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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.