Who is the AEGEE member of the year 2019? Which antenna, which project was the best? What were the highlights of the year? And what will 2020 bring? The Golden Times asked more than 80 locally or Europeanly active members. Over the next weeks you can see what they answered. In this first edition: read what Saramijn Luijken, Gabriele Nicotra, Maaike Heijdenrijk, Erwin Groot, Elitsa Hadzhieva and Tullio Pacelli said.

Saramijn Luijken, Network Commission, AEGEE-Leiden

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Saramijn Luijken: I think my AEGEE highlight this year was presenting my candidatures for Equal Rights Working Group Coordinator and Network Commissioner at Agora Bucuresti – and then getting elected for both! Candidating for such a large crowd was scary, but also super cool.

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Outstanding members for me are: Oksana Prokopchenko for her amazing support of the network and us as Network Commission. I can also go to her for everything and she is always helpful and supporting. Viola Bianchetti, last year as ERWG Coordinator we obviously worked with her a lot – which was really great – and she did some amazing work for the network as Project Director. Finally I would say Jorge Ruiz Condo, who was in my working group last year. Jorge was our expert on so many topics such as Gender, this year he became part of the Youth Development Working Group, Acadamy and the SMASH project – and I just believe his presence within AEGEE is of so much value!

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
This is hard, but I will just mention some of the locals that have been doing an amazing job. I am purposely not mentioning the locals that organised Statutory events as I assume others will mention them! AEGEE-Udine for organising an amazing Equal Rights-themed SU, AEGEE-Aachen as my partner in organising NWM Aachen and AEGEE-Brussel/Bruxelles for reviving themselves in this way! Also I think my whole area is doing amazing work of course, but I might be biased…

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
I think the SMASH Project is of such importance within AEGEE and has been doing an amazing job, so that one definitely stands out for me!

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
I don’t know if it’s a threat per se, but I am curious to see what the consequences of the Brexit will be for Europe and AEGEE – if it actually happens. Our biggest opportunity this year is to hopefully improve, not necessarily the quantity, but the quality of our network and to create sustainability in AEGEE locals.

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I want to continue to grow within AEGEE, I am not yet sure how I will do this, but there are so many positions and things I want to work on that I know I have enough opportunities to do so!

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
With my family and friends, nothing big.

 

Gabriele Nicotra, Jack of all Trades and Ace of One, AEGEE-Catania

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Gabriele Nicotra: Well as former member and Vice-Speaker of the Network Commission I have got to say that after the insane amount of work behind the Antenna Criteria Reform the fact that it got accepted at Spring Agora Bucuresti was indeed a special moment. Me and the team didn’t even realise it when the Juridical Commission announced it, we were busy dealing with something else, but then we were almost crying for joy.

Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
My AEGEE-Europe moment was definitely the Opening Ceremony of Autumn Agora Salerno. It gave me the same vibes as the one in Agora Catania!

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I will go for Oksana “Thanos” Prokopchenko. I can’t help falling in love with these Slavic beauties! She was a great leader during her term as Network Commissioner and she is rocking it as CD member!

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
As former Agora organiser we can all agree that AEGEE-Bucuresti and AEGEE-Salerno deserve this title!

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Europe on Track maybe? I love this project and the fact that I gave this year’s project a small and yet relevant contribution makes me happy!

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat is hands down the shrinking of the network. The biggest opportunity is its enlargement if it is done with the proper strategy!

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I am retiring for good! Maybe, still processing…

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
In beautiful Krakow of course!

 

Maaike Heijdenrijk, ECWG Coordinator, member of Academy and AEGEE-Nijmegen

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Maaike Heijdenrijk: This question really makes me happy and a bit nostalgic, looking back on an incredible year. The biggest highlight though were the past month and a half, getting elected as European Citizenship Working Group coordinator and leading my amazing working group. It was quite challenging to start as coordinator in the middle of the year with no time to prepare, but after an amazing live meeting with the most incredible teammates, I knew I made the right decision, and got even more excited for the upcoming year.

Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The projects Y Vote and Europe on Track leading up to the European Elections. It really felt like the EU was choosing its direction to or away from populism and Euroscepticism, and these projects managed to address these issues and involve thousands of young people. It really felt like we as an organisation could make an impact.

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
If I had to name one, it is Monika Mojak, being outstanding as Secretary General for over a year. She was an amazing support as CD contact for my working group, and surely will do brilliant as Chair!

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Salerno did an incredible job of hosting an Agora under such crazy last-minute circumstances. And despite everything and a lot of complaining from many people, they managed to handle all difficulties while staying incredible nice and welcoming to all participants. I would also like to mention AEGEE-Isparta, who only became a Contact in February, signed the Convention d’Adhesion at Agora București and managed to organize a highly successful NWM in December!

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
The SMASH project was definitely outstanding. There is still too much sexual related violence happening, and not only admitting that it exists in AEGEE, but actively trying to tackle this is something huge. I hope that we will set an example not only for other youth organisations, but for all organisations worldwide to show that it is possible to openly discuss this problem and take measures to prevent it without losing face.

