Who is the AEGEE member of the year 2017? Which antenna, which project was the best? What were the highlights of the year? And what will 2018 bring? The Golden Times asked more than 70 locally or Europeanly active members. In this eighth edition: read what María Ballesteros Melero, Stas Mahula, Vasiliki Andrioti, Júlia Hanesz, Armenak Minasyants and Laura Margolin said.

María Ballesteros Melero, Comité Directeur

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
María Ballesteros Melero: When we got the news in the headoffice that the first grant that we applied for as CD55 had got approved. Get ready for some good news soon!
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
The opening conference of Europe on Track 4, winner of the Franck Biancheri Award 2017 with AEGEE-Budapest and the Civic Education Working Group, “Education for the Present, Democracy for the Future”, which took place in the Central European University at a time in which the far right Hungarian government was threatening the freedom of academia and the democracy itself. The timing and topic of the conference couldn’t have been more appropriate to take a strong stand for AEGEE values and what we believe in.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
Firstly, Julia Hanesz, Policy Officer on Civic Education for two years in a row, author of our policy paper on the ECI. I had the pleasure to work with her and she’s extremely smart, hardworking and always there for the team. Secondly, Viola Bianchetti, Coordinator of the Equal Rights Working Group. She is doing an outstanding work and her leadership style is extremely inclusive and positive towards the people she works with. Thirdly, Laura García Rueda, SU project manager. Her passion for this organisation is an example for all of us!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
AEGEE-Paris, which is back with renewed and unstoppable energy. I hope they keep growing in 2018 and that their enthusiasm extends in the area for more locals to come.
What was for you the outstanding European project, working group or interest group in 2017?
I don’t like not being precise in my answers, but we have so many things going on that it’s very hard to choose: Europe on Track 4 and 5, the four Working Groups working very closely with each other and preparing many great things for 2018, the Y Vote project team growing strong, AEGEE Election Observation, the brand new POLIG and EIG, all the discussions and initiatives coming up in other Interest Groups, making AEGEE a real forum for discussion… I want to thank everyone that is behind all those acronyms for their outstanding work!
What do you foresee as highlight or the big topic in AEGEE in 2018?
Social inclusion and the European Parliamentary elections, both internally and externally, will be big topics in the upcoming year, for which we have many initiatives and projects already working on those topics and preparing for the year to come.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
Do my best as member of the Comité Directeur.
How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
At home with friends and family.

 

Stas Mahula, former Network Commissioner, European Citizenship Working Group, AEGEE-Kyiv

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
Stas Mahula: First and foremost, this year was honestly my favourite year in my whole life – Top One of 20! Well, 11 out of 12 months I was working as a Netcom along with my fellow colleagues and cannot wish for a better team. What can I say: the whole year was amazing! It was full of incredible events, and I can never choose a single one. Besides, I was awarded a brand new experience such as being a helper in the BEST Summer Course in Tallinn – one of my best experiences ever.
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Hmm, I guess I won’t be serious here, but that opening ceremony of Agora Catania! Mamma Mia! My feet are still dancing whenever I hear that catchy Sicilian music on the web. Bravo! AEGEE-Catania, sha-la-la….
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
I can’t help mentioning Oksana Prokopchenko, a former member of AEGEE-Kyiv and current president of AEGEE-Sheffield. She has re-founded this local and brought it to a very high level: you all can see the successful conference of the UK locals which she coordinated! AEGEE exists because of such committed members, who share their passion with others, and I do believe we all do the same, because we really believe in what we do.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
As a former Netcom, I would definitely pick all my 16 locals, because the progress I witnessed is tremendous! Guys, I love you all and I will never forget all the moments we had together. Nonetheless, we usually tend to pick antennae which have organised the Agora and the EPM for calling them outstanding. And this year all of them are truly deserved to be called so! I have attended all of our statutory events this year, and the efforts put into making them possible is impressive and very inspiring! AEGEE-Yerevan, AEGEE-Kraków and AEGEE-Istanbul – you’ve got to rock the next year!
What was for you the outstanding European project, working group or interest group in 2017?
Yes, we do have many different things here, but I swear to God, Europe on Track is our everything. Reading feedbacks about it on different websites makes me feel proud of the organisation I joined three years ago. The impact we have on the society this time is something more than just raising awareness. It is changing people’s minds and bringing them closer to a discussion. It is incredible we have such a project.
What do you foresee as highlight or the big topic in AEGEE in 2018?
I guess Agora Kraków will really make a difference because they decided to organise the Agora not only as a statutory event but as an event that really makes a difference and brings young people together for a common purpose: this time to talk about the current state of Europe. I wish them best of luck!
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
I want to keep on being active both on my local and European level, by contributing to my working group and being a board member of my local. #NothingSpecial
How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Since I plan to go abroad for my Master studies, I would love to spend those days with my family. No, not AEGEE – I mean, my first family…

 

