It happen often that an Agora host becomes AEGEE Antenna of the Year – simply because the general assemblies are enormous logistical enterprises. Yet, AEGEE-Salerno got this title in 2019 because they showed great crisis management skills and amazing hospitality while their Agora was in jeopardy. Also AEGEE-Bucureşti, AEGEE-Köln, AEGEE-Moskva and AEGEE-Isparta got a lot of praise.

Agora Salerno: this is a name in the history books. In 1989 a very young AEGEE-Salerno, which had been founded in the very same year, hosted a legendary autumn Agora. Just a couple of days after the Berlin Wall fell, 100 AEGEE members gathered and decided to open up their association beyond the 12 member states, which the European Union had at that time. 30 years later, AEGEE-Salerno wanted to host another Agora, with the title “Another Brick Off the Wall”.

Well, when the antenna chose that name, it did not know that their event would not only be associated with broken walls, but also with broken pipes. Just a couple of days before the event started on 24th of October 2019, a water pipe broke in the gym. The university was not able to give another location, so the organisers had to find a new place in less than 72 hours. While their were considering their options, they had to make wider and wider circles around the university location in the village of Fisciano next to Salerno.

The Camping Agora

Finally they found a location. Or rather two: a camping site and a hotel, both 35 kilometres from the Agora site. Arranging the sleeping place and the bus transport were huge enterprises in itself, but they also had to make also all other last arrangements for the Agora too. And yet, the miracle of Salerno happened: in the end everything went fine. Even when just hours before the European Night the camping site said that the big planned party for everyone cannot take place there, the participants turned their two host sites into spontaneous party places.

The 110 active members which the Golden Times asked for nominees for the title “Antenna of the Year”, were clear in their vote: this great enthusiasm, this enormous defiance is outstanding. They gave AEGEE-Salerno the most votes. Agora Main Coordinator Carolina Alfano was overjoyed when she got the news today. “I did not expect this”, she said. For her this was a reward for the great commitment of her antenna. This is what she told the Golden Times.

Interview with Agora Coordinator Carolina Alfano

Golden Times: AEGEE-Salerno is antenna of the year. Did you expect it?
Carolina Alfano: Seriously, I didn’t expect that. I am really surprised. Thanks to all members voted for us!
GT: Main reason was the Agora you managed and the great crisis management. Until today many people don’t know what happened. Can you tell what was the reason for the crisis?
Carolina: There were technical problems with the gyms and it was not possible to host participants there. And with the new accomodation at 35 kilometres away from university, we had problems with transportations. We did our best to fix all last minute problems and gave to participants the Agora they expected.
GT: How is the antenna taking it? I hope you don’t have to close for bankruptcy or lose members because of it.
Carolina: Luckily we solved the problems, always taking into consideration our sources. I am very proud of my core team members, we were a very balanced team with experienced AEGEE members, and there was always one of us with an objective perspective in finding solutions.
GT: Also some oldies of your antenna helped. How would the Agora have been without their involvement?
Carolina: Not possible. A big thanks to all of them. I am very glad that the AEGEE spirit is still active among them, cause their support was really precious to make Agora Salerno possible.
GT: Did you completely retire or will we see you somewhere in Europe next year?
Carolina: My intention is to quit, cause I have to focus on my professional life. But I will for sure support the new board and the activities of AEGEE-Salerno. And maybe, maybe, maybe we will meet again in the next Agoras. Who knows?

Second place: AEGEE-Bucureşti

The voters also rewarded AEGEE-Bucureşti. The host of the spring Agora 2019 got only two votes less than AEGEE-Salerno. The antenna in the Romanian capital also organized an Agora which had to struggle. AEGEE-Bucureşti applied in an open call for Agora host in autumn 2018, helping AEGEE-Europe out in an emergency situation. It gave the antenna just half a year time to organize the events – and this with a very small team. The organizers had to work twice as hard as normal Agora organisers, who have one year time. And AEGEE-Bucureşti experienced first handed why their country has the reputation of suffering from bureaucracy and corruption. The fact that they managed to organize also this Agora against all odds was another great achievement. A big shout-out to main coordinator Ștefania Ciuraru and her team!

Third place: AEGEE-Köln

This year we had one additional statutory event, although one cannot compare the cosy Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne with its 70 participants with the two big Agoras. AEGEE-Köln did an outstanding job with the logistics and the Planning Team around people like Maria Zurita and Borja Torres managed the content part very well. The outcome were many great ideas for the next Strategic Plan of AEGEE-Europe. Many people who were not aware how capable AEGEE-Köln is were positively surprised by the event. All this got them the third place in this year’s ranking.

SPM Köln – picture by Philipp Blum

Fourth place: AEGEE-Moskva

There are many reasons to love AEGEE-Moskva: their annual Transsiberian TSU is legendary, the antenna is extremely professional, while also totally crazy and full of European spirit. After a continuously growth of experience the antenna felt ready to apply for hosting Spring Agora 2020 – which would have been the first statutory event in Russia. They had one competitor: AEGEE-Yerevan. The CD decided to give the Agora to AEGEE-Yerevan, which has a lot of great contacts to politics and economy and a highly professional team – and whose members took part in the peaceful revolution in Armenia.

However, not everyone was fine with this decision. Some members raised doubts whether members from Azerbaijan could participate in the Agora. And despite assurances by AEGEE-Yerevan that they are working on making this possible, some people were not convinced. Moreover, AEGEE-Moskva pointed out a conflict of interest. One member of the organizing team of Agora Moscow, who had access to the application of the Russian antenna, was also involved with the application of AEGEE-Yerevan. All this led to a dramatic plenary session at Agora Bucuresti, where these issues were discussed. The member, who was in both teams pointed out that he dropped out early from the Agora Moscow team and did not see their application. This discussion was so intense that the Agora could not finish in time. Thanks to AEGEE-Bucuresti, it could continue in an emergency plenary session next morning, where the delegates voted in favour of ratifying the CD decision and granting AEGEE-Yerevan the Agora.

