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 edition: read what Luca Bisighini, Maria Smirnova, Novak Simin, Maya Tielemann, Heper Sayar and Agata Sambor said.

Luca Bisighini, AEGEE Human Rights Days Coordinator 2019, AEGEE Day Coordinator 2020, AEGEE-Brescia

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Luca Bisighini: My highlight was to coordinate my own little child called “AEGEE Human Rights Days”. We were able to raise the initiative, which needs to become a project of AEGEE-Europe, to another level, to get all-time best results and finally even getting some applause without even showing up during the Spring Agora. That was a very unexpected turn of events but well, a nice episode after all of the years I have been around AEGEE.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Well, despite I wasn’t there, I think everyone will remember for 2019 the useless mess, chaos and tension caused by the Spring Agora 2020 assignment during Spring Agora 2019. It was another popcorn moment we could all have avoided and where we all witnessed another sad page of AEGEE’s history, where again AEGEEans preferred to disrupt rather than build: in one word, sad.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I wasn’t that active, but I can still point out three people who demonstrate to be from another level. First, Lucia Gavulova – thanks to her time as Speaker of Academy. Possibly the most effective Speaker in the past five years and luckily for the Academy also the first speaker in years with some grants, giving the so needed financial help which raised trainings quality by a lot. Also, Ettore Gorni and Giampietro Busi from my local, AEGEE-Brescia – because they are the visionary people AEGEE-Brescia should have had years ago to become even bigger than what it is today.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Angers and AEGEE-Isparta, because they have been the only two locals since the refounded AEGEE-Dresden, which achieved the highest quality job in the last five years, evolving fastly from “a new point on the map” to “established, working, giving quality events antenna”. Kudos guys, you are really in a very elite club of locals and you have the utter most of my respect. Also, AEGEE-Tartu, AEGEE-Grodno and AEGEE-Iasi for being locals who do believe a lot in quality projects focused on Human Rights.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
There haven’t been many projects who showed something new instead of keeping reinventing the wheel. I will still give credit to the AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project, for being possibly one of the few European bodies, which do raise awareness constantly, inform you and use some unconventional PR methods.
Besides that, not so many things actually impressed me. I am still waiting for many historic and dialogue projects to happen:

  • A Balkan project to start to celebrate the heritage of Yugoslavia and face the heritage of its dissolution, current reality and future challenges;
  • A Caucasus-based project to overcome the barriers and create actual dialogue overcoming the almost nothing happening between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey due to their troubled history;
  • A project in Cyprus uniting Levkosia and Magusa rather than having two separate entities in one island.

Even if it would be just an event or an SU, it is time to do something about it, people – rather than keep doing the very same things all of the times. Leave out the differences, be examples for yourselves and your own societies and demonstrate you are different, one of a kind alike people who can move on. If you can’t do this in AEGEE, which offers some safe space, how can you pretend your societies will evolve for the better?
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
AEGEE currently has indeed a wide series of pros, but many cons are needed to be addressed and get a discussion.

  • I have never seen so many elected people quit like this year after being elected like in 2019;
  • Lots of locals are disappearing regardless of whatever bureaucracy-reduction reform was implemented;
  • Many projects being reproposed for the millionth of time and sadly slowly losing appeal;
  • I am tired to witness comments like “Less = More Quality” – when you start forgetting about quantity thinking just about quality, in my humble opinion you are silently killing the network;
  • I don’t see many multi-local events between tiny locals, coordinated by some thematic body or Netcom, helping each other and allowing anyone to exist and resist and attract people. This is really sad and would actually go help a lot of locals to survive;
  • We need a team focusing on the network expansion, with a budget and lots of work of scouting:
  • Many projects having financial and fundraising problems, with a worrying lack of transparency.

