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 Matis Joab, Zurita, Natascha Jürgens, Timon Turban, Matthias Felder and Yusuf Tırıçoğlu said.

Matis Joab, former Financial Director of AEGEE-Europe, AEGEE-Tallinn

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Matis Joab: Hard to say, it was a busy year, to say the least. If I had to pick one fleeting moment out of them all then maybe Evrim’s closing speech at the Strategic Planning Meeting Köln. It was our last statutory event as Comité Directeur and even if we were maybe all a bit burnt out and exhausted at that stage it was a nice moment of coming together as a team after a super intense year.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The emotion in the plenary room at Agora Salerno when the statement was read out regarding all the visa problems so many people in AEGEE have been facing this last year. It really is the drum AEGEE should be beating in terms of advocacy.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I would like to name both Project Directors who served during the year: Viola Bianchetti and Hanna Alajõe, who both put in absolutely crazy hours and amounts of work to make both our internal and external projects great. I would also like to give an especially huge thanks to Elitsa Hadzhieva who helped both me personally and the entire organisation tremendously as Assistant Financial Director and later Project Officer. All that aside from her volunteer hobbies of being Financial Manager of Y Vote 2019 and Project Manager of Europe on Track 7 and several smaller roles besides.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Tartu, AEGEE-Utrecht and AEGEE-Alicante stood out for me as being incredibly active and involved in so many different events and projects.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
There were a lot of successful projects this year, with Y Vote and Europe on Track having great third and sixth editions respectively, but I would especially want to highlight the AEGEE Election Observation Project which managed to observe the European Parliament elections for the first time, sending observers simultaneously to the majority of Member States.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
I think both the biggest threat and opportunity is implementing the newly adopted Strategic Plan for the next three years. Starting off a new strategy and a big change is always a somewhat tricky and risky process, but if done properly, I think the new thematic and organisational focusses could have a huge positive impact.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Not much, as I turned 30 in summer. I think it is clearly time to say goodbye to being an active volunteer for a youth/student association. I will, however, stay as an advisory board member for the current CD and in general, will be open to giving advice and feedback or sharing my experience with any AEGEEans that might ask for it.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
No fixed plan at the time of writing, but I will be in Estonia and most probably with friends and my girlfriend.

 

Zurita, Planning Team, LGBT+ IG moderator

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Zurita: The key word of my 2019 is strategy, and it is not surprising that my highlight is related to that. The highest of them all is collective with the outstanding members of AEGEE-Köln. We were founded in the 80s, we never left AEGEE since then, but it was this year when we finally organised our first Statutory Event. Being at that event and seeing the people I once welcomed to AEGEE pulling through such an extraordinary event is a different type of pride that makes my sweetest moment of the year.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Agora Yerevan and Agora Moskva 2020. Every year you have those big improvements, projects or ideas, but the selection of two Agorae outside the European Union for 2020 is for me the biggest statement and bravest move we could do as an association in today’s Europe. While some people are wondering about the stability or future of the European Union, it is extremely important to remember that we are all Europeans and I think these two Agorae will serve us a lot to continue developing our European spirit, solidarity and empathy outside of the EU.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Every member is outstanding. Here you have from my small world who I would choose: Viola Bianchetti from the Comité Directeur. The work of the Projects Director is not always seen, as the amount of bureaucracy with grants management and reporting is incredibly high, and without Viola’s constant invisible work we would not be profiting from as many cool opportunities today. And, if that wasn’t enough, she was a full working member of the Planning Team and supported all the gender and inclusivity actions of 2019. For that we should all be thankful! If I may do a second mention, I would give it to Monika Mojak. When AEGEE was struggling, without someone ready to take a fundamental position like Secretary General, she accepted to stay in the job until someone steps up to take it. In a world with so much egoism, I believe Monika showed generosity and collective thinking when we most needed it.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
AEGEE-Köln! The first statutory event by this antenna ever! And that while remaining a very small antenna with limited resources available. They are the living example that motivation and strong ideals are all you need to make things happen. And special thanks and mention for organising the first 100% vegetarian statutory event in AEGEE’s history. This small inclusive practice is highly appreciated!
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
This year we had several bodies doing an amazing work, but I would give my recognition to the Sustainability and Environment Interest Group, SEIG. With the little support and visibility given to interest groups, SEIG has managed to continue with the peak they had after Europe on Track and EPM Izmir, and absolutely potentiated and enabled a new Focus Area, an Organisational Improvement and the Sustainability Manifesto. The main topic of this century is being sustainability, and with the poor actions taking by governments so far it seems like it will stay. This means we as AEGEE need, louder than ever, to include sustainable practices in our lives, projects and events, and prove the world that sustainability is a must, not a choice.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Opportunity: two Agorae outside of the European Union – because Europe is much more than the European Union. Threat: internal stagnation. We have seen some things failing over and over again, and not many structural changes have been explored to become more effective and impactful, leading slowly to a stagnation in sense of “how much we can cover”. We need to grow as AEGEE-Europe if we want to continue being relevant.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
My personal goals of 2020 are the same as in 2019: a lot of strategy, and in my extra time IT and LGBT+ topics. I will continue co-moderating the LGBT+ Interest Group where we have a few nice projects starting to make AEGEE more inclusive, and hopefully we will start benefiting from the Strategy Committee as early as EPM Barcelona 2020.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
I will go to Ukraine for the first time – excitement level: high – and spend it there with some nice AEGEEans before starting a relaxed trip back to Germany.

