AEGEE never sleeps. Probably in this very minute, when the clock is slowly approaching midnight, dozens of members are working on their antenna’s future events, plan their next network trips or chat with friends about their AEGEE adventures, while brainstorming about future plans. In 2006, I wrote an article about the “AEGEE nightshifts” for the AEGEE Newsbulletin. Yesterday I came across the article and realised that nearly everything I wrote is still valid today – only the acting persons are different. So, even if you don’t know the people in this article, it still gives you a timelessly valid impression of our association. Enjoy reading it!

Bernd Knüfer, CD director for Public Relations in 2005/06, and one of his famous cigarillos

Midnight in Brussels. It’s calm and quiet in the headoffice of AEGEE-Europe in Brussel-Schaarbeek. Just the humming sound of a Polish Internet radio station fills the air, combined with the clacking of hands on six keyboards. In the background the servers are buzzing. Bernd Knüfer, CD director for Public Relations, is multi-tasking: he is writing an article for the NewsBulletin, opens Lotus Notes for an update of the AEGEE-Europe webpage, and checks his mail account in order to reply to some urgent questions of a project team. Bernd and his fellow CD members are on another nightshift – like countless of other members all around the network, who are fighting sleep and application deadlines or are just chatting via MSN or ICQ with their AEGEE friends.

“I would love to sleep now, but I can’t,” regrets Bernd. “This will be an all-nighter again since I am leaving for the Far West regional meeting in Madrid at noon and there is a lot to be done until then”. This wouldn’t be so bad if these nightshifts hadn’t become sort of a routine. “Every second and third day is like this,” says the 28-year old Political Science student from Erlangen in Bavaria. At the moment the workload is bigger than usual, since Bernd just returned from the election Observation Mission in Odessa. There were of course Internet cafés in the Ukrainian seaport, but the connection was not good enough to do the usual work.

Bernd likes the night shifts. “I am as productive as I can be, since I like a calm and cool office. But sometimes my mind also starts drifting when it gets to late.” In order to stay awake he drinks Cola light, smokes a cigarillo now and then and gets some fresh air every two hours. And he is in good company in the headoffice, which also helps. Six people are still awake. Marek, the CD treasurer, is reimbursing and bookkeeping, Asia is doing her last e-mail check for the day. Kasia is inquiring for a postal sending from Izmir and Bojana is approving participants of the upcoming Agora in Warsaw.

At a normal day the office gets silent around 3 a.m. “Usually they just wander off zombie-like. And when they are not back after five minutes you can be sure not to meet them the next six hours,” Bernd explains. At least no one is falling asleep tired and exhausted on his keyboard, like former AEGEE-Europe president Gerhard Kress did in 1996/7.

Arleta Bojke, former editor-in-chief of the AEGEE NewsBulletin and the Key to Europe

“Sometimes when the work is getting to long I sleep behind my desk on the floor,” tells Bernd. That doesn’t sound to healthy, but the PR director has a different opinion. “It’s strange, but the floor is sometimes the best futon matrass. And it is very easy to get up again. During travelling I learned to sleep everywhere. And a short sleep is the best re-activator”. Usually the clock strikes 5 a.m. when he finally goes to bed. “In Odessa I went to bed once at 22.30. I could not believe myself. It was a special event because it is the only time the last six months”.

One of the people Bernd is chatting with on MSN is NewsBulletin editor Arleta Bojke. At midnight she is sitting in her room in Poznan, mainly working on the latest issue of the magazine, correcting the articles, talking to her team member Bartek about the layout. “I also just finished updating the website of the lobbying training of AEGEE-Poznan with the first version of the programme. Soon I will start to type the minutes from my EBM workshop in Sofia”. Arleta sighs. So much to do, and still a lot of mails to reply to tonight.

Also for her these nightshifts have become a daily routine. Four or five times per week she spends midnight in front of the PC. “I just don’t have time do finish with uni, meetings and all other things during the day. I try to be ready with everything, my uni included, till midnight,” says the 21-year old student of International Relations and Journalism. In order to stay awake, she relies on her adrenaline and concentration. “I work so late only when I have some stress and some adrenaline”. No cola, alcohol, coffee. “I don’t drink more than two coffees per day”.

Olga Daskali
Olga Daskali, former President of AEGEE-Athina and Juridical Commission President

Arleta is in good company with Olga Daskali, president of AEGEE-Athina. “I do not drink coffee at night, hardly ever during the day. For many people coffee is the best, for me music, motivation, maybe company”. For the 21-year old law student it has been a tiring evening. 30 minutes before midnight she returned from the local AEGEE office where she had a long board meeting. “We start at 7 or 8. Sometimes we finish at 10, often they end at 11, and rarely at 12. Today was a hard one,” she says. “We had many decisions to take. We had to solve the problems of our magazine Europolis. We do not have enough articles yet, last Friday the second deadline finished”.

Being president of one of the most active and glorious antennae of the network – next to AEGEE-Amsterdam AEGEE-Athina is the only one to have organised three Agoras – is a tough job. “There are time when I spend more than 15 hours per day on AEGEE – before an event, or when we are preparing an application, or when there are many meetings on the same day”. “Seek or Sick”, which took place last May, was such an event that caused Olga regular nightshifts. Now “AEGEE-Athina 20” is coming up, the big anniversary celebration in November. “I try to get to sleep at 1 a.m., but sometimes at 3 or 4. I have classes tomorrow at 9,” summarises Olga. “I sleep in the weekends”.

Sanne Faessen
Sanne Faessen, former President of AEGEE-Nijmegen

Sanne Faessen, President of AEGEE-Nijmegen, also just had a long day. But at midnight all work is done and she can focus on chatting with other AEGEE people before going to bed. “I’ve worked enough today, only the social part tonight,” says the 22-year old Cultural and Personality Psychology student. Today she had a meeting with the Regional Meeting Committee in Nijmegen, only one week is left until her antenna is organising the double Regional Meeting for North-West and WISEN.

“Sometimes I also work at midnight for AEGEE,” she confesses. “Then I am working on proposals, letters and things like that, more policy-like stuff. It is quite interesting to work on the things that will last in your association”. Not all the nightwork takes place in front of the PC. “Board meetings sometimes take a long time and then I have to do some serious business at the social drink – two or three times a week”.

Robert Drese
Robert Drese, former President of AEGEE-Aachen

Just like Bernd, Sanne does not mind the nightshifts. “The night time is more quiet, I can just work at home and do not have to be at any place anymore”. Although, as she confesses, she is more productive in the morning. “I do try to stop around midnight – then it’s time for some relaxation.” Just like for Robert Drese, ex-president of AEGEE-Aachen, for whom the working nights are becoming a distant memory. “I remember when we organised the ES2 in our city. We were running out of time, so I was sitting every night until 1 a.m. or 1.30 in front of my PC,” says the PhD in Physics. “I never did real “night shifts”, because I had to get up the next morning to go to work”.

Moreover, despite the fact that midnight is good for writing e-mails, Robert does not consider the time as effective for organising or planning. “It’s more fun to chat at midnight – or to travel to events like the great ball in Prague last week, where we spent all night dancing”.