It is a com­mon stereo­type that British peo­ple don’t feel very Euro­pean. And it is a fact that AEGEE anten­nae in the UK usu­al­ly have a hard time sur­viv­ing. Is it real­ly true? In the fifth seg­ment of the GT series “AEGEE on the edge of Europe” we asked Oksana Prokopchenko, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Sheffield.

Social drinks at AEGEE-Sheffield.
Social drinks at AEGEE-Sheffield.

Gold­en Times: How Euro­pean-mind­ed are nor­mal peo­ple and stu­dents in your city on a scale from 0 (not Euro­pean-mind­ed at all) to 10 (extreme­ly Euro­pean-mind­ed)?
Oksana Prokopchenko: I don’t want to be over-pes­simistic or over-opti­mistic, so I am going to say it’s a sol­id 4 — judg­ing more by the stu­dent com­mu­ni­ty rather than the over­all pop­u­la­tion.

GT: How many mem­bers does AEGEE-Sheffield have? And when was your anten­na found­ed?
Oksana: Last time I checked, we had 16 offi­cial mem­bers. But again, AEGEE-Sheffield is a very young local, we were approved as a Con­tact in March 2017, and upgrad­ed to a Con­tact Anten­na short­ly after at Spring Ago­ra Enschede 2017. So I hope that our future is still ahead!

AEGEE-Sheffield's first board.
AEGEE-Sheffield’s first board.

GT: Is it hard to find new mem­bers?
Oksana: It is rel­a­tive­ly hard­er than in most con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean coun­tries, as far as I can see. How­ev­er, it is con­nect­ed not only to our actu­al geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion, but rather to a gen­er­al mind­set of British young peo­ple and their reluc­tance to join Euro­pean — and inter­na­tion­al in gen­er­al — organ­i­sa­tions.

GT: What do you tell poten­tial mem­bers when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”?
Oksana: I have actu­al­ly nev­er heard that! What they do say though, sounds more like: “…, but I’m not Euro­pean!”, which hurts a bit more, of course.

The Brexit conference.
The Brex­it con­fer­ence.

GT: How much does trav­el­ling cost to Cen­tral Euro­pean loca­tions, such as Munich or Vien­na?
Oksana: Munich and Vien­na in par­tic­u­lar are around 50 Euros one-way for the next month. There are plen­ty oth­er Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions though, where prices go as low as 20 to 30 Euros, such as Frank­furt, War­saw, Berg­amo or Valet­ta.

The Brexit event in Sheffield.
The Brex­it event in Sheffield.

GT: Are there also pos­i­tive aspects from your geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion?
Oksana: The pos­i­tive aspect for me is that it’s always a big chal­lenge. Almost one year lat­er, it still feels like dis­cov­er­ing the unknown — and some­times that’s a lot of fun! Anoth­er advan­tage is that our place is con­sid­ered some­what of an exot­ic des­ti­na­tion for AEGEE events.

GT: Rough­ly how many for­eign mem­bers are attend­ing your events per year?
Oksana: At our first — and last so far — event in 2017, the con­fer­ence on Brex­it, we had 12 par­tic­i­pants from oth­er coun­tries.

Oksana Prokopchenko
Oksana Prokopchenko

GT: Did you coop­er­ate in 2017 with oth­er anten­nae or do you plan that for 2018?
Oksana: Indeed, for the Brex­it con­fer­ence we coop­er­at­ed with AEGEE-Lon­don and AEGEE-Man­ches­ter. With the lat­ter we are also organ­is­ing an LTC in the end of Jan­u­ary!

GT: Do you some­times wish your anten­na was more cen­tral or do you enjoy being at the edge of Europe?
Oksana (smiles): I have hon­est­ly nev­er had this wish. It is true it’s hard in many aspects, but I would nev­er change that to being any­where else.

Check out the complete series “AEGEE on the edge of Europe”!