He is a life-size mascot and known all over Europe: the AEGEE-Aachen bear is the mascot of all mascots. The Golden Times asked him about his life in the limelight, his next travel plans – and about AEGEE-Aachen.

Golden Times: Dear AEGEE-Aachen Bear, you have an impressive number of 932 fans on Facebook. How come that you are so popular?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: I think it’s pretty obvious that I am so popular because everyone loves to hug furry bears. If you don’t, then maybe you should get yourself checked. But nevertheless I have been travelling around in Europe for almost four years now and AEGEE people like to stay connected and see what I’m up to next.

Golden Times: Despite your popularity on Facebook, you only received 23 votes in the Cutest Mascot poll of the online magazine The AEGEEan. How come? Are you not cute?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Baby bears are very cute, but as you surely know, I am over four years old and pretty grown up. So I traded some of my cuteness for majestic beauty.

Golden Times: How did you become the mascot of AEGEE-Aachen?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: In early 2008 I heard of this wonderful city of Aachen, which used to be European minded already for centuries and after living in the woods at the three-border land between Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, I decided to finally visit the city. There I heard of the guys and girls from AEGEE Aachen and I met them on their weekly drink. They invited me to stay and I became an active member in their PR committee.

Golden Times: What was your job in the PR committee?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: My main job was to run around in university buildings and search for the few girls there are in Aachen.

Golden Times: Tough job…
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: I’m just kidding, of course Aachen has a technical university, but I tried to convince all people to get involved in the Erasmus tutoring program, join the Erasmus parties and to find motivated people who wanted to help organising something which the AEGEE people called Agora, but I had no clue what it was.

Golden Times: That happens even to some Agora participants …
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Well and then I had the chance to travel to an Agora for the very first time, it was in Ljubljana, which is in Slovenia. I had the chance to invite all those cool people to Agora Aachen in autumn 2008, and this was really cool. After our Agora I then decided to visit all the cities where people were coming from, well I guess my journey goes on and since EBM Riga I have two white Polar bears which joined my on my trips.

Golden Times: Which events did you visit in 2011?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Last year I have been to EBM Riga, both Agoras and the Summer University in Aachen amongst some smaller events. I even brought the before mentioned Polar Bears, which I met at the occasion of AEGEE-Riga’s white party during the EBM. During the ceremony for the Charlemagne youth prize, which is awarded by the European Parliament and Charlemagne Prize Foundation in Aachen, I had the chance to get to know many students from all over Europe who work for different youths projects, this is also very interesting, because we could share some ideas about upcoming projects.

Golden Times: And where can we see you in 2012?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: I have already been to lovely Izmir and attended the EBM and my fellow polar bears gave a small reception for the travel maniacs from AEGEE Utrecht, who hitchhiked over to Aachen. For sure I will attend the next Agora in Enschede and of course the fall Agora in Budapest. I am also planning on visiting at least one Network Meeting, I’m not sure yet which it will be, but I really like NWMs since there is a good chance for me to get to know new people and to connect with my neighbours.

Golden Times: We can also meet you in Aachen? I mean, if you are not hunting Erasmus girls…
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: If you participate in any AEGEE event in Aachen you will most likely meet me. And I almost forgot that I have an invitation from AEGEE-Utrecht on my desk right now, so I will pay them a visit in a few weeks.

Golden Times: Why don’t you go to more events? I guess you have a lot of time…
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: I am invited to many events on Facebook and I always accept the invitations so all my friends can see what’s going on in Europe and attend the happenings. I would of course love to attend all the events throughout Europe, but you can imagine I cannot reserve a place everywhere, people would get jealous of me.

Golden Times: You got known to AEGEE at the Agora in Aachen in 2008. What are your favourite memories of that Agora?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Well that’s hard to say, because I had a really busy time. I was really hard working with my team on the preparation and we were pretty amazed when finally the streets of Aachen were crowded with AEGEE people. We could not fit all people in one gym, because the University gym was already in use, so we decided to spread AEGEE people in different gyms all over the city. Of course this set a major challenge for logistics, but I came up with a very green solution for this. I am pretty sure you have heard of the famous walking buses throughout Aachen. I think my best memory were the parties and of course driving my very own walking bus.

Golden Times: Often there are AEGEE-Aachen members in bear costumes at events. Who is behind that?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Well, it depends, whoever feels “beary” will be the AEGEE-Aachen bear for that day, but in Aachen the bears are very social animals and if you are lucky you might even see more than one at a time, sometimes they even mix up with a brown bear. I remember once there was even an AEGEE-Köln member wearing the costume, firstly it felt a bit strange, but it became a very good feeling very soon.

Golden Times: How is AEGEE-Aachen doing, by the way?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: AEGEE-Aachen is doing pretty well, we could use some new members, but our HR is still struggling with the new bachelor/master system. It has been modified in some study fields, but the general opinion students have this time is they have to focus on their professional career and cannot take time for organising voluntary events.

Golden Times: That’s a big problem everywhere…
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: We have to change this opinion and we are trying to convince our university administration to give a statement pro volunteering, but unfortunately this seems not so easy because it is interconnected with financial matters, tuition fees and also some other issues. However, our international office has introduced a new international skills certificates which opens our work to a bigger group of students, who get credits for this certificate if they become active in our organisation.

Golden Times: Nice! What kind of events does AEGEE-Aachen plan for 2012?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: We are planning another great Summer University again, last year our German Language Plus was chosen second place, so this year we will of course aim for first place!

Golden Times: Good luck! Anything else?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: Yes, of course! We are also applying for an ES1 and Summer University Project School. First we planned to organise a Pre-Event to Agora Enschede, but now we decided to support AEGEE-Köln with our manpower. They are planning a huge pre-event with up to 70 participants.

Golden Times: Anything else you would like to add?
AEGEE-Aachen Bear: See you somewhere in Europe!