This could have killed the spirit of many locals, but not the one of AEGEE-Moskva. The antenna simply applied for hosting Autumn Agora 2020. They put even more effort in their application and made their application very transparent, since there also had been doubts about hosting an Agora in Russia. In the end, this antenna with the unbreakable spirit got the Autumn Agora 2020. This made them a deserving fourth on this year’s ranking.

Fifth place: AEGEE-Isparta, the Rising Star

The antenna with the fifth highest amount of votes did not even exist one year ago: AEGEE-Isparta, an antenna in the heart of Turkey. In the end of January 2019 they registered as AEGEE Contact, on 13th of May 2019 they signed the Convention d’Adhesion at Agora Bucharest and became Contact Antenna. Founder Veysel Koca shocked everyone when he told on the Agora stage that they already had more than 50 members! In December they organized their first international event, a very successful Network Meeting. It they continue like this it is just a matter of time until they will host an Agora. This amazing development did not only gave them the fifth place in the voting for Antenna of the Year – it also makes them the Rising Star 2019! Congratulations!

This is AEGEE-Isparta!

Lovely members, perseverance and spirit

Now, let’s hear what the voters had to say about the antennae.

  • “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.” (Timo Haarman, former Vice-Chair, AEGEE-Enschede)
  • AEGEE-Salerno with their lovely members. Their hospitality was awesome.” (Yusuf Tırıçoğlu, Juridical Commission, AEGEE-Istanbul)
  • AEGEE-Salerno – best practice of crisis management” (Christian Seuling, SUCT 2018/2019, AEGEE-Bamberg)
  • AEGEE-București and AEGEE-Salerno: even as participants we could see the hard work, the effort and the commitment they put into their events. I am so thankful for everything they did and the great atmosphere they managed to create. They handled all the problems like real-life-superheroes.” (Paola Bortoletto, junior trainer of The Academy, AEGEE-Udine)
  • AEGEE-Salerno did an incredible job of hosting an Agora under such crazy last-minute circumstances. 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!” (Maaike Heijdenrijk, ECWG Coordinator, member of Academy and AEGEE-Nijmegen)
  • 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!” (Carolina Alfano, Main Coordinator of Autumn Agora Salerno, AEGEE-Salerno)
  • “I would mention AEGEE-Salerno for the huge effort they put into the Agora and are still kicking. Last but not least AEGEE-Moskva for their dedication in pursuing not only the Transsiberian Dream, but also a much bigger dream…” (Roberto Meneghetti, Network Commissioner, AEGEE-Torino)
  • “Many locals did a great job, for example organizing an Agora under difficult circumstances – like AEGEE-Bucuresti and AEGEE-Salerno. I also want to mention AEGEE-Isparta, which became just a Contact at the beginning of the year and already organized successfully an NWM in December.” (Fabian Dennenmoser, Network Commissioner, AEGEE Bamberg)
  • “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!” (Shakira Rompf, Eastern Partnership Project+, HRC, AEGEE-Heidelberg, AEGEE-Bamberg)
  • AEGEE-Köln for the outstanding Strategic Planning Meeting with an extra shout-out to the main organizers Maya Tielemann and Paulina Böhm.” (Evita Ločmele, Policy Officer of YDWG, member of the Strategy Committee and Human Resources Committee, AEGEE-Heidelberg)
  • “I am especially grateful to AEGEE-Köln. 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.” (Yannic Lades, Strategy Committee, AEGEE-Mannheim)
  • 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.” (Fabrizio Bellicano, Chief of technical operations, President of Data Privacy Commission)
  • AEGEE-Moskva. After an unsuccessful application they didn’t give up, they applied once more for holding an Agora. And they got it.” (Bálint Caesar, Treasurer, AEGEE-Budapest)
  • “AEGEE-Moskva for their perseverance on applying again as hosting local for Autumn Agora 2020. I personally know a part of the Core Team and I am sure they will do a great job. Davai!” (Lorenzo Ligas, Public Relations Committee, President of AEGEE-Cagliari)
  • 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.” (Novak Simin, former Network Commissioner, AEGEE-Novi Sad and AEGEE-Beograd)
  • “I remember how AEGEE-Isparta shocked us all by becoming Contact Antennae in Agora Bucuresti with 50-60 active members already. They also organized an NWM in December. AEGEE-Salerno and AEGEE-Bucuresti for organising Agorae and managing all the problems – and there were quite many.” (Adam Kubak, Network Commissioner, AEGEE-Praha)
  • “This – is – AEGEE-Isparta! After signing the Convention d’Adhesion in Agora Bucureşti, they organised their very first European event last week. When I was there for the NWM, I was really impressed how they could recruit that many active members and create a local culture in such a short period. They definitely deserve this title even though they didn’t exist in the first couple of months of 2019.” (Batuhan Çarıkçı, Comité Directeur, AEGEE-İzmir, AEGEE-İstanbul)
  • “An antenna with a special place in my heart is AEGEE-Isparta. They signed the contract only in Agora Bucureşti and hopefully will become an Antenna during Agora Yerevan. Although they are quite a new local they have organized an amazing NWM and in general are doing their best to improve their local in all aspects. They have a lot of spirit!” (Kutay Kaya, Network Commission Speaker, AEGEE-Eskişehir)