30th of April, 8.15 pm: the moment of truth for six AEGEE members, all candidating for one of four vacant places for the CD at the Agora in Alicante. The moment, when the election result is announced. One of the candidates is Jüri Kirpu, the first Estonian candidating for the CD. And he gets elected! “When seeing my name I was just stunned for a short time,” he recalls this moment. Starting from Setember, Jüri will be the new Network Director for a year. He told the Golden Oldie about his motivation, hios plans and his other great passions next to AEGEE: playing piano.

Golden Oldie: Jüri, tell us a few words about yourself. How old are you, where do you come from, what did you study?

Jüri Kirpu: I am 24 years old and I come from Tallinn, Estonia. I am actually graduating this June, which is why technically I am still studying. I majored in Finnish Language and Culture, with two minors in Psychology and International Relations. Although I started my studies in 2006, my bachelor was prolonged because of my Erasmus Exchange which I did in Cologne and also due to my AEGEE-Tallinn presidency. Also I am the first candidate for the Comite Directeur from AEGEE-Tallinn and Estonia.


Golden Oldie: 30th of April, 8.15 pm. The announcement of the election results at the Agora. How did you feel in that moment in time?

Jüri Kirpu: I remember sitting in the last row and feeling my heartbeat gradually staggering. At first the voting results for the proposals were announced, then people elected for the commissions and then came the grand moment finally. I remember seeing the first three names and then at that point when seeing my name I was just stunned for a short time. Then I walked towards the stage, all the girls from Tallinn and Tartu just ran towards me. I think it was a great day for the northern part of AEGEE, because two members were elected from the Baltics.


Golden Oldie: You joined AEGEE only 18 months ago. Don’t you feel a bit too fresh to join the CD?

Jüri Kirpu: This is true, I am a relatively fresh member, but I don’t think that this prevents or hinders me from performing my future duties. The reason for that is, that AEGEE should be powered by idealism, passion and the notorious AEGEE Spirit. It would be of course a bit hypocritical of me to say, that „I am the best, because I have these things and I am the best person for the job…“. That is why I am glad that the Agora made this choice, which means that the members also see these qualities in me.


Golden Oldie: On Facebook you call yourself a “Mindless Drone at Arvato Bertelsmann”. So I guess this made the decision easy to candidate for the CD?

Jüri Kirpu: Yes, I currently work at Arvato Bertelsmann. Sadly due to confidentiality reasons I can’t say more about the specifics of my job, but I can hint that it involves talking to Germans every day.


Golden Oldie: How did you join AEGEE?

Jüri Kirpu: Although I am a member of AEGEE-Tallinn, my relationship with AEGEE started thanks to AEGEE-Köln, due to my Erasmus. In that period AEGEE-Köln managed to create a small home away from home, not only for me, but also for the other Erasmus students. Interestingly enough, after that amazing year they also joined AEGEE in their home towns. After returning to Tallinn in September 2009 my whole world was basically turned upside down, because I questioned a lot of things: how we live in societies, my studies, universities, politics and more. All of this also got a power-up from AEGEE-Tallinn. This eventually culminated to me candidating for the position of the president of my local.


Golden Oldie: How did you become president of AEGEE-Tallinn exactly?

Jüri Kirpu: Well, after joining AEGEE-Tallinn, I started to take part in all events we hosted. As I started to gain more and more insight into the functioning of the team and our antenna, I saw a lot of things that weren’t done properly, which is why the president’s position was the only logical one, through which I could influence and have the biggest impact on the way things were done. I announced my candidacy after EBM Krakow in spring 2010. The rest is history.


Golden Oldie: What are your biggest achievements as President of AEGEE-Tallinn?

Jüri Kirpu: The achievements can be divided into several parts. The biggest achievement for me was definitely personal growth, the understanding how people interact with each other, how to organise, the realisation of the fact how important is it to have a general overview of things and how short-sighted we as people are sometimes. What AEGEE-Tallinn gained from my presidency: I think that I managed to make the work of the two boards that I led more structured. During my time as president I also was part of the process of uniting AEGEE-Tallinn and AEGEE-Groningen with a twin-local agreement, which I signed during Agora Leiden.


Golden Oldie: Which obstacles did you have to overcome?

Jüri Kirpu: I think for every president it is difficult in the beginning to inspire people to do something instead of just telling them. However, I think that during my term I managed to understand this and mend my ways.


Golden Oldie: Now, from September, you’ll be CD member in Brussels. There were four places for six CD candidates. Did you expect to be elected? Or did you have doubts?

Jüri Kirpu (smiles): The question of the year. I think that out of all the candidates I was definitely the underdog, because of my small European level experience, which was mainly researching and commenting on a lot of fundamental questions that were raised by Sido last autumn. Concerning the elections, I really didn’t know if I would get elected or not, because the Agora acts in very strange ways sometimes. The only thing I was sure of, was that Guillermo was going to get elected for member of the Comite Directeur. Seeing that he won with 89 percent of the votes I can firmly say that I wasn’t wrong.


Golden Oldie: When did you decide to candidate?

