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 Timo Haarman, Sofiia Shmyhel, Fabrizio Bellicano, Charley Sjerps, Yannic Lades and Nevena Mladenović said.

Timo Haarman, former Vice-Chair, AEGEE-Enschede

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Timo Haarman: For me that was being the Vice-Chair of the Agora, in Bucuresti and in Salerno. It was a great experience and I would like to thank my whole team and especially Veva for having a great term together. Besides this, I was also in the team to organize a Summer University for AEGEE-Enschede again in 2019, which had not been done for four years. I think we set up a really successful event together with AEGEE-Amsterdam and it was a great experience.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Of course I remember both Agorae very vividly, as I was very involved with them. They both demonstrated again that even if you encounter seemingly impossible problems to solve, there is always a way out, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, as long as you dare to think out of the box. I also think that AEGEE-Europe is currently on a great track with its projects and grants, to make it a more and more important stakeholder for spreading the voice of the European youth.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
For me this was definitely Veronika Chmelárová. She is a very hard worker and seems to always put AEGEE above everything else. And you can feel that it is not only because she likes to do it, it’s also a pure passion to keep AEGEE on the right track. Many new AEGEE members have been motivated by her to start getting active at the European level.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
The organizing locals of both Agorae this year: AEGEE-Salerno and AEGEE-Bucuresti. Although they both faced their problems in the organizing process of the Agora, they still made the events happen and worked very hard to create two great Agorae. In Bucuresti they managed to organize the Agora with just half the time that’s normally available for organizing it. And in Salerno they had to radically change the plan they worked on for a year in the last days before the event. I have the deepest respect for all Agora organizers and hope that they all realize what great work they have done.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
For me Y Vote was a great example of the things we can do as a network of empowered youth. Also the My Europe My Say – or short MEMS – project meant a lot for AEGEE this year, especially because it supported multiple other projects within AEGEE, of which great examples are Europe on Track and YVote.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
I think the biggest threat for AEGEE is having a conservative mindset. Even while there are great plans, we often see that in a big network real change comes slow. I would say think out of the box, and also continue on the current track. In 2020 we will draft a new Action Agenda about new Focus Areas, let’s use the new topics to also come up with new projects and initiatives. Big funded projects which are recognized externally can put AEGEE more in the picture and improve our reach all around Europe drastically!
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I have been active in AEGEE for almost 5 years now, so I decided to focus a bit more on finishing my Bachelor in Electrical Engineering this year. When that’s done I am thinking about getting more involved with the thematic part of AEGEE, maybe joining some project team. We will see how the upcoming year goes and where I’ll end up!
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I will be in Novi Sad at the New Years event, celebrating the new year with a lot of fellow AEGEEans. I am really looking forward to it and I wish all of you who took the effort to read my contribution a merry Christmas and all the best for 2020!

 

Sofiia Shmyhel, YDWG member, Netcom Subcommissioner, AEGEE-Lviv board member

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Sofiia Shmyhel: There were two of them. First one – becoming the main organizer of the Summer University in Lviv – I still cannot believe I did it! Second one was the experience I got while being a Wild East Area Assistant. To tell the truth, after having taken this position, I fell in love with AEGEE even more.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The Agora in Bucharest and the Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne. These two events considerably extended my knowledge about AEGEE, gave some insights about how the organization works and motivated me to do something big.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Marijana Asprovska is my hero of this year. Her activity inspires me a lot. She tried to be literally everywhere and share information with everyone. Her trainings were so professional and I just like listening to her!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Of course, AGEE-Lviv is on the list, but not only because I am its member but also because of the work we do. Almost every month we organize a European event. It’s just unbelievable. AEGEE-Yerevan is doing a great job while getting ready for the Agora in May. Even though we haven’t seen the final results yet, I just cannot help not mentioning the work they do.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
SMASH has played a very important role in AEGEE this year. Thanks to this project AEGEE raised awareness of its members and helped a lot of them. I think we should be proud of having trained so many people to become safe persons. We need them during the events. I am really grateful for the creation of the project. However, I also believe that we shouldn’t put an end to the project now and I do hope we can carry on its existence. The Youth Development Working Group has also become a highlight of the year for me. It took responsibility to share such an important topic such as mental health with other young people. And now I am proud to be the one working on it now.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
We have just chosen new Focus Areas which should be developed in the right way. I believe it is a threat and opportunity at the same time. During the next year we will face the challenge to choose the right path of how to work on the subjects and good teams are needed.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I want to discover even more countries and cities while traveling to AEGEE events. I would really like to attend more trainings to develop myself. And also I have some ideas of where to apply next, but no spoilers. Let’s see!
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
There is no celebration without AEGEE people since I have become a member. So I will begin the New Year in Lviv together with the participants who will come to our event.

