'If we're not going to vote, people who are will decide over our future': students gear up to vote in #EUElections2019

Janina Kopfmüller is a Masters Student of European Governance and a This Time I'm Voting volunteer, working with the European Parliament in Ireland to promote the upcoming EU elections.

"I'm from Munich, Germany. I've always been interested in the EU which is why I chose to study my Bachelor in European Studies in Germany, because I feel that the EU gives a unique peace project we have and not only on a global, international level but it does a lot also for the countries. For example, in Germany, speaking out of my student perspective, I was able to do my Erasmus in Spain. I did an internship in Brussels. So I really appreciate all the freedoms we have, travelling without barriers, without the need of a visa, having the same coin. I appreciate it a lot.

Also for example, the other things the EU does in Germany, we receive as many other countries, structural funds and also for researchers...[as part of]...Horizon 2020. It's very important to work together as a continent, and not only that, every country for itself tries to promote things, but we are only strong if we act together and cooperate and I think the EU encourages exactly that."

What sort of relationships have you formed with people from other countries?

"It's just amazing - I love to get in touch with international people, and I think that, for me, is what enriches life. You know, to go out of your own box, of your own hometown, what you know. You get to know other cultures, other habits of life and other music, other sports. So I think it enriches your personal life a lot to also learn new languages - I'm currently fluent in Spanish, English, I'm now learning French as well - I love to be challenged as well and learn new things."

Why do you think it's important to vote in the upcoming European Elections?

"It is so highly important, because voting is the ground pillar of democracy...I think it's very important to express one's will, it's not enough to just say what's going wrong, but to be a part of shaping the future and having one's say...I want my values to not only be represented at national level but at a supranational level, and the EU does a lot for us. But, if we're not going to vote, people who are going to vote will decide over our future and that's why it's very important to have your say and vote whatever you feel you want the future to look like."

What do you think the biggest challenges facing the EU are?

"Brexit, of course. But I also feel like, with Brexit being a big challenge, it also gives a chance for other European countries to come closer together and recommit their strength and to speak with one voice. I also think the EU should close economic relations with Great Britain - I think it's so unclear what's going to happen, so actually nobody can say.

Another challenge that we've seen recently is rising nationalism, which sometimes leads to misinformation. Some parties might trigger fear among people, but also, it may be due to the bad economic situations for some groups of people. So I think it's very important to tackle that and keep in constant conversation with these people, try to take the fear, take them seriously as well, and try to make them understand what the EU is for them and how much it does, what the value of the European Union is."

What surprises you about other cultures?

"I think there are many surprises in daily life, because every culture is different. Let it be punctuality, or just maybe, another way of seeing life. We Germans are very correct in what we do and we give our best, and I'm not saying that other cultures don't do that, but they're enjoying life and giving the best out of a different kind of perspective because it really fulfils them or they see the joy in the things more. I hate to generalise, but you always get to know other ways of life, and I love that! Not to be trapped within your own point of view but to see how other people take life or their challenges or can we learn from each other or they from us."

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