 

Natascha Jürgens, Mediation Commissioner, AEGEE-Passau

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Natascha Jürgens: Presenting myself at the Agora and becoming elected as a member of the Mediation Commission – twice – was definitely a big highlight. However, I also need to mention NWM Passau which was a lot of fun to organise!
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
Apart from the brought up highlights, I have especially good memories of EPM Izmir. The event itself was already really wonderful and as a member of the Youth Development Working Group, I took part in coordinating the drafting of the next objectives.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
For me, AEGEE-Moskva is always outstanding and special since I attended so many events of them and saw their high quality of work but especially this year they deserve this title and I wish them all the best luck for the Agora.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
As a former member of the Youth Development Working Group, I of course have a certain sympathy for them. However, also the My Europe My Say project was great for supporting many AEGEEans and I think the SMASH project is incredibly important as well.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
The biggest threat would be the growing mobility barriers between non-EU and EU countries and the difficulty of visa. Most EU citizens have no idea about the difficulty of obtaining a Schengen visa, this is why I think Agora Moskva is a great opportunity to show a real visa process to a huge amount of people and make them more aware of this topic – although it is still easier for a German citizen to get a Russian visa than the other way around.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Organising our NWM in Passau made me so motivated to organise something else, so who knows if I will do that! Apart from that, I would be interested in applying for a TNT but I am not sure yet if I will have the time for it, since I am not entirely sure where I will be in the second half of next year and how much time I will have.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
I will spend New Year’s eve on the Doğu Ekspresi train between western and eastern Turkey on the way to cross and discover more of that beautiful and diverse country.

 

Timon Mario Aydin Turban, AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project, AEGEE-Aachen

