What kind of hobbies do the freshly elected CD members have? What would they do with a million Euro? And are they party animals? The Golden Times asked the new European Board of AEGEE, which will start their term in Brussels in August, questions about their personal life – and got many surprising answers. Read in this second part about the next Secretary General, Antonija Parat. The AEGEE-Zadar member has been NetCom speaker until this week.

Antonija Parat in Patra - Olivier Genkin
Antonija Parat during her candidature in Patra. Picture by Olivier Genkin

Golden Times: Congratulations for your election! How nervous were you during the Agora?
Antonija Parat: Not as nervous as I thought I would be. I was so busy with NetCom-related issues that I had no time to think about my candidature and the election results. There were so many things to do: Activity Reports, meetings with locals, Progress Meetings, AEGEE Fair… so I was always running from one place to the next. I’m actually glad I had something to keep myself busy with, otherwise I’m sure I would have been super stressed.

Golden Times: After the election, was there any congratulation, which made you more happy than others?
Antonija: All of them made me happy, but one that was really special to me was the message from my parents. I’ve always admired them and their support meant a lot to me, so seeing how proud they were was a really special moment for me.

Golden Times: In most CDs, the CD members cooked for each other. Are you a good cook?
Antonija (smiles): Unfortunately, my cooking skills, if they can be called that, are nothing to brag about. So far the only meals I made myself were either frozen or half-done, so I can’t really say that my cooking would be particularly exciting for my teammates. But I’m willing to learn, of course. In the meantime, I can say that I’m really good at ordering food.

Golden Times: The CD is a lot about teamwork. What was the best AEGEE team you were in – and what was your role?
Antonija: I learned a lot in every team I have been in, so I would say each one of them had something to offer to me. NetCom was overall an amazing experience. There are people in the team who became not only my colleagues but also really close friends. I also really enjoyed working in the board of AEGEE-Zadar. We were a small team, but everyone had a great attitude and a lot of energy. We organized a lot of events together – some local, some international. Even though we didn’t have a lot of resources, we worked wonders with what we had. It just proves that sometimes all you need is a good idea, good people, and a will to work together.

Antonija Parat Netcom Zaragoza
The time in the Network Commission was a great experience for Antonija, also in terms of teamwork. Picture by Jorge

Golden Times: How did you join AEGEE?
Antonija: I stumbled upon an AEGEE presentation at my university on St. Patrick’s Day when I was a freshman in college, and I was really impressed. That night, at St. Patrick’s party for students, I ran into AEGEEans who were giving the presentation earlier in the day, and since they seemed so interesting and different from other people I met in college, I just had to talk to them and get to know them a bit better. So I approached them and probably swamped them with questions, and as soon as they told me more about their experiences, I knew I had to join.

Golden Times: If you were not in AEGEE, how would your life look like?
Antonija: It’s really hard to say, since AEGEE has been such a significant part of my life for the last couple of years, but I assume I would probably be a bit more focused on my studies and a bit more grounded in one place. Now I’m basically putting things from one suitcase to another – there is always somewhere to go. It can get exhausting sometimes, but I still love it.

Golden Times: Are you also member of other associations?
Antonija: Although I had the chance to cooperate with other organizations as an AEGEE representative and attend their events, there are already a lot of things going on in my life, so I can only really devote myself to being a member of AEGEE.

Antonija Parat Malta
Malta impressed Antonija a lot.

Golden Times: Which city or country did impress you most during your AEGEE trips?
Antonija: Malta was absolutely stunning, it has a really interesting mix of cultures that is unlike anything I had ever seen before. I also loved the UK – I always wanted to visit it, and there is this obsession with the British culture and music scene in my group of friends. They had the chance to travel there before me, so I felt like someone was always going to London while I was stuck with exams or something else I had to do. I finally went there this year, and I can say that it lived up to my expectations.

Golden Times: Do you actually take the time to look at the city during AEGEE events?
Antonija: The more active I got in AEGEE, the less time I had to see the cities. That’s fine with me though. It would be nice to see everything, but I’m a relaxed traveler, and traveling has always been more about people than the sights to me. As long as I’m in good company, I know I will have great memories from my trips. The only touristy thing I really feel like I have to do in places I visit is to sit down and have a nice local meal.

Golden Times: What was your best AEGEE experience?
Antonija: It’s really hard to choose one since every experience has been great in its own way. There are some that stand out particularly vividly: Agora Alicante and how I fell in love with AEGEE; Agora Rhein-Neckar, also known as the “kapooyah” Agora in my circle of friends; and TSU Balkan Funk, where being an organizer was truly a pleasure since we had a great group of people.

Golden Times: What was your worst AEGEE experience?
Antonija: Again, it’s really hard to say. There were some problems I encountered along the way, but nothing made me question my decision to join AEGEE. In the end, all the bad things only gave me more strength and experience – I learned to look at all the difficulties as challenges that helped me develop myself and my AEGEE skills.

After Agora Alicante 2011 Antonija knew that she wanted to join the European level.

Golden Times: Which experience did make you decide to join the European level?
Antonija: Agora Alicante – I knew some people who were candidates there, like Marko Grdošić and Marijana Roščić – who is basically my “AEGEE mama”. Knowing them made me more invested in candidatures and everything else that was going on in the plenaries. That’s when I really discovered how much AEGEE can offer to its members, and I knew that I wanted to gain more experience and contribute on the European level someday.

Golden Times: To how many events have you been so far?
Antonija: Too many to count! But somehow still not enough.

