Hanna Alajõe was mesmerized by Baikal Lake, loves to organize contentful Summer Universities, makes thematic dinner parties of some specific cuisine and had a very interesting hitchhiking experience in Hungary. The AEGEE-Tartu member was speaker of the Network Commission and is route manager of the current edition of “Europe on Track”. Hanna is running for the Comité Directeur at the upcoming Agora in Bucharest. Find out more about her in this article.

Hanna In Torino – collecting trash during a stop of Europe on Track 5

Golden Times: Do you usually read candidate interviews in the Golden Times or AEGEEan Magazine?
Hanna Alajõe: Mostly I do! Not all of them, I have to admit, but I definitely like to learn more about the candidates this way.

GT: Where would you be now if you hadn’t joined AEGEE?
Hanna: I’ve thought about this many times, about all the possibilities of maybe climbing a career ladder or having a family, but let’s be honest, I would have probably just found another international student organisation and done something similar to what I’m doing now.

GT: How did you join AEGEE exactly? How did you find out about it?
Hanna: I received an email through a university mailing list about Summer Universities. I was looking to find a way to really enjoy my summer and I went to an info event. I was really happy when I found out that you can also be active otherwise, besides Summer Universities, as I had been looking for a student organisation to join, but nothing had seemed to fit. Two months later I was elected as the next treasurer of my local and was one of the organisers of our Summer University that year!

GT: How long did it take you from the first moment until you signed the membership form and joined AEGEE?
Hanna: I got the email about SUs a week before the info event and I joined right there on the spot. SU deadline was only two days away!

Hanna during Transsiberian Dream vol 10 next to Baikal lake

GT: What’s the typical drink & food you bring to European Nights?
Hanna: As typical for Estonians, I always have a bottle of Vana Tallinn liqueur, some Kalev white chocolate with blueberries and rye garlic bread with me.

GT: At an AEGEE party, where will we find you? On the dancefloor? Talking at the bar?
Hanna: I do love to dance, so if there is a dance floor, you will probably find me there. Still, long breaks from dancing for discussions in the quiet corner of the party are very much appreciated as well.

GT: How was your first experience in the local board?
Hanna: I was the treasurer, but as at the time the local board consisted of only three active members, I was doing many other things as well – organising local events, organising a NWM, recruiting new members, looking for fundraising, working on cooperation with other local student organisations – basically everything a small local needs.

GT: What was your favourite event as organiser – and why is it your favourite?
Hanna: Summer universities are my favourite to organize. They are quite challenging, because of the length and the many small details that need to be taken into account, but I also like being able to come up with the perfect schedule – balancing between content, free time or team building. I also really enjoy having time to get to know all the participants and making sure they are all having a great experience. Having a contentful SU is in my opinion a really awesome way to balance the serious and fun parts of AEGEE.

GT: What was your first Agora and how did you feel there? Happy, excited, overwhelmed, lost?
Hanna: My first was Agora Zaragoza 2013. I was a board member of my antenna and a delegate, but I was completely lost at first during the Agora, as our board’s knowledge transfer about it had been non-existent. Fortunately, Mayri Tiido, an older member of AEGEE-Tartu, who lived abroad and I had never met her before, took me and other AEGEE-Tartu newbies under her wing and explained every single thing happening to us. I am extremely grateful for that and it inspired me to become more active in AEGEE. This is why I also really value the Agora mentorship programme.

Hanna during Agora Kraków, spring 2018

GT: Have you ever hitchhiked to an AEGEE event?
Hanna: I have never hitchhiked to an AEGEE event unfortunately. It has been quite difficult to find partners for it, as most events are quite far from Estonia and it doesn’t always happen that there are many Estonians going to one event. I have, however, hitchhiked during an AEGEE event once.

