Enrico Lai, AEGEE-Cagliari Founder: “The PMs Challenged Our Antenna”

Enri­co Lai with Ago­ra Cagliari Vice Coor­di­na­tor Mat­tia Abis.

The Ago­ra in Cagliari, which took place last week, was not the first statu­to­ry event of AEGEE-Europe in Sar­dinia. The pre­vi­ous two were the Pres­i­dents Meet­ing (PM) in Sep­tem­ber 1998 and the Plan­ning Meet­ing (PM) four years lat­er – both pre­de­ces­sors to what is now called Euro­pean Plan­ning Meet­ing. Dri­ving force behind both PMs was Enri­co Lai, Hon­orary Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Cagliari.

Gold­en Times: Enri­co, you are prob­a­bly the only AEGEE mem­ber, who was main local organ­is­er of two statu­to­ry meet­ings. How do you feel when you look back on these events and what you achieved there?
Enri­co Lai: Let’s say proud. I had some PR expe­ri­ence, but these events were a real chal­lenge to test my coor­di­na­tion tasks. What I achieved? That’s easy to answer, I am now one of the most request­ed den­tal con­gress mak­ers.

GT: You were one of the found­ing mem­bers of AEGEE-Cagliari. Who had the orig­i­nal idea to found AEGEE-Cagliari? And how did you hear about AEGEE for the first time?
Enri­co: The idea had Mar­cel­lo Floris, my eter­nal friend. As his friend he involved me in the cre­ation of the anten­na, con­vinc­ing the group of founders to have me as the Vice Pres­i­dent.

Mr Gor­bachev in Cagliari, becom­ing patron of AEGEE-Europe. Sec­ond from the left: Enri­co Lai.

GT: Your anten­na signed the Con­ven­tion d’Adhesion in the same year, in Sep­tem­ber 1995 at the Pres­i­dents Meet­ing in Barcelona. Were you there?
Enri­co: No, the oth­er founder — Pao­lo — was there, togeth­er with Nico­la and Van­na, who were one group of stu­dents, so they went to Barcelona.

GT: Your anten­na organ­ised inter­na­tion­al events very quick­ly. How do you remem­ber them?
Enri­co: Those were great expe­ri­ences. In Novem­ber 1995 we organ­ised a one-day the­mat­ic con­fer­ence about the role of lawyers and the legal sys­tem. How­ev­er, our real­ly first inter­na­tion­al event was Sa Sar­tiglia in Feb­ru­ary 1996, it was about an impor­tant Sar­din­ian tra­di­tion­al event… we organ­ised it with AEGEE-Firen­ze. We had some par­tic­i­pants from abroad, one is still one of my best friends, Eszter. With this event we became a real anten­na and we gained a lot of use­ful expe­ri­ence for orga­niz­ing our first Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty, which took place in August 1996. In March 1996 we had anoth­er event called “Asso­ci­a­tions and the Inter­net”.

The Chair table of the PM 1998.

GT: Let’s talk about the Pres­i­dents Meet­ing 1998. Why did your young anten­na decide to organ­ise it?
Enri­co: The real truth? I want­ed to fin­ish AEGEE at that time — and want­ed to do so in the best pos­si­ble way, there­fore I real­ly stressed our oth­er active mem­bers to com­pete for this event. The oth­er appli­cant was AEGEE-Coim­bra. I do not remem­ber how we actu­al­ly won, but it was worth it… It was an amaz­ing event.

GT: How do you remem­ber organ­is­ing it, the best and worst moments? How many par­tic­i­pants did you have?
Enri­co: We had more than 200 par­tic­i­pants. The worst moment was an inter­nal dis­cus­sion in the begin­ning, but after that it was just per­fect. The best mem­o­ry is maybe the par­ty in the house of the entre­pre­neur Nico­la Grau­so, the per­fect par­ty.

Organ­is­ers of the sec­ond PM in Cagliari in 2002.

GT: I remem­ber that you greet­ed Mikhail Gor­bachev at the air­port. Was he com­ing to the PM?
Enri­co: He was in Sar­dinia for an inter­na­tion­al meet­ing orga­nized by Mr. Grau­so, and he made it pos­si­ble. Mr. Gor­bachev was award­ed patron­age from AEGEE-Europe in the air­port.

GT: I remem­ber that on one day most par­tic­i­pants went to the beach instead of sit­ting in the ple­nary. How did that hap­pen?
Enri­co: No, this was not in 1998, but at the PM in 2002.

GT: Yes, in 2002 you organ­ised anoth­er PM. Why?
Enri­co: We did that, because the peo­ple changed and we were ready to chal­lenge the anten­na anoth­er time.

The organ­is­ers of the PM in 2002 took off their shirts.

GT: How do you remem­ber organ­is­ing it?
Enri­co: It was eas­i­er of course, not real­ly dif­fi­cult. We had again more than 200 par­tic­i­pants, but you know the first time is always bet­ter…

GT: Nev­er­the­less, also the event in 2002 was amaz­ing. There are many nice sto­ries, for exam­ple, one work­shop about event man­age­ment took place on the beach. Why did your anten­na not organ­ise an Ago­ra before?
Enri­co: Unfor­tu­nate­ly we did not have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to lodge more than 300 peo­ple. I was real­ly sur­prised to hear that this year an Ago­ra would take place in Cagliari, because when we were in charge it was impos­si­ble to lodge peo­ple in a gym for secu­ri­ty rea­sons.

GT: So what do you think about this year’s autumn Ago­ra in Cagliari?
Enri­co: The organ­is­ers were real­ly brave, and this is what I told them. But it was worth it, the Ago­ra was a fan­tas­tic event!

Enri­co with fel­low AEGEE oldies at one of his favourite restau­rants at the alum­ni event, which took place in par­al­lel to Ago­ra Cagliari.

GT: A few words about you: what did you study, what do you work now?
Enri­co: I am a den­tist, as I was already dur­ing my time in AEGEE, and I had two offices. My AEGEE expe­ri­ence helped me a lot to pre­pare for my role in the Ital­ian Den­tal Asso­ci­a­tion, where I am Nation­al Trea­sur­er, Con­tin­u­ing Edu­ca­tion Respon­si­ble, Con­gress Man­ag­er and Nation­al Liai­son Offi­cer.

GT: You were also active on Euro­pean lev­el, as Ago­ra Vice Chair. How was that?
Enri­co: Yes, when I want­ed to fin­ish with AEGEE in 1998, some­one sug­gest­ed to me to can­di­date for the Mem­bers Com­mis­sion, so I was elect­ed at the PM in Cagliari and start­ed my Euro­pean tasks. I was not only Vice Chair for two terms, but also Pres­i­dent of the Mem­bers Com­mis­sion (beat­ing just you Gun­nar, sor­ry!) and mem­ber of the AEGEE Task Force On Change.

GT: What does AEGEE mean to you?
Enri­co: Every­thing, my best years and a cru­cial expe­ri­ence in my life. But, more impor­tant is the peo­ple that I had the priv­i­lege to know and the pos­si­bil­i­ty to share with them my youth!