Jüri Kirpu: It was actually quite an interesting process. From August onwards I got small hints from people on the European level, like: „So when are you gonna candidate?“ and „Have you filled the form in yet?“ At first my reply was always: “No I can’t do it”, but then I could still finish the sentence. The decisive moment was probably in January, when I talked to Joanna Koper from AEGEE-Lublin. I must say that she doesn’t take no for an answer. After that I went to the EBM where I saw all the others. The rest is history.


Golden Oldie: In your candidature you said you would like to become Network Director. Did you already make the task division? Did you get this task?

Jüri Kirpu: Yes, the CD-elect has already done the task division and from September I will be responsible for Network Development. There were also other tasks divided. We will announce the division shortly enough.


Golden Oldie: What are the biggest challenges for AEGEE in the field of network development?

Jüri Kirpu: For network development there are various things that one has to take into consideration, namely how well our internal communication works, how well the locals are in contact with each other, the European level awareness by the members, the quality of our events, but I think all of these things can be largely connected to more fundamental questions of AEGEE. During the last CD term lots of antennae were deleted, which means that the variety within our network has suffered. The reason why this happened is that people most probably lost interest in AEGEE. But why did they lose it? Aren’t our aims and goals transparent enough? Isn’t there enough room for idealism in this world that is built up on the idea of capitalism and the free market? Have we really lost the wish to unite ourselves? For me these are the real questions that we have to ask ourselves and to which we should find solutions to.


Golden Oldie: What do you want to achieve concretely in one year?

Jüri Kirpu: I think that in AEGEE there is not so much room for concrete ideas as we think, because we are based on voluntary work, which in its own turn influences the constant dynamic movement and change within AEGEE. I think that we should always combine logic and improvisation with whatever we do, so that we could be one with our overall system. I think that with the present conditions the best solution is to keep things in balance, because the alternative to my mind would be to start restructuring our foundation.


Golden Oldie: Restructuring sounds serious. In general, which are the biggest challenges for AEGEE as student NGO?

Jüri Kirpu: To let our voice be heard at the universities and at a governmental level. Usually there is a tendency to ignore what younger people think or say. Changing this would be the biggest challenge.


Golden Oldie: How does it feel to be CD member-in-waiting? Do you already prepare for the job?

Jüri Kirpu: Actually at the moment I am a bit overwhelmed with work, graduation, recording some piano pieces that are way overdue, our Summer University, where AEGEE-Tallinn is hosting probably the most ambitious part within the whole network – and also some private issues. So the new life that will start from August seems quite far for some reason. However, the preparations are fully underway, because I am following what the Network Commission and its speaker team are doing. I just participated at the Network Commission Meeting in lovely Beograd, the „White City“, and my future family and I are also constantly bonding through Skype.


Golden Oldie: Sounds great. You record piano pieces? Is that your main hobby next to AEGEE?

Jüri Kirpu: At the moment one of my passions is music and piano playing. I have studied in a music school when I went to primary school and since my highschool times I have started to discover myself through jazz and other styles. I write piano pieces and record from time to time, which has recently been put on hold, since my time in AEGEE. But nonetheless, my neighbours still hate me, since I practise quite a lot at home…


Golden Oldie: A few more personal questions: how do you want to manage a good work-life balance in the CD?

Jüri Kirpu: There is a contradiction within this question. I don’t know if it is grammatically correct to put „AEGEE related work“ and „personal life“ into one sentence, because the first part will probably be the only thing that we will know…


Golden Oldie: In your presentation you said that you have a very special sense of humour. How is that?

Jüri Kirpu: I think that when growing up in a post-soviet, young capitalist country, within a society there are usually things changing and sometimes quite harshly, which is why humour is the only thing that can keep the light shining and that can bring some kind  of positivity into everyday things. Because of this, I have grown very fond of stand-up comedy, which tends to be very sarcastic at some times. The reason for that is probably that stand-up comedians analyse their societies from a very critical point and bring out the contradictions through a very funny prism.


Golden Oldie: What do you want to do after finishing AEGEE?

Jüri Kirpu: This is a hard question, mainly because the upcoming year will bring a lot of changes. So I can’t say what life will bring, because I have learned that the things you plan never play out the same way as we often wish. At the moment I really can’t see „Life after AEGEE“, because with every day I feel more and more European thanks to all of this wonderful energy that we constantly bring together.


Golden Oldie: As a child, what did you dream to be your future job after growing up?

Jüri Kirpu: When I was little, just before I went to school I oddly enough wanted to work there, where you could have a blinking light on top of your car, like an ambulance, the police or the fire squad. Later on I understood how stupid that was.


Golden Oldie: What are you most afraid of?

Jüri Kirpu: People letting me down.


Golden Oldie: What’s never missing in your fridge?

Jüri Kirpu: Ketchup.


Golden Oldie: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?

Jüri Kirpu: Idealistic, dualistic, passionate, creative and honest. Obviously these are all positive virtues, but if I would think about my not-so-good sides, then at times when I’m tired I simply couldn’t do anything, meaning being lazy at times.


Golden Oldie: Anything you would like to add?

Jüri Kirpu: Thank you. These questions made me think about things that had evaded me for a couple of months.