Athina Siamidou: The Heart of AEGEE-Thessaloniki Says Goodbye


Four years in the board of an AEGEE anten­na. That doesn’t hap­pen so often. Athi­na Siami­dou did it. A few days ago, the for­mer Pres­i­dent of her anten­na final­ly hand­ed over the respon­si­bil­i­ty for AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki in new hands. “It’s real­ly beau­ti­ful to see that the new mem­bers of our local appre­ci­ate my work and efforts all these years”, Athi­na told the Gold­en Times. Read more about her strong com­mit­ment, moti­va­tion and ded­i­ca­tion in the fol­low­ing inter­view.

Athina SiamidouGold­en Times: Athi­na, how long were you mem­ber before you joined the board?
Athi­na Siami­dou: I became a mem­ber of AEGEE in Feb­ru­ary 2009 and I was elect­ed as a mem­ber of the board of AEGEE Thes­sa­loni­ki three months lat­er.

Gold­en Times: Your anten­na wrote on Face­book: “Every sin­gle one of us was moti­vat­ed by her ener­gy to join AEGEE. She guid­ed us and she showed us that noth­ing is impos­si­ble. The least we can feel is grate­ful! We love you!” How do you feel about that or reply to it?
Athi­na: I was def­i­nite­ly flat­tered by this sta­tus update of AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki on Face­book. It’s real­ly beau­ti­ful to see that the new mem­bers of our local appre­ci­ate my work and efforts all these years. Doing some self cri­tique I would say that I made a lot of mis­takes as the pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki… I didn’t man­age to share a lot of respon­si­bil­i­ties to the rest of the board, I couldn’t moti­vate a lot of peo­ple to become active mem­bers on the local lev­el etc. Nev­er­the­less, we now have a brand new board, ready to give a fresh touch in AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki with all the sup­port of the pre­vi­ous boards and old mem­bers!!

Gold­en Times: A few words about you: how old are you, what do you study?
Athi­na: I am 26 years old. I am a biol­o­gist with a mas­ter on envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion. I have just fin­ished with my Euro­pean Vol­un­tary Ser­vice in Asturias, Spain. In the past I have worked as a youth work­er for a cul­tur­al NGO at a beau­ti­ful nat­ur­al reserve of North Greece called Pre­spes. Nowa­days, I am look­ing for a job as a sci­ence teacher or as a youth work­er and at the same time I m doing some vol­un­tary work in Thes­sa­loni­ki send­ing EVS vol­un­teers abroad, coor­di­nat­ing envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion projects in high­schools and more.

AEGEE-Thessaloniki members
AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki mem­bers

Gold­en Times: How did you join AEGEE in first place? Is there an inter­est­ing sto­ry?
Athi­na: I wouldn’t say it is such an inter­est­ing sto­ry. I was intro­duced to AEGEE from my cousin Ana­toli Tsakali­dou, who at that point was the pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki. She moti­vat­ed me a lot to apply for my first event that was the “Sus­tain­able SCAN­di­navia” organ­ised by the flag­ship project “Sus­tain­ing our Future”. Two months after that Ana­toli and I organ­ised the Net­work Meet­ing “NWM in Thes­sa­loni­ki: Reviv­ing the Net­work” — with the coor­di­na­tion of Manos Vala­sis, who was at the moment our Net­work Com­mis­sion­er, and with the help of a lot of expe­ri­enced mem­bers of the rest of the Greek-speak­ing anten­nae.

NWM in Thess 2009
Great spir­it at the Net­work Meet­ing in Thes­sa­loni­ki in 2009

Gold­en Times: What moti­vat­ed you to do join the board?
Athi­na: I joined the board being a mem­ber only for three months. Since our anten­na was almost with­out any active mem­bers at the moment I don’t think I had a choice… I became part of the board to keep the local alive and on the road par­tic­i­pat­ing in dif­fer­ent events all over Europe I got moti­vat­ed to do the best I could for AEGEE-Thes­sa­loni­ki. I think my main goal was to organ­ise events in Thes­sa­loni­ki, so as to see all my AEGEE friends again and show them our breath­tak­ing city!

Gold­en Times: A real­ly mag­nif­i­cent city! You had dif­fer­ent posi­tions in the board, includ­ing Pres­i­dent. What do you con­sid­er your great­est achieve­ment of being in the board?
Athi­na: I man­aged to take a group of ran­dom peo­ple and turn them into a group of friends will­ing to do things togeth­er. From a group of max­i­mum five peo­ple active­ly involved in June 2009 we end­ed up in Decem­ber 2010 a group of more than 15 AEGEE friends organ­is­ing the Euro­pean event “Cre­at­ing Trans­par­ent Bor­ders” with the sup­port of the Aris­to­tle Uni­ver­si­ty of Thes­sa­loni­ki, con­tri­bu­tions from dif­fer­ent local and nation­al NGOs.

AEGEE Thes transBorders 2010
Athina’s favourite event: Cre­at­ing Trans­par­ent Bor­ders in 2010

Gold­en Times: Four years is a long time. You nev­er had moments when you thought about quit­ting the board?
Athi­na: Four years is a very long time and I thought of quit­ting the board three times. First time I want­ed to quit was after the Ago­ra Lei­den in 2010. For­tu­nate­ly, I par­tic­i­pat­ed as a train­er in the Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group event “Shake the Plan­et” of AEGEE-Sofia a few months lat­er. It was a real­ly inspir­ing event that gave me a lot of ener­gy to use return­ing back to my base! That was the point that we organ­ised the “Cre­at­ing Trans­par­ent Bor­ders” event men­tioned above.

