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. In this first edition: read what Carolina Alfano, Calvin Breakwell, Sonia Della Sala, Diederik de Wit, Shakira Rompf and Eren Bozkurt said.

Carolina Alfano, Main Coordinator of Autumn Agora Salerno, AEGEE-Salerno

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Carolina Alfano: My hardest AEGEE goal to realize: the Autumn Agora Salerno. I dreamt for years of that moment, and I am so proud of my perseverance and my teammates for making a dream come true. In particular, for me, the Opening Ceremony was a magic moment: great music, touching speeches, positive vibes from participants, and a lot of adrenalin in the air. The first day was a very hard day to manage and the Opening Ceremony was a happy island for me where I stopped to be worried for some hours. Thanks to Bianca Savo and Mirko Rauso for the amazing production of my happy island.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Bucuresti. I admired their commitment during the Agora despite the problems they had. I really understood their feelings when the crisis time started for us in Salerno. Agora management is not easy, and with a good mix of problems becomes something impossible to control: all Agora Bucuresti organisers have to be proud of what they did in the end. Virtual hug for them!
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
The Youth Development WG. I have seen them work from afar, following their initiatives, Facebook posts and events. They did a very great job: in particular I appreciate that they focused the attention on mental health. Young people need to know about the importance to take care of it. Well done!
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Threat: today AEGEE has not the same number of members as in the past. In my opinion, AEGEE is losing its charm year by year. It is time to face this huge problem with a very good strategy, considering characteristics and needs of the new generation. Opportunity: AEGEE is a multidisciplinary association. We can develop infinite projects and initiatives. And what does Europe need in this moment? An association like ours: able to create a space for discussions, a multicultural place where to grow up, the European citizens of tomorrow.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
This time I am serious. It is time to quit and leave AEGEE, after nine years, after a lot of achievements, it is time to focus my attention on my professional life. I am thankful to AEGEE for all the opportunities it gave to me, the people I have met during these nine years and the amazing adventures. AEGEE will be forever my second family and home.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
With my family at home. And maybe some drinks at the New Year’s event in Salerno!

 

Calvin Breakwell, ECWG Member, Boomerang SubCommie, AEGEE-Sheffield, AEGEE-Aachen

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Calvin Breakwell: My personal highlight was Agora Salerno, because I managed to do something that I thought I would never be able to do: go to the beach in October! I am joking, I am talking of course about my candidature and how much it opened my eyes to the realm on the other side of the stage. Also meeting so many new people was really amazing and making new friends that hopefully I will see again soon!
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
I thought the Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne was particularly outstanding because of how well planned it was and how productive we were in planning the new Focus Areas. Other than this my most vivid memory was the toilets at the Moldovan-Romanian border, if you were there you would know!
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I was going to go with someone who seems to be an uncreative suggestion and say Oksana Prokopchenko from the best antenna AEGEE-Sheffield for all the work she has done so far on CD and for helping me a lot with my candidature. But I am going to go for Maya Tielemann and Paulina Böhm who organised one of the best events I have ever seen! And for being amazing members of AEGEE-Aachen!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Obviously AEGEE-Aachen is a must for me because it’s where I discovered AEGEE in 2019, because they organised two excellent SUs and a Network Meeting whilst also being fantastic on a local level with Erasmus students and with “home” students.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
I think the SU project was a great thing and will be for every year that it is getting participants. Also a shout out to projects like Y Vote for their help and encouragement during the EU elections this year.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Biggest opportunity is definitely the new Focus Areas because it will develop AEGEE in ways yet to be seen, furthermore I think they will shift the focus of many projects and other bodies and maybe increase recruitment – for example using the climate emergency Focus Area as a valuable recruitment tool but also being more focussed on sustainable events.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Let’s see what happens… I have already started work with a team from AEGEE-London, AEGEE-Leiden, AEGEE-Manchester and AEGEE-Sheffield for a TSU as their main coordinator, let’s see what else is on the cards. Maybe you will see me on the stage again in Yerevan.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
At home with a bottle of whiskey and my friends… maybe vodka.

 

