Living On the Edge Of Europe – Part 1: AEGEE-Las Palmas

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How Euro­pean do peo­ple feel in Las Pal­mas, Por­to, Helsin­ki or Sankt Peter­burg? How do the AEGEE anten­nae in these cities cope with the fact that they liv­ing on the edge of Europe? The Gold­en Times asked eight anten­nae what the biggest prob­lems are for them which are result­ing from the geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion – and whether there are also ben­e­fits. In the first part of the series “Liv­ing on the edge of Europe”, Kamal Vas­nani, Rocío Gragera, Car­men Martín, Hék­tor Oli­va and Esper­an­za Rodríguez from AEGEE-Las Pal­mas report from the biggest city on the Canary Islands.

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Uni­ver­si­ty wel­come cer­e­mo­ny for exchange stu­dents, Jan­u­ary 2013

Gold­en Times: Let’s start with the basics: how many mem­bers do you have? And when was your anten­na found­ed?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Cur­rent­ly, our anten­na has 51 mem­bers, from whom about 10 are more or less active. AEGEE-Las Pal­mas was found­ed in 1991, but stopped its activ­i­ties in 2000, due to lack of mem­bers. In 2007, it was re-found­ed, and it signed the Con­ven­tion d’adhesion in Spring Ago­ra 2008 in Ljubl­jana.

Gold­en Times: How Euro­pean-mind­ed are nor­mal peo­ple and stu­dents in your city?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: To give a hon­est answer, not very much. “Europe” seems to be quite an abstract con­cept for most peo­ple. Even if they relate to it because of the Euro or the CAP, EU fund­ing which Spain has been receiv­ing for many years, the geo­graph­i­cal dis­tance of 1200 kilo­me­ters from the con­ti­nent makes it look like some­thing which is quite dis­tant or dif­fer­ent, even though this may not be total­ly the case.

Las Palmas mapGold­en Times: Is it hard to find mem­bers?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Yes, it is quite hard to find new mem­bers, espe­cial­ly mem­bers who are then active at the local lev­el. We always get one or two dozen new peo­ple for the SU cam­paign, but most of them dis­ap­pear after com­ing back from the SU.

Gold­en Times: What do you tell poten­tial mem­bers when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: It is true that we are far away from con­ti­nen­tal Europe, but that is not any­thing new for us. The idea of dis­tance is inside our islanders’ minds since we are born, that is why we are already adapt­ed to it. We know that we can­not trav­el to con­ti­nen­tal Europe by car or by train. We have to take a plane. You can reach the Span­ish main­land by boat, but it takes too long, so we direct­ly con­nect the idea of trav­el­ling with the idea of air­port and plane.

Gold­en Times: So it is hard to con­vince them to trav­el?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: We do not have to con­vince any­one to trav­el. Being far away is a hand­i­cap just up to a cer­tain point. Those who are moti­vat­ed to trav­el will do it any­way, and those who do not want would prob­a­bly not do it even if they lived in the main­land. We are one of the most touris­tic areas in Europe, which means we are well con­nect­ed with the main cities of the con­ti­nent: direct flights, com­pe­ti­tion which push­es prices down, flex­i­ble sched­ules and more. So accord­ing to that, being exot­ic and far away is an advan­tage. Beside this, we have direct flights all-year-round to almost every medi­um and big city in Unit­ed King­dom and Ger­many, and dur­ing win­ter sea­son, to the Nordic coun­tries too.

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Tra­di­tion­al Canary “Romería”, April 2012

Gold­en Times: That’s great!
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Fur­ther­more, you must know that, due to our periph­er­al con­di­tion, we pay 50 per cent less fare for tick­ets from and to any air­port in main­land Spain. We can reach Madrid and Barcelona for quite low prices, in some cas­es we even pay less to reach those cities by fly­ing than oth­er Spaniards who live in the main­land by bus, train or car. To con­clude, we do not have to extra-moti­vate our poten­tial mem­bers. They already know how the sit­u­a­tion is, what are the prob­lems and which the solu­tions.

Gold­en Times: Are there also pos­i­tive aspects from your geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion? If yes, which ones?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: The word “island” itself sounds exot­ic for those liv­ing in the main­land. And if you add open Atlantic Ocean, mild tem­per­a­tures all year long, amaz­ing flo­ra and fau­na, then it sounds even more attrac­tive. