Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties of AEGEE-Saler­no have come a long way. They start­ed in 1989, in the sec­ond year of AEGEE’s most impor­tant project. Since then there was a Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty in Saler­no every sin­gle year – even under the same name! This year “Non Solo Sole XXX” will take place, the 30th edi­tion! Alfon­so Gior­dano, lat­er Pres­i­dent of the anten­na and also CD mem­ber, was involved in the orga­ni­za­tion of the first six SUs of AEGEE-Saler­no. For the Gold­en Times he looked back on those amaz­ing years.

Alfonso Giordano
Alfon­so Gior­dano

Gold­en Times: Alfon­so, when you think of Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties in Saler­no, what comes to your mind?
Alfon­so Gior­dano: A lot! I was involved, more or less direct­ly, in the first six Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties of AEGEE-Saler­no, from 1989 to 1994. And I think I am one of the few — per­haps the only one as organ­is­er — to have lived all of them. At least for these ear­ly six years.

Gold­en Times: That’s a lot! Do you remem­ber the dis­cus­sions pre­ced­ing the deci­sion to make an SU? Was every­one in your anten­na enthu­si­as­tic or were there also scep­ti­cal voic­es?
Alfon­so: The very first time, in 1989, we had no idea of what a SU could be. We just had the per­spec­tive to meet Euro­pean friends — only com­ing from the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty of that peri­od, the Wall was still there. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that in those years it was not so easy to trav­el as it is today. Peo­ple had visa prob­lems, there was no Euro, no low cost flights. So meet­ing for­eign peo­ple and organ­is­ing events for them seemed to us as a pio­neer adven­ture. The “big” dis­cus­sion con­cerned the right bal­ance of female and male par­tic­i­pants to be host­ed — nor­mal­ly the per­cent­age was 70–30 — and which female appli­cants to select.

1991 Salerno SU Thanks Map of Europe
1991 — the third edi­tion of “Non solo sole”

Gold­en Times: So how did you select them?
Alfon­so: In absence of Face­book, we could only imag­ine how they looked like tak­ing their names as start­ing point, or apply­ing Gior­gio Volini’s the­o­ry: imme­di­ate­ly reject who replied by phone, fax or tra­di­tion­al mail on Sat­ur­day night; as hav­ing noth­ing else to do, it meant that she would have been bad-look­ing! We also tried to sug­gest the send­ing of pic­tures of the girls togeth­er with their appli­ca­tions, since it was the only way to dis­cov­er their fea­tures, but it was for­bid­den! Any­way, we were always excit­ed to organ­ise an SU and every­one was await­ing the mag­ic moment with dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions and expec­ta­tions, but with only one will: to build Europe start­ing by cit­i­zens.

Gold­en Times: I remem­ber from lat­er, the 90ies, that some girls were send­ing pic­tures. Until the elec­tron­ic appli­ca­tions were intro­duced in 1999, when it became impos­si­ble. AEGEE-Saler­no organ­ised also the Ago­ra in 1989. Was it one of the biggest locals of AEGEE in that year?
Alfon­so: Well, in 1989 we had more or less 100 mem­bers, and yes I think we were one of the biggest locals. How­ev­er, that year there were only two locals in Italy: Milano and Saler­no. Dur­ing the years of my pres­i­den­cy, 1991 to 1993, we grew to about 200 mem­bers and we sup­port­ed the birth of oth­er anten­nae in Italy: Firen­ze, Peru­gia, Roma, Napoli, just to men­tion a few.

1992 Salerno SU Booklet IV
1992 Saler­no SU Book­let IV

Gold­en Times: Before we look into the SUs of AEGEE-Saler­no in detail, a few words about you: when did you join AEGEE – and how did that hap­pen?
Alfon­so: I joined AEGEE in 1989, the year of the foun­da­tion of AEGEE-Saler­no. A uni­ver­si­ty friend of mine told me that some peo­ple were to found a “Euro­pean” asso­ci­a­tion — very exot­ic at that time! Of course I was imme­di­ate­ly addict­ed!

Gold­en Times: You were Pres­i­dent of your anten­na, but you also joined the CD. How do you remem­ber your CD time?
Alfon­so: I joined the CD — the famous Quo Vadis group — in Novem­ber 1990 at the Ago­ra in Bonn, still the Cap­i­tal of Ger­many. I was CD mem­ber till the Ago­ra in Budapest in Novem­ber 1991, the first Ago­ra in East­ern Europe. This was actu­al­ly a con­se­quence of AEGEE’s open­ing to the East, which  was decid­ed at the Ago­ra of Saler­no. Our Ago­ra opened, by coin­ci­dence, just the day after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, 10th of Novem­ber 1989.

1992 Salerno SU Amphitheater of Pompeii with Guide
1992: The Saler­no SU in the amphithe­ater of Pom­peii

Gold­en Times: Amaz­ing… So you were only AEGEE mem­ber for a year when you joined the CD. How did that hap­pen?
Alfon­so: Dur­ing the SU of 1990 I met some of the future CD mem­bers, in par­tic­u­lar Eric Magielse. When they set up their team, they called me to join, as Net­work Devel­op­ment Respon­si­ble. It was the first oppo­si­tion list in AEGEE his­to­ry! I think I was very lucky to live that moment of big change and growth in the Asso­ci­a­tion and per­haps one of the best times for Europe. We had nei­ther a cen­tral office where we lived — once a month we had a CD meet­ing, host­ed by a local in Europe. We had no real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tion, just the fam­i­ly phone, tra­di­tion­al mail, and – as most recent tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ment — the fax! On the oth­er hand, there were not so many projects to man­age or struc­tures to direct — and per­haps not the same democ­ra­cy, trans­paren­cy and com­pe­ti­tion as today. But we had an Asso­ci­a­tion to expand, in struc­tures and mem­bers: almost 60 anten­nae became 140 in short time. We had a won­der­ful Europe to dream of. The Maas­tricht Treaty, the cre­ation of the Euro and oth­er things were still to come. Again, per­haps we did not have the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of today, but for sure pio­neer spir­it.

Gold­en Times: What did you study and what you doing now for a liv­ing?
Alfon­so: I stud­ied Eco­nom­ics at Uni­ver­si­ty of Saler­no, and I’m now pro­fes­sor at LUISS Uni­ver­si­ty of Rome. Besides, I’m also inter­na­tion­al rela­tions respon­si­ble of the Ital­ian Geo­graph­ic Soci­ety, and man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Euro­pean Cen­tre for Inter­na­tion­al Affairs in Brus­sels.

1994 Salerno SU Booklet VI
1994 AEGEE-Saler­no SU Book­let VI

Gold­en Times: Now let’s have a look at the Saler­no Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties in detail. How was the SU in 1989?
Alfon­so: Our first Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty took place before the Wall was crum­bling! I don’t real­ly remem­ber whether we had an offi­cial coor­di­na­tor. We were a group of friends so, in a way, all of us were coor­di­na­tors. We invent­ed the pro­gramme day-by-day. It was not so full of events or trips, but plen­ty of curios­i­ty, nov­el­ty, friend­ship and with the will to get to know each oth­er in order to cut down the stereo­types — and we were not real­ly aware of many of them about our coun­tries…

Gold­en Times: Amaz­ing! The fol­low­ing year was more pro­fes­sion­al, I guess?
Alfon­so: Yes. In 1990 there was a great excite­ment in our anten­na, we were wait­ing for the new edi­tion – and this time we knew what a Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty meant! I became offi­cial coor­di­na­tor, we had a more or less detailed pro­gramme put on a paper and organ­ised more trips and events. The lan­guage course was held by pro­fes­sion­al teach­ers, as in the fol­low­ing years. The pre­ci­sion was still not our main fea­ture, but we were still a great group of friends host­ing AEGEE friends in our homes — like in the first edi­tion. We had a won­der­ful atmos­phere and I think real­ly one of the best groups of AEGEEans arrived in Saler­no work­ing with us as co-organ­is­ers and not only like par­tic­i­pants.

Gold­en Times: How was 1991?
Alfon­so: We had a grow­ing num­ber of trips and events, the exter­nal par­tic­i­pants were increas­ing, as well as the inter­nal par­tic­i­pants, a more pre­cise pro­gramme, great par­ties on the beach and at mem­ber hous­es. A small group of organ­is­ers was ful­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the SU — and we had anoth­er won­der­ful group of par­tic­i­pants.

