When Álvaro González Pérez heard about the big AEGEE conferences of the past, he wanted to organize one himself. The result was the great congress about the democratic deficit in Poland and Europe, which was organized by the European Citizenship Working Group and AEGEE-Warszawa last year. At Agora Bucharest the AEGEE-Heidelberg member will face an even bigger challenge: running for the Comitè Directeur. Find out more about him in this interview.

Golden Times: Do you usually read candidate interviews in the Golden Times or AEGEEan Magazine?
Álvaro González Pérez: Depends on where they are published, I’ve never seen the same interview published in both magazines.

GT: Where would you be now if you hadn’t joined AEGEE?
Álvaro: I would have probably finished my BA in English Studies to begin a Master’s in teaching, and right now I would most likely be a language teacher, which I had been doing for some years before joining AEGEE. Quite different from my current NGO and civil society oriented field.

GT: How did you join AEGEE exactly? How did you find out about it?
Álvaro: The day I arrived to the city of Osnabrück during my Erasmus I met one of my best friends today, and we both found out about AEGEE-Osnabrück through some flyers in the university talking about some info evening.

GT: How long did it take you from the first moment until you signed the membership form and joined AEGEE?
Álvaro: I signed the very same day of the info evening.

GT: What’s the typical drink & food you bring to European Nights?
Álvaro: It really depends. I am from Spain, live in Belgium, and am member of a German antenna. When it comes to drinks: if there are other Spaniards I always go for the arch-famous sangria, otherwise I always go for some proper beers. Regarding food, it really depends from where I travel to the event. I will be flying from Germany to Bucharest, so maybe I eill go for some typical German sweets.

Alvaro Gonzalez Perez was Coordinator of the European Citizenship Working Group

GT: At an AEGEE party where will we find you? On the dancefloor? Talking at the bar?
Álvaro: Oh, you can find me everywhere, but truth be told, you will generally see me at the centre of the dancefloor.

GT: What was your first position in the local board?
Álvaro: I never held a position in a local board. A disadvantage of moving constantly from one city to another since joining AEGEE!

GT: What was your favourite event as organiser – and why is it your favourite?
Álvaro: Without any trace of doubt, the conference we organised in the European Citizenship Working Group along with AEGEE-Warszawa last year in the city of Warsaw on the democratic deficit in Poland and Europe. In a conference of two and a half days we gathered numerous experts and very high-level politicians and activists. I always heard about the big conferences organised by AEGEE back at its origins, so I decided I wanted to see something similar, and worked hard along with our team to reach our goal. I can say that the results were incredible and got extremely positive feedback from all sides.

GT: What was your first Agora and how did you feel there? Happy, excited, overwhelmed, lost?
Álvaro: It was Agora Bergamo, now three years ago. I remember I thought: “what the hell is going on here?” But at the same time I was amazed by what a team of young volunteers can reach working together. I also remember perfectly the feeling of being overwhelmed when I saw people talking on the stage, or when hearing about the famous “CD” and the “president of AEGEE” and so on. It is kind of funny that only three years later I myself running for the CD, because it feels like a lifetime ago that I was that newbie staring with admiration to all those brave young people going to speak in front of a thousand people.

GT: Have you ever hitchhiked to an AEGEE event?
Álvaro: I hitchhiked from Brussels to Strasbourg for the European Youth Event 2018. It’s the only time I have done it for an AEGEE event.

GT: Do you have a favourite hitchhiking story?
Álvaro: Well, I only have this story, but maybe it’s worth mentioning that we went from Brussels to Strasbourg stopping in Luxembourg. Altogether the three cities hosting EU decision-making institutions.

GT: Do you like cooking? And what’s your favourite dish you like to cook?
Álvaro: I like cooking a lot, and definitely my favourite dish to cook is curry, although I’m lately experimenting with some different versions of “tortilla de patata” I’m quite proud of!