In general: I see too many conservative ideas while we need disruptive, creative people. We need funneled, S.M.A.R.T. creativity, not talking always about the same things. The Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne in 2019 helped and maybe events like that are really more needed than actual NWMs or RTCs. That’s a little bit sad but well, I am always optimistic and I do think all of these points can be solved.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I am going to be AEGEE Day’s 2020 Project Manager and well, approaching the 35th anniversary of this association got me a little bit more active again. I am still coordinating the 2019 Human Rights Days’ initiative, which I do hope is going to have again nice results. Then, well, the rest will depend on the opportunities: when you are 30 years old, even activism and project management of AEGEE can be still a valid hobby not taking so much of your time.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
With friends and a very special person in Krakow, Poland.

 

Maria Smirnova, Information Technology Committee, Helpdesk agent, AEGEE-Moskva

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Maria Smirnova: Joining the ITC, where we do really useful and concrete stuff. Cool logic, an opportunity to gain hard skills for free and crazy IT atmosphere, if you know what I mean. And no, I don’t have an IT education, so everyone interested can join us! Also attending the Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne and drafting thematic and organisational Focus Areas together with people who are interesting, smart, thinking and helpful.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Agora Bucuresti – the closing plenary and the upcoming extra morning plenary. A perfect example of how one question can literally change everything and provoke a huge discussion and bazillion questions. Plus, the statement of the antennae from visa countries and the reaction of AEGEEans on it.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Sergey Peshkov, ITC speaker, who is constantly developing MyAEGEE, fixing bugs and showing me how it all works in the puffs of shisha smoke. And Oksana Prokopchenko – our oxygen aka CD responsible of the ITC – not only formally, she is really involved. Be like Oksi, kids.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Köln – for the amazingly organised Strategic Planning Meeting, the warm atmosphere and the best visa-related support from their incoming Heiko Kirchner I have ever seen – and I’ve seen enough.
Also, AEGEE-Salerno – for the ability to find accommodation – and a normal one – for more than 700 people within 48 hours. Bravo!
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
EaP+, as they highlight a big variety of important topics, at the same time aren’t getting lost in the content and act professionally.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Among all these topics which are popular nowadays, not to lose its own identity and not to forget how the history of AEGEE began: with the students march in 1950 via the Franco-German border to Strasbourg without any visa, calling for a united Europe for the future, which 35 years later inspired Franck Biancheri to create AEGEE. Our needs are our opportunities – if we recognise them as the real needs and act at full power to achieve them.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I will continue working in the ITC, because it is cool and there is always something interesting and useful to learn. Additionally, I will search for ways of the implementation of actions, which AEGEE can undertake concerning visa conditions.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
In Utrecht. I will go to their New Year’s event. What happens in Utrecht, hmm?

 

