The SU participants have spoken: with their evaluations they voted the “Treasure Island” Summer University of AEGEE-Catania as best SU in 2013. The Sicilian antenna manged to repeat its success of the past year. The Golden Times asked Antonio Morelli, President of the antenna, what makes his antenna so successful and their Summer Universities so special.

Antonio Morelli

Golden Times: Congratulations! AEGEE-Catania received the title “Best SU organiser” for the second year in a row. How did you and your members react when they heard it?
Antonio Morelli: When we were awarded Best SU at the Agora Zaragoza, we couldn’t believe it. It was an incredible feeling to be there and to stay at the top of Europe for the second year in a row. We worked really hard throughout this year to organize another event like the year before. We felt happy, excited, satisfied to be rewarded for all the energy spent for that group of 45 participants from 22 different countries.

Golden Times: What was the SU about?
Antonio: The SU had a main purpose and a main theme. The main purpose was about creativity: it gave us the chance to explore its aspects in many ways, granting us the possibility to actually put people in situations in which they truly need to think differently, to find other solutions, to trigger their divergent thinking. It forced them to focus on concepts, workshops and games, use 100% of their skills and sometimes learn new ones.

Golden Times: And what was the main theme?
Antonio: The main theme was about pirates. It was willingly a light one and gave us the chance to empower people’s relationships and group spirit. We divided them into six teams, with a fair balance of men, women and nationality, and started a SU-long tournament with about forty games and subgames. Each team had three organizers as Captain and Vicecaptain – though we called them Quartermasters, for they are pirates, argh! They had to motivate the group or help them when they had need of anything. Moreover the Main Organizer was the Games Referee and the Island Chief.

SUCataniaGroupGolden Times: Impressive! And what was last year’s SU about?
Antonio: It was similar. The name was “Treasure Islands Unleashed”, because the first half of it took place in Sicily and the second one in Malta. The main theme was also about pirates, yet all the participants came to find the treasure, which in the end was revealed to be the SU itself. The main purpose was as well the same, though half of this year’s lessons and workshops were brand new. In short, the two SUs were quite similar, but the truth beneath is that in order to make something with the complexity of a SU able to work as close to perfection as possible, you do need to practice and retest it several times.

Golden Times: How did you reach this level of perfection? What is the secret of your SUs?
Antonio: I am lucky to work with an incredible group of friends. We had a team of ten experienced organizers from last year’s SU and six new members, which joined us later this year and completed the team in the best way possible. The secret is that we aren’t a simple antenna, first of all we are friends and a big family; we all get along and everyone knows his role and duties. If there are problems, we solve them without fighting, as one would expect in a real family.

2013 Top 10Golden Times: You mentioned that have a success formula that you developed further. Can you tell us more?
Antonio: Each year, we use the same formula and try to improve it. Sicily is a wonderful land and Catania offers the sea, the mountains, beautiful landscapes and cities in the surrounding area, as well as food, culture and traditions that give us 15 dreamy days. We have fun and we know what the participants want, we try our best to keep them entertained during breaks, meals, but especially in the evening thanks to the “Movida Catanese”.

Golden Times: The atmosphere at the SU must have been great. Can you tell us a couple of very special moments or funny anecdotes?
Antonio: The atmosphere was outstanding. Participants got along splendidly with each other and relied on us organizers completely: they knew the organizers really had a proper idea of what they were doing and how. This can be told with some of the flashmobs we did around Sicily. Yet when we felt we were mastering the situations and having such a maniacal control of all that nothing could possibly be any better, we started again to learn the true thing about life, SU and AEGEE: people will always surprise you. On the last day in the very last pre-party, our participant took us all with one, no actually with three SUrprises. We can’t help but say that the surprises and their final speech led half of us in joyful tears and the other half… just even worse!

SUCataniaDiplomaGolden Times: Impressive! Do you have some knowledge transfer or some training for your SU organising teams?
Antonio: During the year we organised many meetings. We studied the programme step by step, we prepared the organisation of the event and the division of roles. The old members helped the new ones by giving them advice and providing their experience; as a result, the new team members could understand how it works while learning how to solve the problems they may encounter in the process.

SUCataniaFlagGolden Times: When we look at the different evaluation categories, we see that AEGEE-Catania was strong everywhere. You had the second-best grade for thematic content and third-best for the cultural content. Can you tell us more about it?
Antonio: Certainly. We pay attention to every aspect of the Summer University. The thematic content is essential to attract the attention of the participants. Very often, we find that the best way to teach something is by finding a good formula where the participants feel encouraged and entertained at the same time. Our main theme was creativity, we therefore organized workshops to explain photography, theatre, painting and more – and then we put it into practice with different games. It’s really fun and the participants can learn while enjoying themselves..

Golden Times: A couple of words about yourself: how old are you, what do you study, how long have you been in AEGEE?
Antonio: I am 25 years old and I graduated in Computer Science. I work in a hardware and software company here in Catania. I joined AEGEE three years ago just after my Erasmus, when I decided to be active and be part of the group. I was IT Responsible, then Vice-president and finally President of AEGEE-Catania. I have been Subcommie for the Italian antennae and AEGEE-Valletta for the past two years and the main coordinator of the Best SU in 2012. It’s been a real honour for me to win two consecutive SU, the first as main coordinator and the second as President.


Golden Times: And what other hobbies do you have beside AEGEE?
Antonio: I enjoy listening to music and I played tennis for nine years. I like sports in general, having new experiences and adventures. I love traveling, visiting European capitals, tasting their national dishes while learning about traditions and culture.

Golden Times: How many members does AEGEE-Catania have?
Antonio: AEGEE-Catania has about 80 members. The number of members can increase during the summer with the applications for the SU. The active members are more or less 20 to 25 and engagements permitting – mostly study and work – all members contribute to the improvement of our antenna.


Golden Times: What are the main activities of your antenna besides organising great SUs?
Antonio: In addition to the Summer University in Catania we work with the Erasmus people, and this year we are organizing for the first time a Winter University. We have organized workshops for Italian students on important current issues and we are happy to have organized events such as the European School of Entrepreneurship (ESE) and Let Eat Be – an Event about tradition and Sicilian food.

Golden Times: What do you offer to Erasmus students?
Antonio: In Catania we love to organize activities for Erasmus people. During the Welcome Week we start the main project Anfitrione, where each member of AEGEE can help one or two exchange students with a variety of problems including university, flat rental and the language. This way we can help them and at the same time introduce them to our customs and to the  AEGEE experience in Catania. During the year we organize a linguistic aperitif, some excursions, BBQ, Festivals, parties and much more.

Golden Times: Finally: do you already have ideas for your SU 2014? What will the topic be?
Antonio (smiles): We haven’t thought about what kind of SU we will organize. We would like to make a Travel SU to visit new places, but we are also interested in the Sport theme, maybe we can organize an SU with that theme in mind. Morevoer, there’s always the possibility of organizing a Vol. 3 of our current SU and, why not, try to win again. As we say in Italy: there isn’t “two” without “three”.