Izabella Khanzratyan had to wait until she could finally become an AEGEE member. “AEGEE-Yerevan had a strong policy of age limit. Therefore, I just participated in local events and when I turned 18 years old, I got my membership”, she recalls. After being in the local board for three years and being part of the EPM Yerevan Core team she wants to step up and become Civic Education Working Group Coordinator. However, unlike for most positions there will a tough competition: also Aynur Hasanzadeh (AEGEE-Leiden) and Zeynep Ozan (AEGEE-Ankara) will run for this position at the Agora in Bucharest.

GT: Where would you be now if you hadn’t joined AEGEE?
Izabella: I would move to various African countries and maybe I would already hold my BA in African studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

GT: How did you join AEGEE exactly? How did you find out about it?
Izabella: A sister of my best friend wrote me about an event, thinking I could be interested in it. It was the Armenian Model European Union, which AEGEE-Yerevan organizes since 2011. When I saw the organizers and volunteers, I felt that I want to join them. I started to read more about AEGEE and I decided it suits me. Back in 2014, we had a strong policy of age limit. Therefore, I just participated in different events by AEGEE-Yerevan and when I turned 18 years old, I officially got my membership. What was symbolic is that I got my membership after protests in my town, when I understood that we need more educated civil society and a young generation, who is able to stand for the protection of its rights.

GT: How long did it take you from the first moment until you signed the membership form and joined AEGEE?
Izabella: Five years!

GT: What’s the typical drink & food you bring to European Nights?
Izabella: I prefer to bring homemade Ghapama, wine and Zhingyalov hats during European nights In Armenia. As to me, Ghapama is one of the best dishes in our traditional cuisine. It is a stuffed pumpkin with rice, honey, seasonings, raisin, nuts and dried fruits. I prefer to take Armenian brandy and Armenian very popular and tasty dried fruits with chocolate to Europe.

GT: At an AEGEE party where will we find you? On the dancefloor? Talking at the bar?
Izabella: It depends. Sometimes you can find me on the dance floor, sometimes near the bar, and, sometimes sitting and dreaming outside.

GT: What was your first position in the local board?
Izabella: I applied for Local Coordinator. After my election we renamed it and I was Local Projects Director from 2015 to 2018. I was re-elected twice.

GT: What was your favourite event as organiser – and why is it your favourite?
Izabella: I think my answer is predictable: European Planning Meeting Yerevan 2018. We organized it before the Velvet Revolution and our efforts gave good results. I have always believed in the power of youth and the EPM in Yerevan was its proof. Besides, it was stressful but when it was done I was proud of myself. As a Head Organizer of Logistics and Incoming Committee I was responsible for many things. My team members and I did an excellent job. EPM Yerevan 2018 taught me many things about friendship, cooperation and about my visions for AEGEEans – and of course it increased my responsibility.

GT: What was your first Agora and how did you feel there? Happy, excited, overwhelmed, lost?
Izabella: I missed Spring Agora Bergamo 2016 and Autumn Agora Catania 2017 because of personal reasons. Therefore, my first Agora was Spring Agora Kraków 2018 where I was international helper. I was super excited. I cannot describe what I felt when I finally attended my first Agora! I had a professional coordinator, kind team members and nice people around me.

GT: Have you ever hitchhiked to an AEGEE event? If not: why not? If yes: how many times?              Izabella: Hitchhiking to an event is in my bucket list. Nevertheless, I still haven’t gotten a change to do it. I have always wanted but we were with groups or I had a strict plan of what should I do and I got no time to make such kind of good memories and adventures.

GT: In case you hitchhiked: what’s your favourite hitchhiking story?
Izabella: I have created my own hitchhiking style when I was in NWM Tbilisi in 2015. After the Intercultural night, I really wanted to eat fries. I went out from the hostel and found a person who had a car. I asked him to take me to the fast food center. I bought fries and I asked him to drive. The driver showed me three points from where Tbilisi was clearly visible. It became a habit, later. Whenever I am in Tbilisi and have some free time I find nice people and we drive to different sides while having good conversations. Maybe I can call it ”strangers for a night”. Due to this, I have seen Tbilisi from different points, got deeper knowledge about the city and created a joke that I know the streets of Tbilisi better than the ones in Yerevan.

GT: Do you like cooking and what’s your favourite dish you like to cook?
Izabella: I do not just like, I love cooking. I like to improvise. One of my favorite classic dishes which I enjoy cooking is spaghetti with my special ginger-tomato sauce.

GT: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Izabella: Lettuce and fresh tomatoes!

GT: What do your parents think about the idea that you are so active in AEGEE?
Izabella: My mother always supports my decisions. Anyway, about my activity she has her own view. She really likes that I enjoy AEGEE, but she knows that sometimes I give all my attention to AEGEE. She knows my potential and she thinks that I can do many things outside of AEGEE and become someone more important, useful and valuable than I am now.

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?
Izabella: I am a 100% idealist member. AEGEE values are important to me and I share its ideology. I am sure AEGEE has huge potential to have an impact on society and make essential changes.

GT: What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Izabella: It sounds unreal but self-education is one of my hobbies. I like to read books, articles, watch movies, serials and to be informed. I believe there are many things in the world that I should learn and study. Besides, I like painting and mountaineering. Professional mountaineering is my hobby. I already have some achievements. However, I want to add new levels and challenges.

GT: Did you consider joining a political party or maybe want to do it later?
Izabella: I was born without political party and I am going to die without any political party.

GT: What do you study – and why?
Izabella: I am pursuing an MA in World History at Yerevan State University now. As a teenager, I dreamed to become an astronomer or a mathematician. However, I have changed my goals and have decided to become an Africanist in 2013. I will be the first Africanist in Armenia. I am happy to have my professors at my university who support me and give valuable knowledge and advice about structures and mechanisms. This year I will apply for my second MA in African Studies at SOAS University per the academic year 2020-2021.

GT: What’s your dream job?
Izabella: Being Africanist and to help people, to do research and to find answers is my dream job and the way of life which I have chosen. Of course, taking care of pandas and working for Elon Musk sounds lovely as well.

GT: What’s the favourite city or place on this planet you ever visited?
Izabella: I like my planet, my universe and I think every corner has its uniqueness and beauty. However, there are cities, which gave me calmness and harmony. I enjoyed Kapan in Armenia, Kraków in Poland and Sivas in Turkey.

GT: And where would you really like to go?
Izabella: I want to be on the top of Seven Summits of the World and to look on Earth from Space.

GT: What’s your biggest frustration in AEGEE?
Izabella: Locals and members with two priorities: drinking and pub-crawling.

GT: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Izabella: …a home where I have created my new standards and myself.

GT: How would you describe yourself in a few keywords?
Izabella: Realist dreamer, active introvert, sleepy extrovert!