Gold­en Times: What was the sec­ond moment of cri­sis?
Athi­na: The sec­ond time that I want­ed to quit was when I got a job out of Thes­sa­loni­ki in 2011 and I had to do every­thing for AEGEE in week­ends or online. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I had no oth­er choice since no one else was offer­ing to take the respon­si­bil­i­ty of being the pres­i­dent. So I went on…

enwg 2010
The Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group in 2010

Gold­en Times: What kept you moti­vat­ed?
Athi­na: The fact that kept me going on was the sup­port of the rest of the board and old mem­bers and my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Ago­rae Ali­cante and Skop­je — with the organ­i­sa­tion of the Pre-Ago­ra Net­work Meet­ing in Thes­sa­loni­ki. Last time I want­ed to quit the board was this last six months. After all these years in the board, man­ag­ing things from here or from abroad, I believe it was the time to pass on… At last, there is a new group of peo­ple moti­vat­ed to keep on with the good work in our local! Good luck to our new board, Arse­nis, Ioan­nis, Eleni and Despoina!

Gold­en Times: You were active also on Euro­pean lev­el, as Sec­re­tary of the Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group. How do you remem­ber that time?
Athi­na: Being part of the EnWG board was a real­ly inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. The only thing that was dif­fi­cult for me was to work most­ly online with the rest of the team, since I am a per­son that needs a lot of phys­i­cal con­tact. Any­way, look­ing back to that peri­od now I believe that we offered some real­ly beau­ti­ful ini­tia­tives to the net­work.

Gold­en Times: Weren’t you more inter­est­ed in oth­er Euro­pean tasks, such as Net­work Com­mis­sion­er or CD?
Athi­na: I can­di­dat­ed in May 2012 for the posi­tion of the Net­work Com­mis­sion Assis­tant. I believed that with all my pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence on both local and Euro­pean lev­el, I could be of some help. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Net­work Com­mis­sion didn’t share the same point of view.

Creating Transp Borders 2010
Organ­is­ing was fun at Cre­at­ing Trans­par­ent Bor­ders 2010

Gold­en Times: That’s a shame. The Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group wrote about you: “She is real­ly inter­est­ed in edu­ca­tion for the envi­ron­ment because she believes that’s the only way the envi­ron­ment can be pro­tect­ed.” How do you see the state of edu­ca­tion for the envi­ron­ment in Greece and oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries?
Athi­na: I have a con­crete opin­ion that I can share about the state of edu­ca­tion in Greece, but I couldn’t do the same about the rest of the Euro­pean coun­tries. For­mal edu­ca­tion struc­tures in Greece give more empha­sis on envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion and edu­ca­tion for sus­tain­abil­i­ty nowa­days. The stu­dents of high schools can par­tic­i­pate vol­un­tar­i­ly in the envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion projects organ­ised by their schools, the Envi­ron­men­tal Edu­ca­tion Cen­ters all over Greece are work­ing pret­ty well, prepar­ing a lot of edu­ca­tion­al mate­r­i­al, orga­niz­ing envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion train­ings and more.

Gold­en Times: Sounds good.
Athi­na: These are some nice steps, but def­i­nite­ly there are not enough. I believe that envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion should be done through dif­fer­ent kind of method­ol­o­gy, for exam­ple expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion or non-for­mal edu­ca­tion. Empha­sis should be giv­en to active cit­i­zen­ship. In the end of the day, sus­tain­abil­i­ty is anoth­er social issue that should be front­ed with everyone’s active par­tic­i­pa­tion on the local lev­el. Think glob­al, act local!

Gold­en Times: How can politi­cians improve this?
Athi­na: I believe there should be giv­en more oppor­tu­ni­ties for coop­er­a­tion among the dif­fer­ent NGOs and envi­ron­men­tal groups as well as with the for­mal edu­ca­tion struc­tures. Schools should be more flex­i­ble and open to the neigh­bor­hood, the local coun­cils, the NGOs, the par­ents and not stick on the total­ly teacher-ori­ent­ed struc­ture they have now.

AEGEE ThesBoardNew
Meet the new board!

Gold­en Times: In those four years in the board of your anten­na what was your favourite event that you attend­ed?
Athi­na: My favourite event was def­i­nite­ly the “Cre­at­ing Trans­par­ent Bor­ders”, 16–22 Decem­ber 2010 in Thes­sa­loni­ki. I have nev­er been a part of such a great organ­is­ers’ team. The train­ers did a great job. The par­tic­i­pants formed an incred­i­ble group and came up with some real­ly nice results. A huge thanks to Anasta­cia, George, Nena, Kon­stan­ti­na, Ioan­nis, Nick­o­las, Paris, Dim­i­tra, Stel­la, Pana­gi­o­tis, Mary, Omer, Rufat, Parvin, Har­ris, Despoina, Spiros, Efi, Kalli, Berit, Alex­ey, Argin, Cafer, Umut­can, Andrea, Fred­erique, Madlen, Sabi­na, Mar­i­ja, Burak, Ste­fan, Jey­hun, Akel, Chris­tine, Ange­los to make this incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble for me.

Gold­en Times: Are you plan­ning to quit AEGEE any time soon?
Athi­na: Time will show… I haven’t thought about that yet.

Gold­en Times: What oth­er hob­bies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Athi­na: Learn­ing for­eign lan­guages, read­ing books, trav­el­ling, bicy­cle, singing, danc­ing, cook­ing (and eat­ing my food), vol­un­teer­ing in Thes­sa­loni­ki, knit­ting… the list can go on for­ev­er!

Gold­en Times: Please com­plete the sen­tence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Athi­na: AEGEE is for me an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see old friends and make some new ones.