institute in London
3. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Multilingual aspects of MDI’s communications
4. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Tasks and learning outcomes
5. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Activities related to my MA programme
6. Sharing an internship experience abroad: Colleagues and working environment