GT: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Álvaro (smiling): Vegetables definitely, especially tomatoes, although the Belgian and German tomatoes are not the best in Europe I must say…

GT: What do your parents think about the idea that you are so active in AEGEE and even want to move to Brussels?
Álvaro: They are quite used to it already. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to explain because it’s not really something they have done or seen before, and I’d say it’s not really a field anyone in my family has been involved in. About Brussels, it has been two years that I have been around, if we count the time I lived in Leuven, so they are also quite fine with it.

GT: In a typology of members there are the three aspects fun member, career member and idealist – to which percentage are you which of these aspects?
Álvaro: Well, I am always up for a party and to have fun, but that’s certainly not the reason why I ended up getting more and more active in AEGEE. I would say that I’m to a large degree a combination of career and idealist members, and a bit of fun. Career because all the skills that would allow me to find a job in the field I would like to work on today, I got them in AEGEE. Idealist because I believe that, even if our resources are limited, AEGEE still can serve as a platform to fight for a better society and a better Europe. And fun, because I love the intercultural exchange that comes along with it, and it’s the fuel that motivated me at the beginning, and still today to a large extent.

GT: What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Álvaro: I have several, what I don’t have is time for them! I play the guitar in a band in Brussels, I like swimming a lot and always try to find some time during the week to go to the pool and disconnect, I love reading, although in Europe on Track I could not do it at all, I love art in general, I also do salsa, I always try to learn languages… It’s a bit difficult to do all of it regularly but I generally manage.

GT: Did you consider joining a political party or maybe want to do it later?
Álvaro: Nope, not by now. The aspect of civil society that attracts me is the fact that you can push politics out of the party politics spectrum, and for me that’s essential: when you join a political party, to a certain extent you give up part of your ideals, because there is no single party that can represent each and every single one of your ideas. In that sense, NGOs are much more flexible. However, who knows. You know what they say: “never say never!”

GT: What do you study – and why?
Álvaro: My Bachelor’s was on English Studies and my Master’s on European Studies. However, if we regard the disciplines we could say my Bachelor’s was rather related to linguistics and languages, whereas my Master’s was more related to politics, international relations and sociolinguistics – in short: much more interdisciplinary. The reason for my change was that even though I love languages, I wanted to study something that I could apply in the field of civil society, so European Studies and social sciences in general was perfect for me. I think what best represents this variety of fields I have focused on during my studies is my thesis, which was about the influence of languages in the concept of a European identity in the Basque Country.

GT: What’s your dreamjob?
Álvaro: Tricky question! It’s impossible for me to answer anything concrete because I always like to try new things. I can certainly say that it should be related to travelling, as that’s one of the things I love the most in life.

GT: What’s the favourite city or place on this planet you ever visited?
Álvaro: A small place close to the city of Hoi An, in Vietnam. I was there during a long trip through South East Asia two years ago, and stayed in a hostel at the outskirts of the city by the sea. At night, the beach would be completely empty, the sea full of bioluminescent plankton, the stars shining like crazy over my head, with usual shooting stars crossing the sky, and sometimes you could even see a storm far away at the horizon, terrible but beautiful at the same time. I loved the place so much that I decided to stay there for a week, and will certainly come back one day.

GT: And where would you really like to go?
Álvaro: If I had not applied for CD, I would be doing a world trip, so the answer is simple: everywhere!

GT: What’s your biggest frustration in AEGEE?
Álvaro: It sometimes happens that an antenna invests hours, days and weeks into an event, and they barely get any participant after all of their hard work. This is what frustrates me the most, because in many cases I can see how they actually did an amazing job, but they simply did not get participants for reasons out of their control. And it frustrates me for a dual reason: firstly, because such happenings affects the motivation of members a lot, and secondly, because it illustrates the culture of participation among young people in Europe, which generally is not as high as one could wish for.

GT: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Álvaro: AEGEE is for me the platform that has granted me with an international family that does not know of borders, provided me with the tools to develop myself, and made me realise that I want to fight to shape society for the better.

GT: How would you describe yourself in a few keywords?
Álvaro: Passionate, ambitious, observant, righteous, humorous, easy-going.