Alumni Profile: Laura Heymans Trimaj (’13MA, Regional Studies: Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe; ’13Cert, Harriman Institute)
What is your current role/job title?
Accredited Parliamentary Assistant to Member of the European Parliament (Political Advisor).
What are you working on now?
Since graduation, I have been working for Members of the European Parliament and advising them on issues linked to the European Union’s foreign policy, the European Neighbourhood Policy, and EU enlargement. I’m an expert on the post-communist world, with a special focus on the Western Balkans. My former boss and my current boss are lead Members on these issues, so my work revolves around advising on various EU policies.
What drew you to your field?
I’ve always wanted to work on issues related to international relations. As someone from Central Europe, I think I have a good grasp of political processes in post-communist countries. The Western Balkans are a politically complex region from an EU accession perspective, so it combines my passion for foreign policy, the European Union, and my expertise in political transition.
What lessons from graduate school have you found useful in your professional life?
I believe it’s important to surround yourself with people who push you forward and who challenge you. Work in teams and look for inspiration among others. There’s nothing sadder than being the smartest person in the room.
What skill has unexpectedly helped you in your career?
The fact that I speak several languages has helped me a lot in my career. Furthermore— and I’m not sure this is a skill, but rather a lesson learned—living and working in Brussels might sound like it’s quite remote from Columbia, yet on the contrary, I meet many Columbia graduates working in the EU institutions. These alumni are valuable professional contacts and create an important informal network.
What is your favorite memory from your graduate years?
I really appreciated the daily routines at Columbia: grabbing coffee with classmates on the Upper West Side, socializing at the Harriman Institute, going to academic events all over town. The daily life of a graduate student in New York City is pretty amazing!
What are your passions outside of your work?
For almost ten years, I played ultimate frisbee on an international level in Europe. I was part of the Women’s Ultimate Team at Columbia for two semesters, and I had the best time with my fellow teammates, traveling to tournaments all over the Northeast. I’m also fascinated by elections—anywhere in the world—so I love election nights and watching results come in.
What is your advice for current GSAS students?
Enjoy your time in New York City as much as possible, because it is the most exciting city in the world. Sign up for events. Explore the culture, the architecture, and the immense possibilities the city has to offer. And invest in yourself: Always continue learning something new.
What is next for you professionally?
I’m very happy with my current job at the European Parliament, as I am working on issues which are linked to my passion for foreign policy. Looking forward, I would like to work more on supporting transatlantic cooperation. I believe that Europeans and North Americans are the most natural allies in this complex world, and I would like to contribute with my expertise to further enhance this alliance.
What experiences have motivated you to give back to Columbia?
I was fortunate to have been a Fulbright Fellow and to have received a merit scholarship from Columbia. After moving to Brussels, I immediately joined the Alumni Club in Belgium, and I have been on the Executive Board of the club for almost seven years. Our club keeps alumni connected; as Brussels is a very international city, our members are from all parts of the world. I’m always ready to speak to prospective students.