What is it that the College of Europe has, that makes it impossible for its students to explain with words what they experience during these ten months? What is it that they live during that time that leaves them almost speechless when they try to describe to someone what the College of Europe is all about?
Maybe it is the unique way they live and with whom they do so: all together, all the time. Around 300 students of around 50 different nationalities, who speak different languages, have different cultures and different traditions live during almost one entire year in a city of around 120.000 citizens and have - every day - breakfast, lunch and dinner together, go to the same classes, or at least to the same buildings and sleep in the same residences, if not, sometimes, in the same rooms.
Or, maybe it is the hard academic learning and the difficult search for an answer to the question that apparently a so-called P. Aalto raised in Brussels in 1992 with ‘his work’ The Unbearable Torture of the College of Europe: is Suffering Greater than Rewards? A ‘book’ that no student found but mentioned in the footnote of some master thesis template; even if every student desperately feels the need to read it during one of those tough moments that he or she has to confront when writing the thesis, the papers and preparing presentations and exams – all at the same time. However, no one gives the answer at that time, the answer will come later.
During those ten months the amount of work and academic/social pressure can make the student will feel like a 'snake' that is squeezed through a tiny hole. Why did no alumni warn me about this? But then you realise that it is a process, a process of becoming someone different, like snakes when they go through those narrow holes to get rid of their old skin, it a process of obtaining something new of yourself: developing and growing, evolving or maybe maturing; and indeed you are. Maybe it is part of the 'magic' of the College, that by the end of the year you are someone new and something happens that vanishes all that suffering you had to went through, there is something that happens that makes you appreciate all the things that you learnt, academically and as a person. There is something that occurs within those ten months, which makes that experience unique, because you cannot explain it with words, and that had never happened to you before.
Maybe another reason why all this ‘magic’ is able to happen is thanks to the patrons that each student promotion has. This last promotion 2014/2015 was ‘guided’ by two outstanding patrons: Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, Sicilian judges assassinated by the mafia when trying to legally fight against the Italian mafia. They kept working and fighting for justice even if their lives and the lives of the ones they loved were at constant risk. ‘Their ideas will walk on your legs’, they told us at the beginning of the academic year; and indeed they did, and indeed they are.
Next year 2015/2016 promotion’s patron, composer and pianist Chopin, will 'guide' the next students through the paths of creativity and musicality to inspire a new generation of Europeans to face their year with all the enthusiasm necessary to succeed in the passionate adventure called the College of Europe.
Cristina de Ramón Ortiz, alumnus of the College of Europe (Falcone and Borsellino Promotion 2014/2015)