19 participants learnt everything about organising a Summer University Project School (SUPS) in Cluj-Napoca this month. The SUPS is one of AEGEE’s training highlights every year. Experienced members tell future SU organisers how to make the best event possible. SUPS manager and AEGEE-Kyiv President Anna Pykhtina was extremely happy and enthusiastic about the event, as the interview with the Golden Times proves.

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Anna Pykhtina (left) with SUCT member Ksenia Lupanova


GT: Anna, you were in SUPS as trainer. How was it?

Anna Pykhtina: In one word – amazing! It was an absolutely new exciting experience for me, as it was my first time working as training manager of the project school with trainers who are much more experienced than me. As training manager I was responsible for all the content and case studies, communication with participants and actually, everything. It sounds like lots of work and honestly it is, but I was super lucky as I had an amazing team of trainers. We spent several month preparing the programme and content via e-mails and chats but when we met with the team two days before the event, I realized that all of them are committed to do their best to make this event happen in the best way. And in the last day I was happy that I was right.

GT: Where did it take place?
Anna: This year Summer University Project School took place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, from 5th to 12th of March. Participants and trainers – me included – where really surprised by the beauty and the atmosphere of the city. Cluj-Napoca is 2015’s European Youth Capital and a very ancient city. Apart from being an important financial center in Romania, it is a very important cultural site, hosting one of the largest universities in Romania, the Babeş-Bolyai University. The city is truly bustling and spreading positive and fresh energy all around. There are lots of students and places to hang out, beautiful places to visit, so I personally enjoyed every minute when we were enjoying walking outside – although it happened not so often.

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Cluj-Napoca

GT: How many participants did you have?
Anna: We chose 25 applicants, but in the end there were 19 participants from Greece, Italy, Spain, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine and Russia. Almost all of them are taking actively part in organizing Summer University this year or were interested in receiving knowledge about how to run a project, so they took really active part in sessions, workshops and case studies.

GT: Can you explain in three sentences what SUPS is and what the program consists of?
Anna: The Summer University Project School is organized by the Academy in collaboration with the SUCT and an AEGEE antenna, and its main idea is to deliver knowledge from experienced trainers to participants, explaining how to organize the perfect Summer University. The activities range from creating the programme of a Summer University, up to dealing with practical solutions for possible problems you might face during the SU organization. The sessions during SUPS usually are:  project, content and time management, PR for a Summer University, logistics, risk assessment, budgeting, fundrasing, leadership, with special sessions about Green SUs, the Action Agenda and compulsory sessions implementation.

SUPS6GT: How was being head of the trainers’ team?
Anna: It was my best experience in AEGEE so far, to be honest. Our trainers were Antonis Triantafyllakis (AEGEE-Heraklio) and Ksenia Lupanova (AEGEE-Moskva), who are Summer University Coordination Team members, CD member Ioana Duca, who is coming from AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca, and Luca Lombardo from AEGEE-Torino – and it was the best team I worked with! Every day was stressful for me as I was responsible for every minute of the event: sessions, workshops, trainings and of course, case studies, so from the early morning I was following the timetable. But I never felt alone as they all were always ready to help without asking any questions. Moreover, we really loved working together, so the daily evaluation of the day was not something we wanted to finish as soon as possible, we enjoyed discussing the results and planning the next day even if we were tired or needed to go to the party. I hope that we will meet together and what’s more, work together again!

GT: And how were the local organizers?
Anna: The local organizers were just perfect! They were always ready to help even if we asked in the last minute, they provided a great location for staying – we lived in the old center of the city, in the hostel where we were allowed to do case studies and even European Night! And they also socialized with us, so the participants could get to know them better. The social programme was well-prepared – apart from the typical European Night and Welcome party, there was also Dracula night, Suit up party, Karaoke night and one calm evening in the tea-place, where the participants could get to know each other better and relax a bit.

