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Interview: Annik Meulemans, Author of Finding Your Way in the EU: Education and Training

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Please welcome Belgian nonfiction author Annik Meulemans. Annik divides her time between working full time for an European institution and writing her books. She’s here today to talk about her latest title, Finding Your Way in the EU: Education and Training (Wegwijs in de EU: Onderwijs en Ppleiding).

Thanks for this interview, Annik!

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing?

My Flemish parents are from Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant) and moved to Brussels where I was born and raised.

As a child I was fascinated with writing and reading and in primary school I was the best in the class in Dutch and other languages.

Wondering how writers got the words; the ideas to write such beautiful books, I wished I could do the same.

Time went by and in 2003 my first book came out. Now I’m writing my ninth book.

My childhood wish has been fulfilled. 

What types of books do you write? Do you write in Dutch or English?

The books are written in Dutch and are about subjects related to the European Union. We’ve received requests to translate the 8th book into English, as it is related to education and is interesting for people living abroad who may want to gain experience in Europe.

Please tell us about your latest title, Finding Your Way in the EU: Education and Training. 

The publisher asked if it would be possible to write a book for the series “Focus on Europe.” This series focuses on (current) issues now and later playing a role in Europe and are important for the Netherlands and the Dutch Belgian legal practice. Pretty soon the idea came to write a book on education and training, a very interesting topic as our society is more versatile than ever. In the field of education and training much has changed in recent years in Europe. Education plays an essential role in society and this 400-page book gives a very good overview.

Languages are no barrier anymore.  They promote intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and direct communication between citizens. Many people know several languages now and more people are traveling, studying and working abroad. It gives the opportunity to learn other cultures and to respect people. 

Who is your target audience?

This book is meant for everyone who is looking for an interesting development of their basic skills in our competitive market economy for an optimal use on the job market at home or abroad.

For all those who are involved in education and training. In other words, this book is the perfect tool for students, teachers, trainers, schools, universities and other educational institutions.

It is also meant for foreigners interested on education abroad.

How will readers benefit from your book?

Readers get specific information on a very wide range of subjects: different lifelong learning programmes, educational networks, institutions, agencies and organisations, education in Europe with a glimpse to the world, higher education institutions throughout Europe, multilingualism in its various aspects, volunteer work, traineeships within the European institutions but also abroad, scholarships and study subsidies for students,  studying in Europe and in another country, European universities, the Europass documents, administrative procedures , international credential evaluation and accreditation,  adult learning, distance learning, etc.

There is not only a theoretical part but also a chapter with interviews where people share their experiences.

Where is the book available and is it accessible to American readers?

The book came out last August and is available through the website of the publisher “Kluwer Netherlands”:

http://shop.kluwer.nl/boeken_products/wegwijs-in-de-eu-onderwijs-en-opleiding/prod10172600.html

It’s also available on various Belgian and Dutch book websites.

It exists as a hard copy version and as e-book.

www.kluwer.nl/e-books

Sure, the book it is accessible to American readers — for those who can read Dutch!

People interested in the issue and not knowing the Dutch language can always contact me for further information: annik.meulemans@telenet.be

A special note for American readers, also mentioned in the book, is that the European Commission has made agreements with several countries and co-operates with them through comparative studies, workshops and conferences on themes of common interest.

The program should fund over 200 projects and enable some 6,000 individuals to participate in mobility activities.

The Transatlantic Degree Program aims to enhance student mobility, innovation, curriculum development and academic recognition between the EU and the US.

How long did it take you to write it? Did it require a lot of research?

It took exactly nine months.

Yes, indeed, it required a lot of research. Also taking into account the time spent by contacting people from universities, Higher Education Institutions, Ministries in the Netherlands and Belgium, Agencies, Organisations, European Institutions, making appointments with several people, etc.

But it was certainly worth it. A wonderful experience and people were very excited to participate; especially for the interviews they were thrilled to share their experiences.

How do you divide your time between your fulltime work at an European Institution and your writing?

Well, this was not obvious because writing a research book in nine months is already an achievement. In addition, a fulltime job at Management level with regular late hours and my family.

There was a deadline to respect and to reach the target, a very good planning was necessary, an understanding husband, the love to write, a good relation with the publisher and (almost) no time for a social live. But when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Afterwards there was a lot to catch up with my family and friends.

Do you have another project on the works?

Actually, I already signed a contract for a book on Research.

The title is Finding your way in the EU: Research (Wegwijs in de EU: Onderzoek)

This book goes well together with Finding your way in the EU: Education and Training.

As a participant of Nanowrimo, two other manuscripts are in the pipeline on a total different issue. But this will be a surprise.

And the purpose is also to write a book on publishing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Indeed, Mayra, there is.

Soon, I will have a website in both Dutch and English languages.

This will give readers up-to-date information. 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.