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Timon Mario Aydin Turban: Since I didn’t attend many AEGEE events this year I would mention briefly the Strategic Planning Meeting Köln and the Agora in Salerno. Great events with a great impact.
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
A moment when Armenian and Azeri AEGEEans talked with each other to figure out how to overcome the borders we have coming from above.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
Every member is outstanding, but I would name a name which most probably don’t even know: Yigit Aksakoglu. As a former AEGEE-Istanbul member he spent much time this year in prison, just by holding his head up for what we as AEGEE stand for.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
It was impressive to see as an outsider what happened in Moscow with the Agora application. It was an amazing example of transparency to ask so often for feedback, to encourage people to ask their questions, to share their fears and potential issues which might come up. Amazing! And maybe AEGEE-Antalya. Just ask them about the recent member applications and you know what I am talking about…
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
I don’t really have one.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
New topics which come up could be quite interesting and promising for AEGEE. For instance the EU-Arab project. A great opportunity! Visa issues could be a threat. If we don’t really take this seriously it will prevent even more people to contribute to AEGEE. And I still don’t feel anyone is about to start working on it. Already way before we get into different stages of the organization of an Agora there has to be research done to see from which countries people might require a visa and therefore an earlier application process. Embassies should be contacted and contacts established.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Good question. I will continue with the Eastern Partnership project and might then come up with some additional ideas but it depends also on my life situation.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
With my close ones, in my beloved city! Same time, same procedure, same people.

 

Matthias Felder, AEGEE-Academy, AEGEE-Bamberg

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Matthias Felder: That’s a hard choice this year. There were several nice memories that will stay in my memory. But probably the biggest learning experience for me was the TAT in Bamberg. I learned so much about myself, me as a trainer and others which is incredible. And the most fun one was the boatparty of AEGEE-Passau this year. It was already the fourth time I joined it but this year it was just perfect for me.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
These four members did incredible things this year and should be rewarded for that: First, Chris Seuling: his dedication and work as SUCT is just insane. Give him a beer or smoke when you see him next time! Next, Desireé van Langen: working with her is just joy. Everything she is managing and doing for AEGEE is more than worth mentioning. Whenever you meet her, share a bit of vodka with her, if you have some. Third, Oksana Prokopchenko: we all can be so thankful for having such a capable and lovely person working for us full time. Just give her a hug, every time you see her! Last but not least, Erwin Groot: you know why and that’s the only thing that matters. Thanks for everything, man!
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
For me these three locals did gorgeous stuff this year: AEGEE-Tartu – they are doing amazing things every year again and again. You are the best! AEGEE-Bamberg – I know, how can you choose your own local. But I want to stress what an awesome development this antenna is undergoing and the amazing people that are leading that – #scheißaufschickimickirules. And AEGEE-Iasi – they brought up a big number of amazing people that are also active on European level. Keep on rocking! All of them are kind of small locals, so I hope this shows it is not all about quantity but the quality of members.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
That’s definitely SMASH for me. This project is tackling such an important part and challenge for all societies. And also for every AEGEEan it should be the goal that everybody feels safe and comfortable in our association. But there is still a lot of work to be done, that’s why this project is so important and necessary.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Well, I will finish my term in the board of the AEGEE Academy, and then slowly starting to retire from AEGEE. The adult life is waiting for me. But for Agora Moskva I will be back for sure.
How and where will you spend New Year’s eve? 
I will spend it with my friends from childhood at my home place, which means tons of food and a big foodbaby after dinner.

 

Yusuf Tırıçoğlu, Juridical Commission, AEGEE-Istanbul

Golden Times: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2019?
Yusuf Tırıçoğlu (laughing): Figuring out a good phrase on the stage for being a meme!
Which moments of AEGEE-Europe in general in 2019 do you remember most vividly or as outstanding?
The closing plenary of Agora Bucureşti. It was amazing to feel democracy there. Secondly, I would say all the resignations on the European level.
Who was for you the outstanding member in 2019?
I would definitely name Monika Mojak for her endless commitment.
Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2019?
Surely AEGEE-Salerno with their lovely members. Their hospitality was awesome.
What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2019?
As one of my favourites on the agenda, I would like to mention the AEGEE Human Rights Days initiative. As a core team member, I would like to call all locals to take part in the activities. Additionally, I think all the work on sustainability was considerably nice during the year.
What is the biggest threat and biggest opportunity for AEGEE in 2020?
Not sure if it is specifically for 2020, but since it is getting worse in my opinion the biggest threat is the lack of commitment on the European level. The biggest opportunity is having both Agorae in non-EU countries.
What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2020?
Surviving the next Agora!

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