They are from different countries, but they will soon be united: AEGEE-Moskva and AEGEE-Izmir will sign the twin antenna agreement at the next Agora. The partnership is actually not the result of a long-lasting friendship, but rather of a very conscious selection process – on both sides. “We thought of finding a twin antenna from a northern part of AEGEE, but not in an EU country”, says Aysegül Gökdag, PR Responsible of AEGEE-Izmir. By coincidence, AEGEE-Moskva had similar thoughts. Maria Kochkina, PR Responsible of the Russian antenna, told the Golden Times how they found their new Turkish partner. Watch out for them at the Agora! Aysegül: “We terribly recommend all the participants to attend our ceremony at Agorasturias and be there to catch their presents!”

maria kochkina
Maria Kochkina

GT: Why were you searching for a twin antenna?
Maria Kochkina: We think it is great to have a twin antenna. In the last years, AEGEE-Moskva became stronger and stronger. Unfortunately there are fields where we lack expertise, so we decided to search for a partner from whom we can learn – and with whom we can share our experience as well. For example, we have some question about fundraising; we don’t have so much experience and the economic the crisis doesn’t make it easier. We were looking for a partner outside the Eurozone, because it will be easier to understand the problems of each other. We also think that within the EU the system of fundraising is often quite different.

GT: Which other reasons motivated you to search a twin?
Maria: Of course we are also interested in cultural exchanges. Sharing the culture is also an important part, we are of course curious about life in Turkey. However, our focus is on knowledge. Also politics is an interesting field. Russia’s relation with Turkey is developing. We did not have many contacts with Turkish antennae so far, we are going to change this now.

One of the twinning stickers

GT: How did you search for a twin?
Maria: We did not make an open call. Instead I did some research. I have a database of all locals, including their websites and Facebook pages. I checked their social media activities, because if a local is active, they usually pay attention to it. I had a look how active they are on Facebook, which other social media they use, I checked their website, also if they have many sponsors and partners, I checked their board and whether they have a fundraising and PR responsible.

Bear Love
At Agora Cagliari AEGEE-Warszawa and AEGEE-Aachen made a big wedding out of their twinning

GT: So how did you narrow it down further? Were there other hot candidates except for AEGEE-Izmir?
Maria: Yes. With this method, I narrowed the number of antennae first down to 30, then to five. Then we had a meeting with our board and active members. There we decided to focus on AEGEE-Istanbul and AEGEE-Izmir. However, we knew that AEGEE-Istanbul had other plans, so we chose AEGEE-Izmir. Since we don’t have an International Relations Responsible, I approached them with our offer and spoke with their amazing president Göksan Kahraman. It was a crazy experience for me.

GT: You sound like you made a well-executed plan. How long have you been in AEGEE?
Maria: I am member since May 2014, but I only went to one event so far.

GT: Did your antenna have already contacts with AEGEE-Izmir?
Maria: Our former board member and current SUCT member Ksenia was in Izmir at the Summer University Project School. She knew some people and had a very good impression of the antenna.

AEGEE-Passau Twin Delft
Also AEGEE-Delft and AEGEE-Passau have a well-functioning twin partnership

GT: So what do you plan for the twin antenna agreement signing procedure at the Agora in Gijon?
Maria: It will be a surprise. We are planning something nice. It won’t be a big show though since there is a time limit of three minutes. We are always in contact with AEGEE-Izmir regarding the preparations, we have a common group and common chat. We will make posts about each other, mostly about common stereotypes about our countries – for example, check our posts about tulips! We also prepared very nice colourful stickers about our twinning. We were looking for a common point in our culture and found it in the tea: we both drink it a lot of it, maybe in different ways, but it is a common treat.

GT: And how do you want to fill the twinning agreement with life? Are you planning events?
Maria: Yes of course. It’s in our twinning contract. In the next 18 months there should be exchanges in Russia and Izmir, at least once. We are also planning activities regarding the anniversary of AEGEE, a Skype call and small language courses.

GT: Anything you recommend to other antennae, who don’t have a twin yet?
Maria: You should understand what you need. Twinning is a nice PR story; but you should see whether you need it or not, why you are doing this, if you want to bring it to life and make the partnership sustainable. Some antennae might do it just for their friendship. However, you can do an exchange between locals without a twinning. I see twinning rather as a tool which can make your life in AEGEE a lot easier.

AEGEE-Izmir is a very active antenna and a great choice as twin

GT: Finally, what can you tell me about AEGEE-Moskva? How many members do you have? What are you planning for this year?
Maria: We had 98 members last week, but maybe there are more now. We are planning a conference about youth unemployment, our SU of course and in May a local event to visit the Golden Ring of Russian cities. We will travel by train for about a week. If it will be a success, we can make an event for other people about it!