Vasiliki Andrioti, SUCT, The AEGEEan, AEGEE-Ioannina and AEGEE-Cagliari

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
I have experienced quite a lot of sentimental and important moments in AEGEE during 2017. Board member of AEGEE-Ioannina, SU in Ioannina and Cagliari, as well as Network Meeting Ioannina, which was a personal goal and a teamwork effort that came into realisation. But it would be moot to say that my election in the SUCT in Autumn Agora Catania 2017 wasn’t my personal highlight. My candidature was a step further from what I was used and what I was considering my comfort zone in AEGEE by then. It challenged me! I am grateful to having lived this moment and being responsible for a project I feel very close to my heart and has contributed much in my personal development.
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Agora Catania is a memorable moment to me. The effort that the organisers have put into it, the amazing result, the inspirational atmosphere they created as a team and family, was absolutely motivational. Like the sky full of stars we created in the opening ceremony.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
In this question usually one name crosses my mind. And this is because he is an ever evolving and motivational person that gives me the reason to always admire him. Spyros Papadatos, Netcommie for second year in the row, Liaison Officer and member of EoT 5, is other than my best friend, my mentor and personal inspiration. He is a hard-working, young person with a solid vision and specific goals regarding AEGEE and his life, that I think challenges many people around him to want to be better. I have seen it as a friend, as a co-worker on local level and as an observant in general.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
I would say that AEGEE-Torino has caught my attention. Other than being a very strong and successful antenna that has achieved to establish specific branded activities, known around the Network such as the Aperitivo Linguistico, this year they have managed to organise an outstanding and exceptional Network Meeting last spring, became local of the month in May and reached the first place in the Summer University project 2017. Personally, I think they are the perfect example of a local that challenges itself to organise a variety of activities and is rewarded with deserved success!
What was for you the outstanding European project, working group or interest group in 2017?
I would distinguish the Summer University and Europe on Track. I think that a borderless Europe is an issue that concerns a big amount of people. These projects aim exactly to surpass any border on political, societal and cultural level, by giving young people the chance to travel and gain knowledge. I think that they both are strong, motivational projects that make young people aware and active.
What do you foresee as highlight or the big topic in AEGEE in 2018?
The topic of populism is and should remain on the agenda. As I perceive it, it is the root of the tree with many issues that we observe on European and global level these days. As AEGEEans we made the start in opening the discussion around this subject at EPM Zagreb 2017. I think we should keep it in the spotlight and keep working on the direction of understanding the phenomenon and its aspects, inform and educate young people of our association, so we are ready to foresee and handle the issues that populism causes.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
In 2018 I will focus mainly on the Summer University project and the responsibilities that come along. I want to live up to the expectations of the project and deliver the #SUmmerOfOurLives2018. Moreover, as this year it is the 30th anniversary of the Summer University project we would like as a team to celebrate it the best way possible. These are my plans that take me up to Agora Istanbul. After this, who knows?
How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
I am going to be with friends in Budapest for the New Year.

 

Júlia Hanesz, Policy Officer of the Civic Education Working Group, AEGEE-Debrecen

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
Júlia Hanesz: There were many challenges and exciting things happening in AEGEE for me, but the biggest highlight for sure was presenting the Policy Paper on the ECI at Agora Catania.
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Apart from Agora Catania moments: EPM Zagreb, NWM Bamberg and the live meeting of the Civic Education Working Group in Budapest. EPM Zagreb, because it was my first big AEGEE event and I could feel the AEGEE spirit for the first time. NWM Bamberg, because I met wonderful people, I delivered my first workshop alone and we had great discussions there, and the live meeting in Budapest, because it was a lot of fun, work and chill at the same time.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
If I can name three, then they would be: Aliénor Pirlet from AEGEE-Leiden, Joanna Pankowska from AEGEE-Warszawa and Esther Hillmer from AEGEE-Osnabrück. Ali, for many reasons: being a great coordinator of the CEWG in 2016-2017, easily dealing with so many AEGEE newbies in the working group, teaching me so much about AEGEE and helping me not to get lost at my first events. Joanna, because she got me into all the great challenges. She managed to support our process-oriented team in a very good way even though she is an objective driven person, and shared her passion for civic education, which is all over AGEEE now and spreading outside of our organization as well. And Esther, for working so hard for the ECI campaign many times in the background, not leaving any of her tasks open and supporting all of us. Thank you dears!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
AEGEE-Zagreb, for organizing the EPM, the team of Bambies from AEGEE-Bamberg for doing a great job during the Network Meeting in April and AEGEE-Stuttgart for helping me and hundreds of other Erasmus students feeling home in Stuttgart.
What was for you the outstanding European project, working group or interest group in 2017?
I am not a member for such a long time and throughout the year I saw so many great projects. I was amazed and really happy that there are so many young students in Europe fighting for something important and coming up with very creative and impactful ideas. Now I would like to highlight the ECI task force, which received a lot of negative criticism during the year, but there was always a core team continuing the work, searching for new people and locals, who could be involved in some way and educating them and ourselves about civic education and the ECI. The most important things I have listed in the policy paper, but believe me, there was much more happening during the campaign.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
Continuing to work on civic education in AEGEE and hopefully outside of AEGEE as well. I am very excited about the high schools objective to share and discuss our topics and ideas with high schoolers. Furthermore, I am looking forward to the essays and activities for the “What does the ideal political systems look like” competition and I hope the recently launched Education Interest Group will be successful as well.
How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
In the High Tatras, one of the most beautiful places in Europe, remembering all the beautiful moments of 2017 and gaining energy for 2018.