Sonia Della Sala, fondly addicted AEGEEan, AEGEE-Salerno

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Sonia Della Sala: 2019 has been quite of a year for me. Realizing during the opening plenary of Spring Agora București 2019 what sitting on the other side of the Agora meant and felt like has been definitely one of the most important moments in AEGEE so far. Yes, Autumn Agora Salerno 2019 was also important, but can’t compare with being part of the Chair Team.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Dear God, I still have nightmares on the discussion that arose during Spring Agora București 2019. I remember that not as outstanding, but definitely quite vividly!
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I have women in my mind: Veronika Chmelárová from AEGEE-London, Carolina Alfano from AEGEE-Salerno and Ștefania Ciuraru from AEGEE-București. I am fascinated by the strength I have seen firing in their eyes. It is not easy to manage the amount of stress that comes in organising and coordinating statutory events. It is easy to be praised for managing projects or committees and coordinating working groups, but the core of AEGEE still lingers in statutory events. Without those women willing to take such huge tasks, very little could have been achieved – generally speaking. I have seen them at work and they all deserve a round of applause for the effort they have put in this year.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Would I sound too mawkish if I said AEGEE-Salerno? I hope not! The endless problems we had to deal with on a daily basis, from early morning to late at night; the complaints and problems we have been submerged by have, definitely, awarded AEGEE-Salerno a spot in the hall of fame.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Too many to mention them all, but I would say Eastern Partnership Project +. Even though I haven’t participated much to it due to bigger calls I think these guys are noble knights of inclusiveness in AEGEE.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
In my opinion, what could be the biggest threat to AEGEE is the deep and diverse political instability our continent is facing. It is a threat that will hit us from the inside, eventually, making us choose between our beliefs and the power nation-states have over us. I have sensed that since Spring Agora Bucureşti 2019. The discussion that started right after the proclamation of Spring Agora Yerevan 2020 sent shivers down my spine. In addition, look at what happened during Autumn Agora Salerno 2019: Turkish speaking members had not been given the possibility to attend a statutory event, left out of any discussions and decisions. Furthermore, what will happen after Brexit? We struggle to motivate members, to recruit them and keep locals from dying out slowly and all the above mentioned are not doing any better. On the other hand, the biggest opportunity for AEGEE will be reinforcing its projects, standing out for basic human rights and show the continent our true colours and spirit!
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Some people say that, after all these years and with the experience gained, I should either run for CD or get elected as president of my local. I have decided to start from the local level.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
My kind of New Year’s eve is quite unusual for common Italian standards. I like to light up the fireplace, listen to music or watch a good movie while I enjoy my vegan home-made food and home-brewed beer with my beloved. After midnight, usually, friends start to show up with boozers and board games!

 

Diederik de Wit, Sustainability Committee, AEGEE-Eindhoven

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Diederik de Wit: My personal highlight is a toss-up between the ratification of the Sustainability Committee or my first experience as a trainer at a Summer University. There was a lot of work and thought put into the creation of the Sustainability Committee and the people behind it are eager to affect more change within AEGEE. When I heard that it was ratified, very quickly thanks to the delegates of AEGEE-Eindhoven, I almost did a little celebration dance. A more personal highlight was my first experience as a trainer at a Summer University. Travelling to another local’s SU as a trainer is a whole other experience! Seeing the people enjoy and learn from the materials you and the rest of the Society & Environment Interest Group have worked on for over half a year is very rewarding.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
I cannot think of a better moment than when the entire network got together to help AEGEE-Bucureşti after the spring Agora. Even though we sometimes disagree with each other or are annoyed by the circumstances, in the end we still came together because we know some things are more important. There are a lot of projects, people and locals who deserve being mentioned probably, but this moment to me shows the kindness, care, and AEGEE spirit we all share.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
The MyAEGEE development team deserves some praise, I believe. I had a chance to peek behind the curtain a little bit, and I have seen them progress and discuss. They are developing an essential service which AEGEE desperately needs, as the old systems were spread out and confusing to new members. Meanwhile, they seem to maintain a joyful attitude and motivation, because they just want the best for AEGEE.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
A difficult question for sure. I think the biggest threat to AEGEE hasn’t really changed over the last years. I see many articles on the GT on the topic; the decline in members, locals, participants, and events. I wish I could give you an answer to this, but I have heard as many ideas as I did answers to this question. I believe that in at least one way we are moving in the right direction though. Taking on new projects and topics which affect the youth of Europe and attempting to have an actual impact with those projects. A good example of this is the SMASH project, in cooperation with a few other significant parties, and meant to reach people outside of AEGEE as well.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I will continue with the work on sustainability within AEGEE. Looking forward to see what we can accomplish with the Sustainability Committee! I am planning on applying for the Speaker Team as well, once the election process starts. I have also got my application for the AEGEE-Academy ready, so fingers crossed. There are many other roles and projects I wish I could do within AEGEE, but I am nearing the end of my master and will have to focus on that.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
No New Year’s event for me this year unfortunately! I have got too much work and study-related obligations. So, I will spend my New Year’s eve in my home country of the lowlands in Utrecht, we might join the party of AEGEE-Utrecht if that’s possible.

 

Shakira Rompf, Eastern Partnership Project+, Human Resources Committee,  AEGEE-Heidelberg, AEGEE-Bamberg