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Hard-working participants…

GT: A core part of AEGEE trainings is case work. Which great and creative ideas did the participants come up with?
Anna: Case study was is my favorite part of the project school! After my last years’ experience I decided to prepare all of them as close to the real tasks as possible. We divided all the participants into four groups, bearing in mind gender, nationality, age and experience. There were four imagined locals – AEGEE-Vallinn, AEGEE-Palimera, AEGEE-Kashtansk and AEGEE-Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän. All the teams received antenna profiles and had to work according to that. There were 13 case study tasks that were delivered to the antennae’ post boxes in settled time. All the teams had to send the results to back office on time and then their mentors among the trainers checked them. In the end they discussed the results and could ask questions.

GT: Can you give examples of the case assignments?
Anna: The case studies were updated up to the latest Summer University Coordination Team’s deadlines and rules, so starting with selecting dates, name, title and basic information of the Summer University, they had to prepare a PR strategy, write emails to companies and municipality for fundraising, answer e-mails from potential participants, prepare the budget and even take part in a radio show. The last task was to come to the meeting with new AEGEE-members, played by other participants, and represent their Summer University to make them want to join the organizers’ team.

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…who also had fun!

GT: Which was your favourite case assignment?
Anna: I guess the favorite one was when the all teams received e-mail from the imaginary radio show host Alice Wonderland. One representative per antenna had to answer the questions and promote their Summer University and it was really great using Google Hangout and Wi-Fi in the hostel – we simulated a real show and all other teams could listen to the show!

GT: Where there people that impressed you especally?
Anna: I am always inspired by people around me and in the Summer University Project School there was a really high concentration of awesome people! I am really happy that one of my closest friends, Ksenia Lupanova, was there and was my biggest support. I am really impressed by her development as one year ago she was a SUPS participant and now she is Publication Responsible in Summer University Coordination Team and trainer. Also Antonis Triantafyllakis, whom I worked with one year ago is still in the list of my friends, who are truly happy with what they do in their life and it is something I am still learning. Ioana Duca was the person who impressed me by her time-management and efficiency at work, it was a please to work with her and Luca is the person who is really flexible to work with – it were the best trainers, and a great team! Apart from them, working for our participants was a pleasure!

SUPS7GT: Any nice stories of the event?
Anna: One story will explain my excitement: on the second day of the event all trainers gathered in the basement to discuss the evaluation and sum up the case study work in groups. As usually, all the mentors told what the participants liked and disliked about every session and the trainers and the first group of participants left to the party. Around midnight, when the second group joined them in the karaoke bar we started to discuss the next days’ sessions and realized that all of us would like to update the information in the sessions. And without any hesitations and complains that we would miss the party, we went through all the sessions, made new examples according to the needs of our participants and worked until the moment when the first group came back from the party, saying: “Are you guys sleeping at all?” We realized we worked for five hours and in the end we went to sleep later than participants. Next morning the trainers were fresh and happy and delivered all the sessions and case studies in the best way. I’ve never seen so much devotion to the work, and it is voluntary work, so you can imagine how awesome our participants where!

GT: You were in the SUCT last year and saw your successors at work. What do you think about them?
Anna: I am really happy to see that all the members of SUCT are not only my friends but people who have different comprehensive knowledge and all participated in last year’s SUPS. I must say that working for the Summer University project is big honor but at the same time really difficult and challenging task. It is very difficult to stay apart from the project as I really loved working for it. But, the Summer University Project School is organized by the SUCT as well, so let’s say I am still in!

GT: Are you going to organize or participate in an SU this year yourself?
Anna: As usually I promise myself applying for a Summer University as participant and as usually I fail. I will be one of the organizers of the Travelling Summer University “Across the UAniverse” that AEGEE-Kyiv organizes with AEGEE-Kharkiv, AEGEE-Dnipropetrovsk, AEGEE-Ivano-Frankivsk and AEGEE-Lviv. It will take place from 3rd to 19th of July. And after attending SUPS, I was invited to join the helpers’ team of the TSU “Adventure Time: The Return of the Rabbits” by AEGEE-Dresden, AEGEE-Berlin and AEGEE-Wroclaw as all the coordinators from this TSU were participants of the event.

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