 

Armenak Minasyants, Executive Director AEGEE-Yerevan

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
Armenak Minasyants: Oh, good question! I think it was the moment when AEGEE-Yerevan was announced to be the host of the European Planning Meeting 2018!
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Both Agoras had a special spirit.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
For me it has been Réka Salamon, who has been outstanding not only in 2017 but during her entire AEGEE career. The way that Réka works is not only adorable but it can motivate many AEGEE generations to come. I would like also to mention Marlène Rene and Florian Hauger, both do a great job and can bring a new quality to our projects, as they both have the capacity and more notably willingness not only to talk but to act for the benefit of our association. And of course, Loes Rutten, whose working ethics I like a lot!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
AEGEE-Catania, AEGEE-Enschede and AEGEE-Zagreb have been tremendous this year, I think we need always to give the biggest credit to the locals who commit time, resources and never ending energy to organize a statutory event. High five to everyone in these locals!
What was for you the outstanding European project, working group or interest group in 2017?
I am a big supporter of Europe on Track and the Eastern Partnership. For me the biggest indicator for a successful project is the capacity of being sustainable and these two projects are ideally matching that criteria. They have undergone institutional developments and I believe they are ready to expand their portfolio.
What do you foresee as highlight or the big topic in AEGEE in 2018?
The topic of the upcoming EPM “Borderless Europe” shows our identity and our belonging. It is a very welcoming fact that our network goes to the East and looks further to expand its activities in the non-EU part of Europe, which is usually a more disadvantaged region and struggles with many problems. First, we will start with the unique statutory event, the EPM, happening for the first time in the South Caucasus, followed up by the Spring Agora Kraków in Poland, another country recently being a hotspot for criticism on democracy matters and we will close the year with Autumn Agora Istanbul. The upcoming year is a time for us to be more impactful and action-oriented as a European organization, and the chain of our statutory events in 2018 is just outstanding. I call them the “AEGEE Oriental Express” – and our express will be simply unstoppable, everybody can find a place, city, country and statutory event of his or her taste.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
My plan is very simple – to organize the best European Planning Meeting in history and to retire right at the EPM stage… Yes, my personal plan is to retire after eight amazing years in AEGEE, more than 40 countries visited and meeting up with thousands of young Europeans. I believe it is high time for me to retire and to do it right on the EPM stage, which will be in my hometown and I would be surrounded by my friends, my team, my colleagues and my loved ones. It sounds as a perfect happy ending for me.
How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
At the best place in the world: at home, with my family and eating my mother’s bakery!

 

Laura Margolin, Mediation Commission, AEGEE-Mannheim

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2017?
Laura Margolin: My personal highlight was organizing the Summer University in Heidelberg and Mannheim. I was super excited to welcome AEGEEans from all over Europe in our cities and being able to show them what we love about them and to give them an insight into the Kurpfalz culture. Many of our participants were on an AEGEE event for the first time. Hearing that this inspired them to become active members was the best reward you can get after organizing an event. Moreover, this year I got the chance to get more active in AEGEE on the European level by becoming member of the Mediation Commission and I am very grateful to the network for putting their trust in me and providing me that opportunity.
Which memorable moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2017 do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
For me Agora Catania will always be full of memorable moments, since it was the first Agora I attended and the organizers did a great job and made us feel welcome from the very first moment we arrived. It was simply an amazing experience. I remember vividly the opening ceremony when we all turned the lights of our phones on and symbolized the stars of Europe. That was an impressive and inspiring moment.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2017? Please name up to three.
That is probably a boring answer, but for me AEGEE consists of numerous of outstanding people that work so hard every day to make Europe a better place – thank you all for that! By the way, the person that was charging his LED sneakers at Agora Catania while everyone else was just worrying about getting their phones charged must be an outstanding person as well. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to find out who that was…
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2017? You can also mention up to three.
Our neighbours from AEGEE-Heidelberg did an amazing job this year. Not only that they have various members in different positions active in AEGEE and they manage to recruit always new and motivated members, they also organized a Youth exchange with AEGEE-Kyïv focusing on the picture of the EU from within and from the outside.
What do you foresee as highlight or the big topic in AEGEE in 2018?
I am very much looking forward to the Europe on Track project focusing on sustainability and I am happy that we are stressing this topic within AEGEE since it is such an important societal topic and I am curious to see what discussions will come up and what it will lead us to.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2018?
I will work as member of the Mediation Commission and will give my best in that role. Also AEGEE-Mannheim is turning 20 next year so we’ll have a special reason to celebrate!

 

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