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Shakira Rompf: My personal AEGEE highlights in 2019 were definitely both Agorae. I really appreciate the effort and all the work that the local organizers put in the realization of our general assembly. Agora Bucuresti was amazing, as we all feared that Spring Agora 2019 will not take place or maybe happen in Brussels. It is very remarkable what the local organizers made possible in the short time they had! Also autumn Agora Salerno was amazing, even it was different from what we expected! The weather was perfect and the food super delicious! The accommodation was pure luxury for an Agora accommodation. I am really thankful for all the work and my deepest respect goes to the local organizers that never gave up – no matter what obstacles they had to face!
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
AEGEE gave me a lot of precious, funny, unforeseen and surreal memories throughout the year. Beside all the great moments we shared all together as AEGEEans that are very important to me, the year in general was not 100% shiny and always bright. The EaP+ struggled a lot during the summer months. That was challenging, especially for Timon and me, as we tried to keep the project running. In this occasion the very best moment for me was during Agora Salerno, when we finally signed the contract and realized that all our efforts were worth it! Here is a big thank you to my colleague, friend and personal valerian-pill Timon! He always knows how to calm me down when I go crazy! Again, a very personal memory is the group spirit and the togetherness I felt during Agora Salerno with my now officially third family: AEGEE-Bamberg. Being surrounded by the Bambis brought back a feeling I really feared I had lost… And that meant so much to me that I couldn’t help myself but signing the membership agreement of AEGEE-Bambi!
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Definitely one of the most inspiring people – since 2018 when we first met – is my beautiful colleague Kalipso Bznuni. I couldn’t be more happy, calling her my friend! She is such a remarkable young lady who will have a super bright and shining future. Both in and outside of AEGEE. Another amazing woman I would like to nominate here is Sonia Della Sala. First she was secretary of the Agora and afterwards she was content manager of Agora Salerno. Both tasks she did great and I was really happy working with her together on some Agora issues. Last but not least, our beautiful former president and former CD-appointed member of EaP+, Evrim Emiroglu. What she achieved for our project and all her dedication was one of the reasons why EaP+ is still alive and I can’t express how thankful I am for all she did for us. Even in her well-deserved holidays she joined our weekly calls and was always there for us when we needed advise. Again: we wouldn’t be at the same point where we are right now without her! She is such a warm and admirable person!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Because I know that most of the people nominate AEGEE-Salerno and AEGEE-Bucuresti, I will go for AEGEE-Köln. They are not the strongest or biggest local in our network but managed to host the Strategic Planning Meeting this year! The event was amazing and I am really glad that I had the chance to attend it! Also AEGEE-Passau did a super amazing job with the Network Meeting and – as far as I heard – the boat Party was also outstanding, as usual! AEGEE-Passau is a very strong local, always present on European level and with great and dedicated people!
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Maybe it’s a bit cocky but I have to nominate the Eastern Partnership Project+! The last years were not that easy for the project but we revived and tried our best to find our strength again! We all know that EaP+ is not very well known across the network and we are somehow a bit the unloved stepchild of AEGEE-Europe but we will not giving up or let someone tell us, we will fail! I am so thankful for being part of this amazing team and to see it grow. We set our plans for the next year and work really hard to achieve our goals. Right now, we started with the preparations for Agora Yerevan and can’t wait to contribute to the success of this event! Also remarkable is that one of our members is content manager of the upcoming EPM that makes us really really proud! #GoVicky!
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Starting with the positive one: The biggest opportunity definitely are both Agorae! Seeing statutory events happening in Armenia again and also for the first time in Russia is amazing and a very big and important step in the right direction! We open up our organization towards those countries that were avoided as a host for statutory events in the past. That offers new opportunities, not only for the organization itself but also for all AEGEEans. Who could have imagined before joining AEGEE to ever travel to Armenia or even to Russia. If someone had told me so, I would have died laughing and not believing one single word! The biggest threat is probably the upcoming changing of the Strategic Plan and the implementation of the new Focus Areas. AEGEE needs to handle the balancing act of being attractive for all members and not losing itself in the very broadly formulated Focus Areas! What I also expect to become a problem are the visa issues for CD members. That definitely needs to be clarified and settled until the next CD elections taking place in Yerevan!
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
My AEGEE plans are of course making Agora Yerevan the best memory for all AEGEEans who will attend it!! As I am part of the International Core Team – Kalipso lovely calls us Suicide Squad – it is my honour and my obligation to work on this amazing event! Working together with local organizer and the lovely international team makes me really happy and proud. I can’t wait for Agora Yerevan to happen! Also I am super happy that I can cross the next city off my bucket list: Moskva! Since I joined AEGEE in 2017 it was always my deepest wish to visit Moskva! Seeing my favourite AEGEE event happening in the city I would like to visit most is amazing and I already start counting the days until then!
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
My New Year’s eve will be super chilled – and maybe a bit boring for a person in the mid of the 20s! I will spend the evening together with my mum and my little dog who is scared a lot on this day… As a loving dog-mummy I have to take care of him and to calm him down the best way possible… Beside that, I have a lot of work to do due to my final exams waiting for me in the next year. So Christmas and also New Year’s eve will apparently not exist for me this year! Ask me this question next year again and I will tell you something more interesting!

 

Eren Bozkurt, Former Audit Commission Member, Supervisory board member of AEGEE-Antalya

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Eren Bozkurt: Getting elected as Audit Commissioner by Agora Bucureşti.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The sustainability content of EPM Izmir 2019 was significant.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Yerevan. They promoted their Agora well and raised expectations!
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
SMASH!
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat are the political visa issues and the biggest opportunity is the European Union’s various support to young people.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
My AEGEE plans are about my local. I am going to contribute to a corporate layout of AEGEE-Antalya further.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
This time I will be at home while drinking “New Year Coffee”!

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