Novak Simin, former Network Commissioner, AEGEE-Novi Sad and AEGEE-Beograd

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Novak Simin: There were many great things that happened to me in AEGEE in 2019, but if I had to highlight one of them, it would be the NetCom trip I did in February and March this year. It is not always easy working with people online and it is really nice to go and see what the locals are doing in person, and finally meeting all of the people. What made the trip really great for me is how welcomed I felt in each of the antennae, especially when I visited AEGEE-Udine, who blew my mind away with their hospitality.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Even though we had many great projects and events, the thing I will remember the most out of everything is the act of appreciation for people working in European bodies at Agora Salerno. Too often we take the work they are doing for granted and we forget to thank them. Seeing that huge thank you being said in such a way will stay as one of the most memorable moments in AEGEE for me.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
We really have a lot of outstanding members. However, for me, there was one person that stood out the most and that’s Oksana Prokopchenko, the current Network Director. I had the pleasure of working with her during my NetCom term and I could see how devoted and passionate she was about AEGEE. Now as a member of the CD I see her almost everywhere and I really don’t know how she handles it all, I really admire that. But what left the biggest impression on me is how caring she is for AEGEEans, for the people, and after experiencing that from first hand, I got an even greater confirmation in Agora Salerno when she called up all the members of European bodies to the stage to thank them for their work.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Isparta for sure. We are continuously facing the problem of a shrinking network or of losing members. But AEGEE-Isparta proved the trend wrong and really gave us hope. I still remember my shock, a positive one, when during the network status update at Agora Bucuresti, they were presenting themselves and said that by that time when they would sign the Convention d’Adhesion they already had 50 members. I still feel the goosebumps from that moment. And now they even organized an NWM. I wish them all the luck in their future work.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Y Vote and SMASH would be the two that marked the year for me the most. Y Vote, because I could see how much effort was put into the project and how much the project accomplished and what it had to offer. Even for someone coming from outside of EU, the project captivated me and made me want to join the voting. As for SMASH, I attended both the training for the Safe Person and T4T in Alicante and I could really feel the passion and devotion that was put into the project. I am really interested in the topic of sexual harassment. I believe we needed a structural approach to deal with it within AEGEE, which we finally got through SMASH, and I really hope we will work even more on it in the future.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest opportunity for me would be the implementation of new antenna criteria with the health indicators and development plans for the locals. With the development plans I really see a huge potential for struggling locals to get help and guidance that will put them on the right track towards getting strong again. For the threats, one stays from before, and that’s the shrinking of the network, which I hope would reverse itself. Another threat, or let us rather say a worry of mine, is for the SU project, lately we have seen less and less Summer Universities being organized and less and less people applying. I am afraid that if we don’t tackle this very soon, hopefully this year, that we are in danger of losing our oldest and most recognisable project.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I am not really sure. I am finishing my masters and there is a possibility that I am going to leave Europe for a year, so in that case probably I won’t have AEGEE plans. If I do stay in Europe, I would like to focus on delivering trainings and passing on the knowledge I gained. I am also always up for new things so I might join some European body again.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I will spend the New Year’s eve with my lovely AEGEE-Novi Sad at our New Year’s event Winter Madness, with more than 70 AEGEEans. I can’t wait for it!

 

Maya Tielemann, Main Organizer of SPM Köln, former Network Commissioner, Strategy Committee, AEGEE-Academy, AEGEE-Aachen, AEGEE-Köln

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
For sure the Strategic Planning Meeting Köln! It was the most intense experience I ever had in AEGEE and it was definitely worth the effort.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
The most outstanding person for me was Paulina Böhm, my partner in crime for Mission Impossible: organizing SPM Köln in two months and three weeks! Without her, it wouldn’t be half as good. The thing I appreciated most in her was our common vision as well as the trust we had in each other. Also, when mentioning the SPM I cannot do it without appreciating Heiko Kirchner, the guy who said Yes to a crazy idea, as well as David Gussen, who saved the day with his network in Köln.
Also, I have to give a big shout out to Oksana for her courage and not sticking with the status quo but challenging it and improving the facilitation of the overall quality of the network. You are doing the thing I would wish everyone would be doing: using your strengths to your advantages, in this case, your insane structure and research capabilities, which are a valuable contribution to any Netcom Team.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Köln, no doubt. Also, all my hosting locals from my Netcom term: AEGEE-Heidelberg, AEGEE-Budapest and AEGEE-Passau.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
SMASH, I have been participating in the Training for Trainers in Alicante which was organized by Alicia Espigares, who put together an incredible event. I think this is one of the most impactful projects, and I am convinced that the work of the project team should be carried on. This is one of the projects I am most proud of.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat of AEGEE is the shrinking of the network. Its root causes lie in the lack of knowledge in recruiting and HR as well as the lack of appreciation we give for our volunteers who actually to really great projects, events and work on European Level: hereby I send a lot of hugs to all of you, working hard to improve AEGEE for the better. The biggest opportunity for AEGEE is the new Strategic Plan, an improved way of achieving goals together as a network and not putting the fulfilment only in the hands of already busy people – without breaking big goals down in order to facilitate the process.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I will stop organizing events for good. I am now in the Strategy Committee and will be active there, as well as still be active as a trainer. But since I have to care more about my studies I have to force myself to lay a bit lower.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I will spend New Year’s probably in Tallinn or somewhere else in Estonia. The plans are not fixed yet.