Gold­en Times: You were in the CD at that time. You still had time for the SU?
Alfon­so: Yes, since we had not to live in Brus­sels, I could par­tic­i­pate intense­ly the SU organ­i­sa­tion as well.

1993 Saler­no SU Book­let

Gold­en Times: How was the AEGEE-Saler­no SU in the fol­low­ing years?
Alfon­so: 1992 and 1993 were my two years of pres­i­den­cy of my anten­na. We made the first print­ed SU book­let in 1992, but it still looked quite hand-made. The 1993 edi­tion was more graph­ic. We had an offi­cial coor­di­na­tor with a work­ing group — as pres­i­dent I was any­way behind them before, dur­ing and after the SU. Our pro­gramme was detailed and set the stan­dard for the fol­low­ing years. We offered a rich­ness of events and trips — per­haps too much, the par­tic­i­pants start­ed telling us: “Please let us have a bit of rest today!” We car­ried out the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion and punc­tu­al­i­ty. Imag­ine, some peo­ple told us: “You can’t act like that, you are Ital­ians!

Gold­en Times: That’s fun­ny!
Alfon­so: There is more to tell. We had patron­age of pub­lic Insti­tu­tions, a strong fundrais­ing activ­i­ty and access to a hos­tel — besides the hos­pi­tal­i­ty in a house. We rent­ed a bus for some trips and we organ­ised  par­ties in dis­cos just for AEGEE, in addi­tion to those par­ties held in the mem­bers’ hous­es. There was a spe­cial coor­di­na­tor for the AEGEE-Saler­no mem­bers’ cars, we moved a lot and with a lot of peo­ple, and there was an alter­na­tive SU pro­gramme, which was fake and mis­lead­ing.

SU Saler­no 2012

Gold­en Times: What?
Alfon­so (smil­ing): This fake pro­gramme was addressed to a group of guys that were look­ing for girls with for­eign accent and would sole­ly appear for the SU days with­out ever join­ing AEGEE…You know with­out mobile phones and social net­works, in the moment you have sent them miles away from the real meet­ing place, it was a bit dif­fi­cult to know the true loca­tion and to rejoin the group. A good aspect of the “less tech­no­log­i­cal life”.

Gold­en Times: Bril­liant idea! So how was your final SU year, 1994?
Alfon­so: It was just like the 1992 and 1993, but improved and with an exper­i­ment: we made a joint SU for some part of the pro­gramme with the new­born anten­nae of Naples and Cosen­za. So it was a kind of Trav­el­ling SU. And the occa­sion of the three joined anten­nae dur­ing the week­end in Pal­in­uro, a sea resort south of Saler­no, was some­thing crazy: more than 150 young Euro­peans in the same bun­ga­low vil­lage and on the same beach! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I don’t have a pic­ture of that moment!

SU Saler­no 2012

Gold­en Times:  AEGEE-Saler­no gained a lot of expe­ri­ence in organ­is­ing an SU in these ear­ly years of the project. Did you give knowl­edge trans­fer to oth­er anten­nae?
Alfon­so: Yes. Actu­al­ly we began to trans­fer our expe­ri­ence in a spe­cial sec­tion of the Euro­pean School that we organ­ised in Amal­fi in 1993. I know that in the fol­low­ing years AEGEE-Saler­no organ­ised some SU Train­ing Cours­es.

Gold­en Times: So what’s the recipe that made the SUs of AEGEE-Saler­no famous?

Alfon­so: Great loca­tions for nature, cul­ture, his­to­ry, art and more, just like Amal­fi, Posi­tano, Rav­el­lo, Pom­pei, Paes­tum, Capri, Pal­in­uro, Caser­ta; won­der­ful hos­pi­tal­i­ty by Saler­no mem­bers; lot of activ­i­ties; and grow­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism but with Mediter­ranean spir­it. All these ingre­di­ents, I believe, were — and I think still are — the secret of the suc­cess of Saler­no Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties that have been always among the most pop­u­lar. By the way: in 2003 AEGEE-Salerno’s Sum­mer uni­ver­si­ty was award­ed the title “best SU of the year”!

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