Szabina Hellinger is multi-tasking: studying in Italy, being active in AEGEE projects, re-founding AEGEE-Bologna, helping the Red Cross. What’s next? Now the 24-year old Hungarian would like to join the Comité Directeur. Since the programme is online, the Golden Times presents you the person that Szabina is.

SzabinaHellinger2Golden Times: Szabina, you are candidating against the existing and very popular CD. Aren’t you afraid that you might lose?
Szabina Hellinger: I have a different opinion about it. I don’t see it as a competition, so I can not win or lose. I am not candidating against anyone. The candidature for the CD membership is not about personal winning or losing, but rather about the association’s needs, so the only one who can win is AEGEE itself. The positions of the Comité Directeur are always opened one by one and never as a team. Yes, it may happen that I will not be elected. The Agora will decide if it respects me with its trust or not.

Golden Times: Normally we end interviews with this question, this time let’s start: how would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Szabina: Enthusiastic, energetic, friendly, open-minded, perseverant.

Golden Times: One thing you are famous for is your love for Italy. How did that start?
Szabina (smiles): Since my childhood my family always came to Italy for holidays. So when in the high school I had to choose a second language between French or Italian there were no doubts. We always visited different places and time by time we went more and more south. Now we have a favorite place called Amalfi – it’s near to Naples – where we use to return, this year in Easter too. It’s a small city on the seaside in front of Capri. But the reason why I am such a big fan of Italy is easy: the Italians. They are proud of their culture, very open minded, friendly, appreciating the guests – especially if I don’t start with “do you speak English?” And most importantly: I really like that they never hide their opinion and are always open to discuss it, no matter about the topic.

Szabina with some members of the future AEGEE-Bologna

Golden Times: You are studying in Bologna for some months already. How is that turning out for you?
Szabina: I chose Bologna as Erasmus because I wanted to learn in Europe’s eldest and most respectful University: the Alma Mater Studiorum, founded in 1088. I really like it, I enjoy my classes a lot, the research we make and the projects we participate in. Erasmus is a life long lasting experience, because I have the possibility to work in a multicultural environment. True, unfortunately my faculty doesn’t exist here, so I have classes in three different faculties: Political Sciences, Educational Studies and Psychology. I rather find it as an advantage since this way I am in different projects here.

Golden Times: You are also trying to revive AEGEE-Bologna. When will you sign the Convention d’Adhesion?
Szabina: We wanted to sign it during this Agora. Everything went on perfect but now – before the very final step – the University stepped back and we are really trying to convince them to support us. The problem is that they have doubts trusting “AEGEE” after the sad story of the cancelled antenna. It’s really difficult to make them change their mind, but we try hard. Currently we are 15 members, half of this group is not member anywhere else, and really enthusiastic!

Szabina and friends at Agora Budapest

Golden Times: Your sister Elvira is working in Germany. Do you have plans to move to Italy on a permanent base?
Szabina: I can imagine living here for a couple of years, maybe doing my PhD here in Bologna, but my final aim is to work in the Ministry of Education in my beloved Hungary.

Golden Times: I guess your parents must miss you and your sister a lot – both kids being abroad. How often do you see them?
Szabina: The four of us, meaning my parents and my sister, have a really close relation. We have our really sarcastic inside jokes and stories, and we always troll around each other. I really love them, and I deeply wish one day I will be like my parents, because they are the greatest people I’ve ever known. This situation is new and not easy, but they are always very supportive about every kind of decision we’ve ever made, no matter about the consequences. And most importantly: God bless Skype for its existence because this way we can have our conference calls which helps a lot. I moved to Italy in September, but I returned home for the Agora Budapest and Christmas, and now my parents and sister are going to visit me – for the third time since I’m here – and we will spend Easter here.

Golden Times: You are member of AEGEE-Budapest, but you are from a smalltown. How did you grow up?
Szabina: I was born in Budapest but grew up in Érd, which is literally a smalltown 12 kilometres from Budapest. Even today my family lives here, we have the same house we had when I was born. It’s a traditional family house with garden and dogs and singing birds, so everything that I could desire in my childhood. The house is full of memories, like signs on the doorway showing how much I grew. Or little drawings on the wall which we didn’t remove. About my childhood, my Mother has one favorite story: I went to kindergarten just for two years because when I was four years old reaching five, I learnt to read and write with capitals from the TV show based on the hangman wordplay, meaning I started the elementary school when I was five years old, and I finished everything one year earlier. So I started the University right after my 18th birthday as youngest student.

Szabina and Timi Szakály

Golden Times: When you were a child, what was your dream job? And what is it today?
Szabina: My dream job was always to be a lawyer until finishing the high school. At that time very particular situations were going on in Hungary, and this made me to change my focus the Education Studies. For now, firstly I would finish my Masters, than make my PhD, then I would work in the Ministry of Education, making research and giving recommendations how to improve Hungary’s education, and future.

Golden Times: You really love studying it seems: Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Studies, Masters in Adult Education, BA in Italian linguistics and culture. What was the particular situation that changed your career path?
Szabina: After Hungary started to organise the Higher Education according to the Bologna process, there was a huge chaos in it and they still couldn’t find the way how to make it work. It changed my interests. I would also like to highlight that I see the future in the Education, since it determines the future generation. At the same time I started studying at the Italian linguistics faculty, because I always have a plan B: becoming an Interpreter in Italian and English language …just in case.