 

Heper Sayar, Equal Rights Working Group of AEGEE-Europe, AEGEE-Istanbul

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Heper Sayar: Probably my candidature and the results plenary in Agora Bucureşti. I was really nervous and happy at the same time. Talking to a huge crowd is a frightening but exciting experience.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I would like to say Viola Bianchetti, former Projects Director. She is and has been an enormous source of support, guidance and knowledge to me. She is one of the people in this organization that I look up to and try to follow the footsteps of. She’s done and is still doing a lot and for this organization and I am really happy that I got to work with her.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Well, of course, I would like to say my former team, the Equal Rights Working Group 2018-19. Apart from the work we accomplished, it was a really fruitful experience for me. I am also a huge fan of Europe on Track. There’s something about Europe on Track that excites me.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
We are going to have two Agorae outside of Western Europe. I think we should take this opportunity to reevaluate the situations that we think we know but actually have no experience with. I believe we can really benefit from this.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
You’ll just have to wait and see…
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I actually don’t know yet. I was so busy and I have my finals just after so I haven’t decided yet – but probably I will be with my friends.

 

Agata Sambor, Youth Development Working Group, AEGEE-Kraków

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Agata Sambor: This year I decided to get active on the European level and joined the Youth Development Working Group. So I would say that my personal highlight is mostly my involvement in the working group. I am very happy to be part of it and I do what I love – I take care of social media and encourage people to become better versions of themselves while showing them the easy ways how to relax, sharing some articles they might find interesting and motivating them every Monday with a nice quote. It is nice to know that I can help members to feel better. If you still don’t it, follow us on Instagram. I strongly encourage you to do it as I put my heart into it! Our new account is ydwg.aegee.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The outstanding event was a Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne because of the great atmosphere as well as the unity of participants and organisers who worked together to shape the future of AEGEE. Also Agora Bucuresti, especially the last day and extraordinary plenary. I never saw something like this before! I was very shocked with all what was happening and it is definitely very vivid in my memory.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
The organizers of this year Agorae – Stefi and Carolina and their teams. I always admire people taking such a huge responsibility as organizing an Agora! They did a great job despite the difficulties they had to face and I just want to say Thank You! I also absolutely love the commitment of the Strategic Planning Meeting organizers – it is difficult to mention one person here as they worked so closely together as a team and the SPM was the best organised and most sustainable event I have ever attended in AEGEE. An extra plus for cooking tasty food for us every day!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Bucuresti, AEGEE-Salerno, AEGEE-Köln.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
Europe on Track! I love the whole idea of going to different locals and sharing the knowledge, opening discussions and just sharing opinions. In fact, the 2018 edition of Europe on Track and the clean-up of the forest in Tilburg, which I took part in, inspired me to think about the project which I intended to start this year – the AEGEE TrashTag challenge. The idea is not new and we all know what the principle is, but my idea was to unite the locals and just do some clean-ups, every help to the planet counts! Big thanks to AEGEE-Aachen helping me organising it and to AEGEE-Kraków, who did the clean-up with more than a thousand people interested in! In the end there were not enough people involved, but I hope that maybe next year with the Climate Emergency as a Focus Area this project will maybe have more locals interested in! I would be happy to help!
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
I guess the threat for a long time already is communication – we really need to figure out how to communicate better because there are plenty of misunderstandings. Apart from that it is the mental health of the members. I am really concerned, looking at the number of people quitting the positions so taking care of the members is crucial here. The biggest opportunities are the new thematic Focus Areas and the possibilities they will lead to – the new flow of knowledge about the topics which we mentioned before but did not really fully concentrate on.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Here comes a sad part – after my term in the Youth Development Working Group ends I will no longer be active in the association. I still want to go to the Transsib TSU as it sounds fantastic and I promised it to my friends! Then, it is time to give the floor to others. I am happy to still support the activities and help people who might need it.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I don’t know yet – this year my boyfriend organizes everything and I will know it the moment we will board the plane. I did the same to him last year! He only said that it is a place I will love for sure because it is very cultural.

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