“Nächster Halt: Schwaz.” (in English: “Next stop: Schwaz”). I wake up from my day dreaming to a sharp, German speaking female voice and take my gaze away from the scenery outside the train.  Although the voice has become familiar to me during the last four weeks when travelling between my new summer home and work place I can never get enough of the landscape flashing by the window: blue mountains glimmering in the morning dawn, frisky swallows playing in the air, traditional Tyrolian houses that looked like the witch’s hut in the children book _Hansel and Gretel._ Once again I remember how lucky I am to be selected for a traineeship in Tyrol, Austria. Before I started studying I spent most of my gap years abroad. My only fear with studying law was that it might be hard to travel as law is quite specific to each country. However, after studying law for just two years in Finland, I found myself participating in the traineeship programme STEP run by European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) and working in a district commission (in German: Bezirkshauptmannschaft) in Schwaz, Austria

The district commission authorises and controls different projects in the Schwaz district. During my traineeship I have been placed in two different units of the commission: first in the environment, conservation, water and forest unit, then in the unit controlling traffic in the district. I enjoy the work because of its diversity: half of the week I spend driving with my colleagues around the district – yes, stunning nature again! – answering questions concerning different permissions, such as water law related permissions, and organizing public hearings. While being outside the office I do not have too much responsibility: I am mainly learning there. I find it extremely fascinating to see the law is not operating in a void: lawyers in the district work alongside the specialists in different fields, such as geologists and engineers. Every day one could learn so much from each other! The other half of the week I sit in the office and write different types of legal documents, like decisions and tickets, in German. In the beginning I was astonished: I have never drafted a single legal document, even in Finnish, and now I was doing it in a different language! After one week I had learnt more legal German than ever in university and got an insight into the Austrian legal system. I also noticed that due to harmonization process of the European Union the Austrian environmental law, for instance, was quite similar to Finnish environmental legislation. During my work I also have to tolerate the fact that I am not always the sharpest pencil in the drawer for German was not my mother language and in the beginning it took me a whole day to draft a single document. Luckily my colleagues are extremely supportive and helpful, always ready to assist me when needed. In addition, as four weeks has almost passed, the work that once took me a whole day is now ready in half that time.

It was also beneficial to go abroad via ELSA: the local representative for the STEP programme has been in contact with me since I was selected. It made me feel comfortable to know someone was waiting for me in Austria. She also introduced me to my employer on the first day and would have organised the accommodation for me too. Luckily I had a good friend in Tyrol whose parents hosted me for a month. All in all, it was a great choice to participate in the traineeship programme via ELSA because I know whatever happens, I am not alone.

And how do I spend my free time? I enjoy the mountains, of course. Hiking, climbing, paragliding… “Emmi, the world is so beautiful,” a father of a good friend of mine tended to say. “You’ve better go and explore it!” And that’s exactly what I am doing now.

Emmi Simonen