Time to celebrate: AEGEE-Minsk had its 15th anniversary today. For most members in Europe AEGEE-Minsk is probably a white spot, a place where they have not been yet. Nadezhda “Nadia” Fomenok, President of AEGEE-Minsk, and her team are working hard to change that. For example this summer: AEGEE-Minsk is inviting you to apply for the event “Discover Belarus”, taking place from 27th of June till 2nd of July. Nadezhda: “It will be an easy way to see the unseen, feel something new and broaden the outlook.”

Nadia Fomenok

Golden Times: Happy birthday, AEGEE-Minsk! How did you celebrate your 15th anniversary?
Nadia Fomenok: Hey Golden Times! We are very excited it is 15 already! To say the truth, it came all of a sudden… We were engaged in our everyday tasks, and then someone of us calculated: “1999, doesn’t it sound like we have a huge anniversary?” On our official founding date yesterday we had a pizza meeting as a celebration. It was very sweet event in the circle of good friends. Each of us shared a story of how they learned about AEGEE, and what AEGEE is for them. We talked about our plans for the spring, caught up on news, tried to motivate a new member who joined us recently… Our most devoted member told us how she is happy that AEGEE is still alive, and I think we all left the pizza place very inspired! And, yes, our huge flag impressed all the people around!!

Golden Times: Will you also have an AEGEE cake with AEGEE logo?
Nadia: Unfortunately not. We bought a lovely Vienna pie and blowed 15 candles, for the next great 15 years to come!

Golden Times: How was your antenna founded?
Nadia: It was 9th of March, 1999. In those times AEGEE-Minsk consisted mostly of European Humanities university students, who brought AEGEE to Belarus from their experiences as exchange students in the EU.

AEGEE-Minsk 15
Happy birthday, AEGEE-Minsk!

Golden Times: Are you in contact with the founders?
Nadia: Arranging the meeting with the very first ones is a part of our agenda for 2014-15.

Golden Times: How many members and active members do you have now?
Nadia (smiles): We currently have 49 members – thanks to Agora reports that made us count the heads! I am happy to say that I know a good half of them, and see that Facebook likes of the rest. We hope we will manage not to lose the spirit of the team that we managed to wake up in the past two years.

Golden Times: What are your main local activities?
Nadia: For now, we work to organise the team, to share what we know with each other, and to build a strong AEGEE bond. We have a “circulating event” on every first Saturday of every month for this purpose. We also like organising sports events – bicycle rides and ice-skating mainly. In addition, together with the board we are now arranging a number of educational events to share the unique experience of the members of the local.

AEGEE-Minsk new year 2014
AEGEE-Minsk New Year party 2013/14

Golden Times: You are organising an event soon. When will it be and what is it about?
Nadia: As a part of our birthday gift to ourselves, we opened the applications to our first European event in years: “Discover Belarus”! It will take place from 27th of June till 2nd of July. We considered that the best way to break the stereotypes about Belarus and raise the voice is to invite members of other AEGEE locals to see us. Our event “Discover Belarus” is targeting adventurers, who want to see something new in life, to understand the culture of Belarus better, and, for sure, feel the spirit of AEGEE-Minsk.

Golden Times: Why should members not miss it?
Nadia: The trip to Belarus may sound like a dreadful matter to most of our friends – students from EU are not used to getting visa, and many are influenced by a bunch of misleading stereotypes. The event will be held with our most cordial support. We are very willing to show that Belarus is a unique country, with a very atypical architecture and nature, with its own history. At the same time, it is a new country, in its twenties, with a generation of dreamers like we are. For many AEGEE members “Discover Belarus” will be an easy way to see the unseen, feel something new and broaden the outlook, participate in unique workshops and thematic days. And that is why you should definitely not miss it!

AEGEE-Minsk Skating
AEGEE-Minsk, skating in January 2014

Golden Times: How easy is it for your members to travel abroad and participate in events?
Nadia: Limits that we establish ourselves in our heads and visa come to my mind. As for the visa, I think every AEGEE member has a bunch of breathtaking stories about how he was begging an ambassador to give the visa faster; had to scan his wallet for Euros to prove he has the required amount of money, or was queuing next to the Polish consulate at 5 AM in the rain. These stories can make a separate book!

Golden Times: Sounds horrible…
Nadia: I personally think that after you get a third visa you stop taking it as a problem, but rather as an annoying medicine you cannot escape. A visa-getting process can even be useful in part that we learn to think fast in the conditions of the total stress. I want to thank all the AEGEE locals in the EU for issuing the invitations for our visa purposes – and please always make the specific inscribing on them if we are asking for some. That will save us from panicking at the consulate!

AEGEE-Minsk mascot devil
AEGEE-Minsk mascot “Devil”

Golden Times: Are there any problems you face in your work as AEGEE antenna?
Nadia: I think a real problem we face is that not many Belarusians are yet aware of what a non-profit NGO is, what they do, and how such an NGO functions. When we explain that we work for networking and sharing experiences, uniting students from all over Europe, many people think that we are a bunch of lazy alcoholics with no clear aim in life. Moreover, such misunderstanding leads to complications in searching for sponsors and support.

Golden Times: How do you deal with that?
Nadia: We work on that, and the fact we are hosting our first European event in years means a lot to us! For now AEGEE-Minsk is alive with a pure enthusiasm of the members we have, and I am grateful to each of them for believing in what we do! Here I also say huge thanks to our first sponsor, who assists us in our event: Hostel Trinity. They are now the only hostel in Belarus with AEGEE discounts, so make sure to use this unique chance when you travel to Belarus!

Golden Times: A few words about you: how old are you, what do you study, how did you join AEGEE?
Nadia: I am 22 years old, graduating from law school this June, and assisting in a law firm. I learned about AEGEE when I was an exchange student in Bilbao, and honestly thought this organization worked only to organise events for exchange students. I later learned that it is a big student network. To my surprise, I found that there is a local in Minsk. Ever since I was watching how AEGEE-Minsk was waking up after its sleep. I think in the past two years a tremendous amount of work was done, and people do not need to go abroad as Erasmus anymore to find out about AEGEE.

AEGEE-Minsk environmental day
Visit AEGEE-Minsk!

Golden Times:  What hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Nadia (smiles): When I am not graduating or AEGEEing, I am practicing sports and drawing, and I am very fond of digital art. Check it out: http://naddie13.deviantart.com/

Golden Times: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE for me is…”
Nadia: “…an opportunity to do what you really want.” I personally wanted to test myself on whether I will be capable of managing a bunch of different people. I am happy AEGEE gives everyone a chance to create, achieve goals or learn, in a number of different ways.

Golden Times: Anything you would like to add?
Nadia: My vision for the year is to introduce to AEGEE-Minsk what AEGEE-Europe is about, and to show to AEGEE-Europe what AEGEE-Minsk is about. Stay tuned for more news from AEGEE-Minsk! Our voice will be loud also for the next 15 years!

More info:
AEGEE-Minsk on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AegeeMinsk
“Discover Belarus” event on the AEGEE Intranet: http://www.intranet.aegee.org/event/view/152/18492