GT: Do you have a favourite hitchhiking story?
Hanna: My only AEGEE hitchhiking story was during an SU of AEGEE-Debrecen, AEGEE-Pécs and AEGEE-Piliscaba, where we had to hitchhike to a lake in the next city. We did catch a ride but the driver was not very knowledgeable about the city we were going to and neither were we. This was also before the time of cheap roaming, so after arriving in the city we wandered around for quite a few hours before finding the meeting spot at the lake – walking through a field, saying hello to some sheep, finding other lost teams and the completely wrong side of the same lake on our way first. We never lost our spirit though, the day was beautiful and exploring the city and surroundings not a bad outcome at all.

GT: Do you like cooking and what’s your favourite dish you like to cook?
Hanna: I love cooking! I love to organise small dinner parties for my closest friends and I always make them thematic of some specific cuisine. I love to cook Mexican or some type of Asian. However, if I only had to choose one dish, I would choose something bit more local to me – a kringle.

GT: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Hanna: A pack of frozen vegetables – it might sound really boring, but as a vegan who travels a lot, I have found this to be a saviour on many days of late arrival back home.

GT: What do your parents think about the idea that you are so active in AEGEE and even want to move to Brussels?
Hanna: My father is mostly hoping for me to find a “proper job” in Estonia, but he is still supportive of my choices. My mom on the other hand lives and works in Brussels and is more than happy to welcome me there.

Hanna (on the right) organised events also outside of AEGEE

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?
Hanna: I think one of the reasons why I have stayed so long in AEGEE, is that I am all three of those quite equally. At different moments in time different aspects have been more prominent and currently the serious side of career and idealism is clearly the dominant one, but I wouldn’t say no to a fun event now either.

GT: What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Hanna: “Aside from AEGEE” feels somehow very limiting! I would say cooking, travelling and sustainability-related activities, but these are all something I have done within AEGEE as well.

GT: Did you consider joining a political party or maybe want to do it later?
Hanna: I have not considered it seriously until now. However, I have been thinking about it recently, now that the European Parliament elections are coming up and political talk is even more present than usual. Still, as of now, I don’t see myself doing that in the near future.

GT: What do you study – and why?
Hanna: I have finished my Bachelor’s in Psychology and I am soon graduating from my Master’s in Public Health. I went to study Psychology just because I found it interesting and I am happy I did. After graduating from it, I wanted to do something more in the public sector, so I went for Public Health. I am happy with the choices I have made, it has given me quite a wide base of possibilities for a future job. As public health is not a very known field, as a brief explanation it involves everything health related not on a personal medicine level, but from a public sector perspective – health system management in a country or region, health promotion, statistics, research and more.

GT: What’s your dream job?
Hanna: I don’t think I will do one specific job for the rest of my life and thus I don’t have a dream job per se. But I did mention this slightly in my candidature as well – for the near future I imagine myself working for an NGO with which my values align with. I can’t be more precise than that, but basically, I would love to do something very similar to what I have been doing in AEGEE and what I am applying for now.

Hanna during her Netcom term at a NWM in Mainz-Wiesbaden – an antenna which was deleted last year

GT: What’s the favourite city or place on this planet you ever visited?
Hanna: I must mention that I love the addition of “on this planet” to this question! Well, on this planet I have been to many wonderful places so this question is not easy to answer. But as an ex-Transsiberian, I have to say Baikal lake. It is truly a magical place, owing a lot of its magic to the difficulty of getting there, the closeness to the nature and the distance to the modern world with its daily rush.

GT: And where would you really like to go?
Hanna: I have never really been to anywhere tropical and Southeast Asia has been on my list for a while. But I do have some European countries still to be ticked off as well – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Moldova, Montenegro… and a few more. As you can see, they are mostly the countries not so active in AEGEE.

GT: What’s your biggest frustration in AEGEE?
Hanna: Of all the questions this is definitely the hardest one to answer, as I can’t think of anything that frustrates me specifically about AEGEE, which is not also prominent in the general society. Of course AEGEE is not ideal and there are many things that could be improved, but I am unable to pinpoint one big frustration that is not also a challenge for other organisations or communities.

GT: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Hanna: AEGEE is a lifestyle; a common vision and values shared by a community of active young people.

GT: How would you describe yourself in a few keywords?
Hanna: Hard-working, fun-loving, open-minded, a bit spontaneous and a bit perfectionistic.