Golden Times: How many of them did you organise yourself?
Antonija: Again, a lot.

Golden Times: Have you been to SUs? If yes, which ones?
Antonija: Yes, I participated in two of them. The first was the TSU “Under the Tuscan Sun” in 2010, which was also my first European event in AEGEE. The second one was “Mediterranean Language Paradise” in Tarragona in 2012. Both were really great experiences, where I saw some beautiful sights and met some amazing people. I also attended two SUs as an organizer: SuperCroative in 2011 and Balkan Funk in 2012.

Antonija Parat in Tarragona
Antonija’s first European event was an SU in Tuscany. She attended two as participant – the second one was in Tarragona.

Golden Times: CD members often face criticism. How resistant are you to stress and criticism?
Antonija: I know that being in the CD means that all eyes are on you, and that there will always be something to stress you out and someone to criticize you. But I don’t let that distract me. I welcome criticism if it’s done in a constructive way, and stress is something that I learned to live with. I’m not saying that I’m some kind of a super human who never feels affected by those things, but by now I developed a pretty thick skin and I can handle a lot without letting emotions get in the way.

Golden Times: What makes you most stressed and nervous?
Antonija: Public speaking.

Golden Times: And how do you calm down in these situations?
Antonija: I think AEGEE helped me a lot with this – just the experience of going onstage and speaking in front of people made me realize it’s not so bad. At some point during Agora Patra I had a moment where I thought to myself: “Hold on Antonija, you are onstage and you’re actually so focused on what you’re talking about that you forgot to be nervous.” I’m still not completely over my fear, but I think it’s getting better.

Golden Times: How important is for you career in life?
Antonija: My family and friends are my priority, but career is also pretty high on the list.

Golden Times: After AEGEE, what will you work later?
Antonija: Who knows? I have a lot of different interests. I have a background in tourism, languages, literature, and translation. I can see myself working in either one of those fields, or maybe even something else. Wherever life takes me.

Antonija Parat Balkan Meeting - Ivana Janakievska
Talking to people is very important for Antonija, like here at this Balkan Meeting in Pata. Picture by Ivana Janakievska

Golden Times: Are you a party animal?
Antonija: I have my moments of “Hey, let’s stay up until the morning!”, but I also have moments of “Hey, let’s put on pajamas and watch TV!” So I would say I’m somewhere in between party animal and couch potato.

Golden Times: Do you dance a lot during AEGEE parties? Or do you rather have conversations?
Antonija: Depends on my mood. There are nights when I really want to dance, and nights when I’m more into talking to people outside or even staying in the gym and not going out at all. Overall, I would say that I give an advantage to conversations, because there are always opportunities to go out and dance, I can do that at home every weekend. But opportunities to catch up with my AEGEE friends and just hang out with them are not so frequent, so I take all the chances I can to do that.

Antonija Parat Sea
Antonija enjoys living close to the Mediterranean Sea

Golden Times: What are the things you don’t like about AEGEE?
Antonija: There are a lot of great ideas in AEGEE, but I feel that sometimes there is a lack of implementation of those ideas, and sometimes the implementation is not as good as it can be. I think we all need to work together on learning how to follow through – to turn ideas into actions, and actions into results.

Golden Times: And what would you like to change about AEGEE, if you could?
Antonija: Well, as I stated above, I would like to see a better way to follow through with our ideas and actions. Also, I would like to see more consistency and a better knowledge transfer system.

Golden Times: What hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Antonija: I was always kind of a creative kid – I would spend my days with my sister and cousin, making up our own TV shows, drawing our own comics, putting on music performances for our parents and so on. Unfortunately now that I’m older I don’t have so much free time for all these creative endeavors, but I still try to write from time to time, and I follow a lot of music blogs and film festivals. I also like to sit down and learn about random things – pop culture and how it’s shaping us, interesting people and events in history or patterns in human behavior.

Golden Times: What was the last book you read?
Antonija: I just re-read “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles. Nice book, great descriptions of New York in the 1930s.

Last Forever Part One
Antonija liked “How I Met Your Mother”, even the controversial series finale

Golden Times: What’s your favourite movie or TV show?
Antonija: I like all kinds of movies, but some of my all-time favorites are those where music somehow plays an important role. I think Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola have a good way of using music in their films. For TV shows, I really liked “How I Met Your Mother”, and yes, I will defend that controversial ending if someone asks.

Golden Times: What kind of sports do you practice or like?
Antonija: I was born on the coast so I always loved doing anything water-related, but especially swimming. Conditions for swimming are really good in most of the Croatian coast, since the sea is so calm and there are not so many waves or strong currents. For me, no feeling in the world can compare to gliding through that crystal clear water and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Golden Times: What’s your favourite drink?
Antonija: Non-alcoholic: tea, especially green tea with lemon. Alcoholic: margaritas and red wine.

Antonija’s favourite non-alcoholic drink: green tea with lemon

Golden Times: If you had 1 million Euro, what would you do with it?
Antonija: I would share a lot of it with my family, and donate to causes I’m passionate about. Most of the money I would save for myself would probably be spent on traveling, especially to more exotic locations outside of Europe.

Golden Times: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is…
Antonija: …a unique platform where young people can change themselves, each other, and Europe.”

Golden Times: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Antonija: That’s actually kind of tricky to answer since my fridge is basically empty almost all the time. As I already said, I can’t really consider myself a cook or anything. I don’t eat a lot, and when I do, I usually grab something on the go. But on most days there is at least milk or yoghurt in my fridge.