UCL finalist and European Institute Student Ambassador Elena Sofia discusses her background, academic interests and what Europe means to her.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a third year student of Politics and International Relations here at UCL. My interest in Europe comes from my identity: I’m an Italian raised in France, where I attended international schools and grew up in a multicultural environment. Though I identify as Italian, growing up between two European countries meant that I always felt a strong tie to European culture more generally and had an admiration for the way the European Union allowed my family and I to travel freely around the peninsula. My interest in European politics started when I saw the negative cultural impacts of the refugee crisis on my hometown, Ancona: I wanted to understand why the Italian system was struggling so severely with the influx of refugees and what the EU could have, or should have done to help. Today I’m more interested in climate politics of the EU - I aim to better understand how the EU can resolve converging levels of commitment to mitigation policies across the Member States to deliver on the EU Green Deal.
What does Europe mean to you?
Europe to me means having a safety net - I am a strong believer of strength in unity. I think that for European states it is particularly important that there is an aligned agenda in economic and security policy to ensure that the EU maintains its power in the face of a world with a changing power structure. I also see the European Union as an important regulatory actor - not only for the European states, but also as a template for other nations through the “Brussels Effect”. Finally, Europe to me means home. Though the EU has a murky history regarding defining itself as a cultural union, there is undoubtedly a shared culture in continental Europe that I feel closer to than any other country.
What is your favourite UCL Europe Blog?
My favourite blog post from the UCL Europe Blog is Josh Jones’ interview with Dr Naomi Claire Lazar on the role of apocalyptic politics in European extremist movements - both right and left wing. It provided me with a different angle of looking at extremist rhetoric, and the implications of framing climate change as apocalyptic was particularly interesting given that my generation (Gen Z) tends to rely on that narrative to push forward action. I strongly recommend it to anyone else who has an interest in understanding the forces behind extremist movements.