Euro Challenge: Real Work in the Real World

With EU Ambassador David O’Sullivan at the EU Delegation to the US in Washington, D.C.

We live in a time of momentous change around the globe. Like never before, sweeping forces like globalization, populism, and technological innovation have created historically unique problems facing every corner of the world. Even in highly developed western nations in Europe and North America the situation is acute; economic systems that have endured for generations are being reshaped in profound ways.

It was within this context of uncertainty that the 2017 the Euro Challenge teams, mine among them, had to work. The problems we faced in our selected EU member countries were shaped not by the few set parameters of a textbook problem, but by the innumerable variables of a dynamic and turbulent global economy.

For example, in just one research session in our study of Greece, my team discussed topics ranging from slow growth in consumption’s effect on the logistics industry, to legal hurdles in bankruptcy asset liquidation, to the success of populism in Europe. The breadth and depth of the topics we covered far outstripped those covered in any high school class.

At the Euro Challenge semifinals in New York

This freedom to explore every facet of a country’s (and by extension, the world’s) economy is one of the things that makes the Euro Challenge such an amazing competition. The prompt has only basic guidelines to make sure the teams give a broad overview of the European and national economies before delving deeper into one problem. Beyond that, it’s up to each team to decide the direction of its presentation.

In this way, Euro Challenge was an opportunity unlike any I’ve experienced thus far in high school. For the first time, hours of research, writing, and presentation were guided by the interests of my peers and I instead of a constraining classroom assignment.

We regularly broadened our analysis of Greece’s economy as new evidence arose, a process that felt like a natural and necessary component of our research instead of checking off boxes on a school rubric. Finding our next big argument didn’t feel like it was simply to strengthen our presentation; rather, we felt compelled to find viable solutions to Greece’s issues for the sake of the economy.

Final presentation at the Embassy of Greece in Washington D.C.

Because of the real-world context of our work, this research process happened up until the last second. Literally days before the competition, France held the first round of voting in its Presidential election. Those results directly impacted our analysis of the political climate of the EU, changing our presentation right before the competition.

That’s the thrill of the Euro Challenge: it’s no hypothetical assignment, no AP question. We were doing the same work as real economists just as these issues were making headlines. No other high school program can come that close to the real world.

This story is part of the #EUatSchool series, showcasing the wide array of EU educational programs, grants, and competitions open to Americans. From Erasmus+ to Euro Challenge to Kids Euro Festival, each week we’ll publish new stories written by the high schoolers, college students, researchers, and educators who have experienced and benefitted from these programs first-hand. Find new stories on Medium each week.

The Euro Challenge competition is an exciting educational opportunity for American high school students to learn about the European Union and the euro. Student teams select one member country of the “euro area” to examine an economic problem at the country level, and to identify policies for responding to that problem. Teams compete at the regional and national level, with the top five teams receiving scholarship awards. Learn more.