Golden Times: You were in the Education Working Group board. Are you still following the development of the group?
Szabina: Yes. The Education Working Group has recently elected a new speaker, Akif A. Akhmadzadeh from AEGEE-Baki, we will have our first meeting on Tuesday evening. I am really looking forward to working with him. Also we started to focus on local Education Working Groups; the first one is in AEGEE-Budapest, founded by Anita Ruszcsák, where the focus is around the Educational cases in Hungary. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in any of their events yet, but I follow their work. They are really motivated, and having successful events, forums with many participants.

Golden Times: Currently you are also involved in the project Higher Education Days. How is that going?
Szabina: We are focusing on two main topics. First of all we are having a research leaded by Avgustina Vasilieva about the Bologna process and its difficulties, how it works in different countries and what should be improved in it. Secondly, but not less importantly, we are focusing to the recognition of the Non-Formal Education, since this form of learning is the most fruitful, valuable and creates the most long lasting knowledge.

SzabinaHellinger4Golden Times: Aside from AEGEE, you are volunteering for the Red Cross in Hungary and Italy. How do you support them?
Szabina: I am more active in Hungary than in Italy, which has a simple reason: here I am supposed to have a medicinal exam to be able to make blood samplings, which I don’t have, so I was only participating in some workshops. In Hungary I started at the headquarters with some administration, than my first event was a First Aid competition for elementary schools. There I was leading a little team through a special path where they were resolving tasks related the First Aid, helped and supported by professional ambulance stuff. It was really exciting, so I decided to join officially and to try myself in different part; this is how I arrived to the donation campaigns.

Golden Times: What is that?
Szabina: I did already two Christmases in a campaign called “Factory of Santa Claus” (in Hungarian: Mikulásgyár), meaning I had a station in a mall where I was collecting donations for those in need. Really… it was one of the most touching experiences in my life, seeing how people are giving the donations, like food, books, toys, clothes and most importantly household goods. Many times it happened that they came to us to ask what to bring, and then went to the supermarket and returned with a full cart. Here I really feel Christmas – and it doesn’t matter how much the media is pushing the Economical crisis, those who have few give few, those who have a lot give a lot, but everybody has the motivation to help and to do whatever they can according to their personal possibilities.

Golden Times: What other hobbies do you have?
Szabina: I have one huge passion which is related to cuisine: I deeply love to prepare sweets. I learnt a lot from my Grandmother and I’ve got a special bunt recipe from her which is a forever success, but I also use to prepare cakes for special occasions. I also really like Pilates. I cannot do much sports since my hand and my leg was broken several times, but Pilates contains easy exercises which are not causing me pain.

Szabina and friends

Golden Times: Why the CD candidature? You are already so busy and would have to give up so many things you like…
Szabina (smiles): I feel ready for the position, and I would not give up anything, just make a priority order in my life. I mean: just let’s take this semester for example: I had to make exams in three Universities: Bologna, Italian Culture and Life Long Learning – for those subjects they are not accepting – and I passed them all. Then I was working in the project plus in the EWG, meanwhile I was working on the antenna reestablishment, also writing my Master final thesis and I still had time for my social life… everything is possible, it just depends on how you organise it.

Golden Times: What would you like to do in the CD?
Szabina: My main aims are in my programme, but in brief there are three important parts I would highlight also here. The first one is about the Projects and Working Groups: meaning the high support of Projects and Working Groups, paying a special attention to those which have problems in their work, members’ motivation, and make all reasonable efforts to avoid their termination. The second one is about the European level: increasing the capacities, bringing closer the different AEGEE bodies together and the locals too, empowering the members to participate in the European level’s life, joining bodies, or found new ones. The third one includes a strong cooperation with other NGOs, meaning to look for every possible way to increase AEGEE’s visibility, and in the same time look for possibilities to organise common events and projects with them, making AEGEE more appreciated among them.

Szabina and CD member Bea Matuszka

Golden Times: Which of your achievements for AEGEE are you most proud of – and why?
Szabina: It was a real pleasure when I was asked to be trainer in two Network Meetings: NWM Pécs 2011 and NWM Napoli 2012. For me it means a lot, first that my work was appreciated, it means I did it well, moreover my knowledge and efforts were valuable enough to share it with the Network.

Golden Times: Let’s talk about something else: pandas. I heard you love them. How come?
Szabina (smiles): I always loved them because I find them adorable and really unique creatures. In an AEGEE event I met two girls – Eszter Hajdú from AEGEE-Budapest and Veronika Kundríková from AEGEE-Praha. The three of us became very good friends, we have the same attitude about pandas and after many jokes it became the symbol of our strong friendship.

Golden Times: Any other guilty pleasures you would like to share?
Szabina (smiles): As every Hungarian, I really like pálinka, especially the home made kind.

Golden Times: Someone suggested you that you should open your candidature speech at the Agora with the things you like: for example plum dumplings and Túró Rudi. Can you explain us what that is?
Szabina: This was my Mother’s joke. As I mentioned before we have our special kind of humor, and I was talking with her about what to add to my CD presentation and she said: „what you like… for example: szilvás gombóc and Túró rudi”. These two are really traditional Hungarian sweets, one of them is a dumpling containing plum, the other one is a chocolate bar made with cottage cheese.

Golden Times: Is there anything else about you that we should know?
Szabina: I am open for any question. See you soon on the Agora!


More about Szabina Hellinger’s candidature:

Szabina in the AEGEEan:

Szabina’s Programme online: