The Caucasus is right at the border between Europe and Asia. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan where the last European countries that AEGEE expanded to – almost 20 years after the founding of the association. Since 2004 AEGEE-Tbilisi is part of the network. Today, we cannot imagine the network anymore without this great antenna. In the sixth segment of the Golden Times series “AEGEE on the edge of Europe” AEGEE-Tbilisi’s PR and Project Manager Mariam Cheghelidze told us more about her antenna.
Golden Times: How European-minded are normal people and students in your city on y scale from 0 (not European-minded at all) to 10 (extremely European-minded)?
Mariam Cheghelidze: The board of our antenna discussed this question and to our mind the students living in Georgia are European-minded at 9 from 10, but as for old generation we can estimate it as 5 from 10.
GT: How many members do you have? And when was your antenna founded?
Mariam: AEGEE-Tbilisi was founded on the 24th of April in 2004 and it was the first local in Southern Caucasus. Nowadays we have around 50 members and 20 are really active members.
GT: Is it hard to find members?
Mariam: It is not that hard to find members. It is difficult to keep them on a very active level.
GT: What do you tell potential members when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”?
Mariam: “Do you think that AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away? Do not worry, because there are direct flights that Wizzair offers!” It is a really interesting question, I remember I had this question on the beginning stage of my membership, but then everything came by itself when I met so many people from many different countries and distance turned irrelevant for me. So I will tell them that “AEGEE gives you so sweet, special moments, friends of your life and gives you opportunities to be member of a big international family, so you won’t even think about kilometres”.
GT: How much does travelling cost to Central European locations, such as Munich or Vienna?
Mariam: It really depends but you can find flights to Berlin for around 50 Euros without luggage and maybe around 80 Euros to Vienna.
GT: Is getting visa for events a big problem for your members?
Mariam: Nowadays it is not that much of a problem for Georgian people because of visa liberalization.
GT: Are there also positive aspects from your geographical location? If yes, which ones?
Mariam: There are many positive aspects from Georgia’s geographical location. We are really proud of it! Georgia is not a very big country, it is only 69,700 square kilometres, but at least on this very little land you can enjoy high mountains – the highest mountain in Shkhara has 5193 metres – and the sea all at once! Georgia is a good example of mixed cultures, religions and traditions living in one small place; it gives people a diverse and strong character. Last but not least we are really proud for our fantastic nature: sea, forests and rocky mountains are gathered in one small country.
GT: Roughly how many foreign members are attending your events year year?
Mariam: Per year approximately 60 foreign members attend our projects.
GT: Did you cooperate in 2017 with other antennae or do you plan that for 2018?
Mariam: In 2017 we cooperated with AEGEE-Eindhoven and organized an exchange programme in both countries. In 2018 we are cooperating with AEGEE-Yerevan for a pre-EPM event.
GT: Which international events are you planning for 2018?
Mariam: Our Winter University takes place from 7 to 15 February, the pre-EPM event from 4 to 7 March and then we also have a Summer University!
GT: Do you sometimes wish your antenna was more central or do you enjoy being at the edge of Europe?
Mariam: We often wish to have the chance to go by train for two or three days and attend conferences or just to travel to European countries, but… despite of this, when foreign participants come here, we realize how interesting our country is for them. Being on the edge of Europe gives us something special.