Andreas Panayiotou founded the new Contact of AEGEE-Europe in Nicosia. It’s the third time over the past 20 years that an AEGEE outpost is established in the capital of the Republic Cyprus. “We are having officially now 11 members, while we are expecting this number to rise, Andreas told the Golden Times. If you want to visit an event there, here is your chance: “We are currently organising a big cultural event that will take place in Nicosia in June”, says Andreas.

Andreas Panayiotou

GT: When and how did you hear about AEGEE for the first time?
Andreas Panayiotou: The first time I ever heard about AEGEE was through an application form for a European students meeting. Last semester I have been in Erasmus exchange where I saw AEGEE in action. Talking with people there took my attention and soon I decided that with my return to Cyprus I would found AEGEE-Nicosia. Dreams, indeed, come slow, but can become reality very fast, if you really want them to.

GT: What was your very first impression of AEGEE when you heard about it? Was it fascinating, strange, complicated, something you always had been waiting for?
Andreas: My very first impression of AEGEE was honestly awkward. I perceived AEGEE as an organisation that recognises “illegal universities” due to the Cyprus Issue and politics. Back then, I would snob AEGEE and oppose it. My second and warmer meeting with AEGEE was through my Erasmus+ exchange in Tarragona, Spain. When I realised the purposes and goals of AEGEE, the fact that AEGEE exists in Famagusta turned out to be a motivation for me to create AEGEE-Nicosia. The fact that it could bring the two worlds of Cyprus together as a meeting point was fascinating me.

The first meeting of the new contact took place in February!

GT: How did you become a contact?
Andreas: To become a contact was quite easy for me. The first thing I did was to send an email, to which Network Director Tekla Hajdu responded. We arranged a Skype meeting where Tekla and the Network Commissioners Spyros and Alessandra explained me the process of becoming a contact. Within a week I had talks with three universities in Nicosia and contacted the rector of the University of Cyprus, who was very willing to support us. It was a great pleasure for me to talk with people from AEGEE-Europe for the very first time in such a context. People from AEGEE-Europe turned out to be very joyful and willing to help. It was one of the nicest moments in the process.

GT: When did you officially become a contact?
Andreas: We officially became a contact on 1st of February and since then we are trying to organise some events. Our goal is to become an antenna.

The founder of the first AEGEE local in Nicosia, Sophie Tsouris.

GT: How many members do you have right now?
Andreas: We are having officially now 11 members, while we are expecting this number to rise. Many of our friends are not officially members yet, while they are joining our meetings. They are very excited to organise our first event. Unofficially we consist of 17 members.

GT: Do you think it is difficult to find members in your city?
Andreas: AEGEE is not well known or wide-spread in Cyprus. This makes many of the people we are approaching either suspicious or ignoring us. We are hoping that after our events more people will join us. Very interesting was the fact that people from Cyprus who are either currently inscribed in another AEGEE antenna or are currently abroad, contacted us so they could join. We are planning to approach people through universities and we are currently planning a small promotion event.

Nicosia is a divided city. AEGEE’s alumni association Les Anciens visited the city in 2011.

GT: How European-minded are the students in your city?
Andreas: Cyprus in general has some very sensitive issues, which are very contemporary in terms of territories, borders and geography. Apart from the materialistic issues the biggest one I think is the mental borders that exist for many years now. People in Cyprus and Nicosia welcome the original ideals and goals of the European Union, while they are still not very aware of how they could contact Europe while not being a politician. In our culture travelling is one of the basics as we are an island and Europe is our first choice to go to. It is my belief that students in Nicosia want to be active and European-minded, but so far they did not the chance of acting upon it.

GT: Is it hard or expensive for your members to travel around Europe?
Andreas: Travelling is very expensive for people in Cyprus. Many times tickets to Asian or Middle East countries like the Emirates are much cheaper than any travel within Europe. Although, over the last year I saw the airplane ticket prices being much lower and approachable to everyone. Traveling would be easier if Cyprus was not an island or the airlines had cheaper tickets.

The legendary buffer zone of Nicosia. AEGEE organised a conference there in the last decade.

GT: What will be the first activity that you want to organise in your city with AEGEE?
Andreas: We are currently organising a big cultural event that will take place in Nicosia in June. Meanwhile, we are going to have some other events of political, social and entertainment affairs prior to the big event.

GT: Why should AEGEE members from all over Europe visit you and your city?
Andreas: As a case study Nicosia is very unique. The last divided capital of Europe needs European-minded people to become united again. Nicosia’s history is written all over the city. A medieval city centre surrounded by Venetian Walls, the 20th century epoch surrounding the Old Town, contemporary architecture of Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, the Cyprus Archaeological Museum, Leventis Museum and Art Collection, Nicosia as the main students’ city of the island, river Pediaios and the unique Cyprus landscape are just some of the ingredients that make Nicosia attractive. The sun can be enjoyed ten months a year, while accessing the coastlines of the other cities is very easy. Another very important fact is the hospitality and kindness of people and especially those of the province and the beautiful picturesque villages. All in all Nicosia has many things to offer but many things to absorb from Europe and Europeans as well. The sharing of opinions, ideas and thoughts is what needs the most.

GT: Are you going to attend some AEGEE events in spring? Which ones?
Andreas: I will personally attend the Agora in May. Due to the organising of the events I need to be in Cyprus until June, while other members are going to join some other events soon. There has been interest in visiting some of the events but I have not a clue yet.

GT: A few words about you: how old are you, what do you study?
Andreas: I am 21 years old at the moment, soon will be 22. I am Cypriot from Limassol and my first tongue is Greek. I am a student of architecture at the University of Cyprus. In general I want to believe I am a fun person. I am easy approachable and social and very open to suggestions and criticism. Anyone can contact me through my page in Facebook.

GT: What other hobbies do you have besides AEGEE?
Andreas: To be honest all my hobbies died as soon as I entered university. Architecture consumes most of my time. I like drawing, creating, sculpting and writing. I used to be engaged with many different sports in the past while I am not losing the opportunity for an adventure all year around. I enjoy being with friends anywhere. I am clubbing on my good days and enjoy friends’ company by the sea on my bad. I do love cinema and bowling. My hobbies at the moment are mainly focused on AEGEE and TV series.

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