 

Fabrizio Bellicano, Chief of technical operations, President of Data Privacy Commission

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Fabrizio Bellicano: I have two. The first one is when I used the three days of volunteering that my company gave me and spent it for an intensive rush on doing DPC-related stuff; the second one is seeing how all the IT I have been working on is taking place albeit one year and a half after my mandate – it is not only MyAEGEE, but more in general: procedures, other tools such as the helpdesk and easing document finding through templates.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The moment that was inevitable, when the testosterone-driven former president was asked to step down. Big egos are the biggest problem within AEGEE, and we don’t realise it because we mix the personal aspect with the working aspect. I have nothing against him as he is a good person, though I can see that working with him is hard.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I am a lot into Daniel Amesz for how he is leading his team, Veronika Chmelarová for all the continuous efforts since I know her, and Oksana Prokopchenko for her continuing some tasks I have left as HR director – they are quite big and she is doing them alongside network direction!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Moskva for how impressive they are and how well they work: other than knowing them already since Transsib 7, I joined again Transsib 11 and I was astonished on their endeavours.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
How about the project of replacing the Intranet? Me and Sergey are still at it, only us two, despite all the recruitment we have tried, so yeah I am giving us a pat on the back.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat is as usual, the ego: people always know better, so they don’t need any knowledge transfer. Until they realise that knowledge transfer has a specific purpose, it is not propaganda or indoctrination, but it builds on attempts and errors of the past… but by that time it is too late. One opportunity: learning how to read! Many times I have seen requests about things explained via an e-mail – and the e-mail was clear. Surely, in the past we had quite some mess of a knowledge and resources management, however, improvements in our IT happen by the week now, so there is no excuse of “I didn’t receive that e-mail” or “I didn’t know where to look”.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Finish my privacy stuff by Agora Yerevan, and finish the IT parts by Agora Moskva.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I am torn between chilling in bed and a party, both options happen in another country anyway.

 

Yannic Lades, Strategy Committee, AEGEE-Mannheim

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Yannic Lades: I definitely had many highlights: hosting Europe on Track in Mannheim, the European Elections, and countless travels meeting so many great people all over Europe. If I was to name one specifically, it would definitely be the Strategic Planning Meeting in Köln. It was a very stressful time for me as member of the Planning Team, but most importantly an amazing experience to bring about 80 AEGEEans together for the decision about our future path in AEGEE!
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Definitely the moment when we had to postpone the closing plenary of Agora Buçuresti to the morning after the European night because of the intense discussions where the Spring Agora 2020 should take place. The debate was clearly heated, but what I really like is that we didn’t go the easy way, faced this complicated political question and took our time to speak in detail about it all together.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I think for me personally two people were most outstanding ones in AEGEE in 2019. Gregor Pahlitzsch, who was always by my side on our mission to grow AEGEE-Mannheim and make it an internationally more active antenna. And Maria Zurita, a fellow member of the Planning Team, who was tirelessly working on the new Strategic Plan from beginning to the end and now also joined the Strategy Committee to take care of its implementation.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Of course I am biased. Nevertheless, I am really proud of how AEGEE-Mannheim has evolved since the beginning of the year, towards a bigger and more internationally active antenna. Except from that I am especially grateful to AEGEE-Köln because they managed to organise the logistics for the Strategic Planning Meeting perfectly within a really short amount of time. Without them there would most likely not have been a Strategic Planning Meeting this year.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
2019 was, in general, a very important year for many AEGEE projects because of the European Elections. I really liked this year’s edition of Europe on Track with their focus on the directions in which Europe could evolve in the future. And I am really happy that I have met the amazing ambassadors of Team Blue!
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
I think the biggest threat for AEGEE comes from within: we are really focused on ourselves and often struggle to create a meaningful impact with our projects outside of the AEGEE bubble. This also leads to a continued stagnation or even decrease in our size – among other reasons of course. Which is a shame as I am convinced that AEGEE could be a role-model for cross-cultural understanding and interaction. I think we would benefit greatly from overcoming this situation and being able to communicate more effectively to the outside. The AEGEE spirit really is something absolutely unique in this world. And I believe that one step towards achieving this is creating a better common identity and understanding of ourselves with the help of a well-accepted identity and strategy in AEGEE!
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I will continue to support AEGEE-Mannheim as an advisor. And, after we now finally have a new strategy, I plan to work on really involving the whole network in it and assuring its success as a member of the Strategy Committee.

 

Charley Sjerps, NetCom Subcommissioner, former board member of AEGEE-Groningen

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Charley Sjerps: I think the best feel-good moment I experienced with AEGEE this year was during the hitchhiking competition to Zagreb with AEGEE-Groningen. I had lots of fun with my hitchhiking partner on the way, the weekend in Zagreb was really nice, but what especially stood out during the trip was the last night in Zadar. We arrived there in the evening because our flight home would be leaving the next morning. We decided to get some take away pizza and walk towards the beach. Once there we sat on the beach eating pizza and watched the sunset. And when the pizza was finished we dove into the sea. And we swam till it was dark. It might be a simple highlight, but life felt real good right then.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The Strategic Planning Meeting Köln. It was great to attend an event that had such a focus on thematics. It is very interesting to talk to people about what AEGEE means to them and what AEGEE should focus on for the next few years. It was an amazing group of people, the content was great and the social programme was really nice. Shout-out to the organisers!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
I would have to say AEGEE-Bucuresti. Organising an Agora is always a huge task. And I have so much respect for the organisers for what they managed to put together in such a short amount of time and with all the problems they faced.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
This is so hard to choose. My Europe My Say is doing such a great job right now. SMASH is a fantastic initiative that tackles some really hard problems that today’s society needs to face. I also have a love for Europe on Track and I am really glad they will be coming to Groningen in 2020.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The lack of participation. AEGEE currently struggles a lot with finding enough people to work on our projects and Focus Areas. Which is very sad to see and I am afraid that this will not change much in 2020. However, I do think that the new Focus Areas will create great new opportunities for AEGEE. I am personally really happy that Mental Health made it into the Strategic Plan and I will definitely be there at EPM Barcelona to work on the Action Agenda.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
I will remain active within my local and as a Subcommissioner of the NetCom. I am also looking into more opportunities and ways to be more active within AEGEE-Europe but unfortunately it is hard to combine with my studies and work. But of course I will continue attending lots of AEGEE events because I love them way too much.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve?
I haven’t got any concrete plans yet. But knowing me I will probably find some amazing random party somewhere in Europe.

 

Nevena Mladenović, President of AEGEE-Niš

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Nevena Mladenović: Attending a few events, meeting lot of new people and amazing memories led to finding out what real AEGEE spirit is. If I have to pick one highlight, it would be becoming the president of our local. It is a pleasure to represent this lovely team.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
My first big event and first Agora was the one in Salerno. Lots of work, learning, but also fun all the time made this event unique and that is why I am excited for the upcoming Agoras and other events.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Although I want to sound cliché and say everyone is outstanding, the one whose effort is visible is our Netcommie Valentina Žuvić. She helped us with her experience, knowledge and advice, but also contributing not only to this area but Europe in general. Also, this is a chance to praise my dear board members of AEGEE-Niš and all their work until now.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Antalya. I am not subjective because of our Twin Antenna agreement, but they are a successful local with motivated members. Also, AEGEE-Salerno did a great job organising their Agora and for showing how problems can being solved.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
The idea and realization of the SMASH project was a great way to raise awareness of big problems in the society like sexual harassment.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat for AEGEE can only be the lack of members. On the other hand putting effort into it, creating new ideas and sharing motivation at every event or meeting with AEGEEans can create a big opportunity.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Being surrounded by motivated and positive people is something we all have on the local level, so personally I will make an effort to continue this with a positive mood. Besides that, the next year is full of opportunities to be part of great events all around Europe!

 

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