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The new Focus Areas! The topics are really interesting and relevant. I am really looking forward to drafting the new Action Agenda at EPM Barcelona, and seeing how the Focus Areas will change the course of the network over the next years. I wouldn’t want to name a threat, but I sincerely hope to see a larger appreciation culture within AEGEE. There are so many people who put their heart and soul into this organisation and there are few opportunities to publicly thank them. We need more people active in European bodies, and seeing people being praised for their work might convince more people. What Oksana and the CD did at Agora Salerno, calling all bodies on stage at the end of the Agora, is a great step!

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Working with my working group. We have quite some ambitious plans we want to fulfil, so stay tuned! Also as Academy newbie I hope to provide many events with high quality trainings.

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
Somewhere in Europe with some really nice people.

 

Erwin Groot, former HRC speaker, AEGEE-Siena

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Erwin Groot: The live meeting of the Human Resources Committee in March in Budapest. We are an online team on European level, so it amazes me that 14 awesome people from around Europe put so much effort in meeting each other live.

Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The countless online meetings with inspiring people from around Europe on different projects, and then afterwards to receive a sweet thank you message from people. It still touches my heart how much a little thank you can do.

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
By far: Matthias Felder. Talk with him and become inspired by his big heart. But sure to mention: Krzysztof Gut, that he is picking up the big responsibility of Speaker of the HRC. If you see him, share a beer with him.

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
On a European level view it is hard to say, many antennae are working hard. I think AEGEE-Heidelberg deserves some special credits for bringing out so many enthusiastic and active members in the past years.

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
The Agora Experience: it is a project of the HRC and very energy-cost-efficient with a huge impact. Special thanks to Bartek and Sonia for their efforts in this!

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat of AEGEE in 2020 and all the years of it existence is that people talk more than they do. It is not about words but about deeds. I noticed it in my six years in AEGEE, at countless of Agora and meetings, that people who have the strongest opinions don’t do shit and actually are wasting your time. Some people are afraid to act and then they judge the act of others. Remember: they bark, but they don’t bite. My advice: ignore them. Start doing what you want to do already. Don’t hesitate. Please fail, because then you learn more. And don’t forget that priority one is having fun.

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I promised myself to quit AEGEE when I become 30, but the autumn Agora is in Russia… This is for me the ultimate goal of AEGEE. To show our parents that the next generation is ready to work together for a brighter European future. So I will go to that Agora and to the live meeting of HRC of course!

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
With friends in my hometown. Together with the love of my life. Which I met in AEGEE by the way.

 

Elitsa Hadzhieva, Project Manager of Europe on Track, AEGEE-Sofia

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Elitsa Hadzhieva: If I have to answer this question honestly, I will write a novel with all the amazing moments I had this year. My personal experience as a volunteer in AEGEE has not always been the easiest, but I always implemented the wisdom of Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” So, in that thought, I can say that my highlights are a lot. From being able to see four of the Y Vote conventions happen, witnessing the huge impact of the “How to vote” app, seeing all the people that participated or organised something with Y Vote, thriving after being touched by the project and all of the “thank you” I received from hundreds of people who made me cry from happiness. In addition to all this, showing the voting app to the new Vice-President of the European commission, Margrethe Vestager, was simply awesome. And last but not least, becoming the project manager of the project that motivated me to join AEGEE together with Y Vote. Europe on Track has been a dream of mine and I am incredibly happy I can share that with nine other volunteers and 21 locals.

Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
I definitely remember most vividly the European elections campaign, the implementation of funded projects like “My Europe. My Say”, “S.M.A.S.H.” and “Why European Parliament” – and the kind of capacity building all of those projects created. It is just mesmerising and I am happy that AEGEE is continuing on the same path. I am glad I had the opportunity to help. I apologise to all statutory events in 2019 that happened: EPM Izmir, Agora București, SPM Köln and Agora Salerno, but although the efforts of all organisers are always something I highly appreciate, I don’t think the big statutory events are what makes our organisation outstanding.

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I will start with a very cheesy cliche that is incredibly hard for me to only point out three outstanding members for me in the past one year, especially considering that I have been working with two CDs. It is amazing how they dedicate their whole life for AEGEE for one year and they work even in their sleep for it, but I will still give special attention to three people who made me love every minute while working with them as a volunteer: Matis Joab, Viola Bianchetti and Hanna Alajõe. And one additional person that gave her heart and soul for Europe on Track 6: Evita Ločmele.

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
I would say the three locals with whom Y Vote had conventions in 2019: AEGEE-Düsseldorf, AEGEE-Tartu and AEGEE-Torino. I would never be able to stop appreciating the amazing job of all of them, starting with AEGEE-Düsseldorf and Jonathan Lessing, Victor Moster and Julia Lab that organised an event with panel discussions with two Members of the European Parliament, Sabine Verheyen and Arndt Kohn, and with the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics. And as you can see from my answer to the previous questions, I have a soft spot for AEGEE members from Estonia. Working with AEGEE-Tartu for the Y Vote convention was very rushed as they signed up for it just four months before the event, but they did what nobody else was able to do and they continue to organise high quality events. And, oh, AEGEE-Torino! It was a thought call with having a festival, the final conference of Y Vote and Europe on Track stop but they did it and actually, Y Vote was lucky enough to have the awesome Marco Melatti leading the best one-man show in the history of organising events in AEGEE. A special appreciation to all locals that were brave enough to try and organising events with funding and they did great.

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Quoting myself from last year: Y Vote. We have had a tough year but the project still did an incredible job for the European elections and it won’t be too much to say that we made the third edition of the project great and the best one ever. In my opinion, Europe on Track 6 also executed one of their best editions this year and I am more than happy to follow in their footsteps in 2020.

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
For me, AEGEE always sets up very ambitious goals for the next year to come and that’s always one of the biggest threats and opportunities our organisation faces. The good thing is that even if we manage to implement only one tenth of it, we are still do an amazing job. I think as there is finally a big push for giving importance to the Strategic Plan for the next three years to come. This will reflect positively on creating more opportunities internally and externally for AEGEE. However, in my opinion, two of the biggest threats we face each year are the sustainability and proper knowledge transfer and people not accepting that every big youth organisation is changing constantly and change is not bad as long as things are moving forward.

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I am finally applying for the CD as I think I can still give more and I hate having time for social life. Ha ha. I am joking. I plan to concentrate my energy and voluntary passion only on Europe on Track 7 in 2020.

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
Since I moved to Brussels, I managed to see my family just once around the European elections. I plan to spend Christmas and New Year’s eve with them as I miss them a lot. Being an active AEGEEan is quite destroying my chances of getting an award for best daughter or aunt.

 

Tullio Pacelli, Netcom Subcommissioner, EQAC, AEGEE-Napoli

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Tullio Pacelli: 2019 has been full of AEGEE highlights for me, also because we have had a lot of international events in my local. It is difficult to search one between all of them. Probably the best highlights for me are all that moments when I have seen my AEGEE friends again. People who became more than brothers – and even if a lot of time passed since the last time we met, the feeling between us is the same. It is magic sharing all your news and of course sharing the best past memories. It has happened several times in 2019 and after five years in AEGEE, I think that this is the best and magical thing that this network can pass to all of us: you can find the real persons who stay with you forever in your life. Yet, there was one highlight that really touched me: it was during the third night of Agora Salerno at Dolce Vita. In one part of the club there was a reunion of old and historical member of AEGEE-Salerno and other locals and between them I had the honour to get to know Monica Cirillo, founder of AEGEE-Napoli. It was awesome to hear from her how my local was born, how it worked in its first years and to tell her how is has grown in these last years.

Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
This is really personal, thus I nominate several people whom I know well: Roberto Rossetto: For all the work and passion that he keeps putting in my local and the whole network, despite the fact he is doing different jobs. Lorenzo Ligas: For all the job and passion that he puts into AEGEE-Cagliari. Giorgio Rotoli: The new president of AEGEE-Napoli had an impressive personal grown in this year. He is ready to do great things both on local and European level. And Lorenzo Giuffrida: The participant, the helper that everybody would love to have – but above all a great friend.

Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Salerno, for the amazing Agora they organised despite all the difficulties that they had in the last moment. AEGEE-Torino, for how they work for their local activities. The “aperitivo linguistico” is a shining example, also the organization of the YEAH festival, which was a really ambitious project. Not all have the courage and the strength to organize something similar. AEGEE-Napoli: Of sure I can’t leave out my local – for have organized a lot of events of high quality, which were really different from each other – from the carnival rainbow to the first plastic event “Napulita”, a fantastic Summer University and probably the biggest Agora pre-event ever seen in AEGEE. Their passion and determination must be remembered. AEGEE-Bologna: Also if they don’t have so many active members, they have organized a fantastic regional dinner. They remind us that also if you are a little group with passion and determination you can organize an amazing event which involves more than 100 people!

What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
It was Y Vote: It was an important factor that had a lot of events. The team organised a lot of conferences in all of Europe and they had an important impact not only in the network but to a lot of young people outside AEGEE.

What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
To use the news Focus Areas in the best way. They are all extremely interesting and it is possible to organize really good actions about them. Also to make sure the new generation of young AEGEEans, who are born this year, grow up well. It is time that the old guard takes a step back and gives the drive to new people.

What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I have just finished being a student and already in this period I am starting to work seriously, so I don’t know which are my plans in AEGEE for 2020. For sure I want to share my experience with the new members of my local but also with the whole network. This is why I am still Subcommissioner of my area and I am joining the EQAC group. Of sure I will not disappear completely, so, see you somewhere in Europe!

How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
After five years of AEGEE, I am not able to answer this question because this year I won’t go to any New Year’s event outside and we don’t have a New Year’s event in Napoli as we did last year. Probably I will be able to answer around the 27th of December – maybe and I hope so!

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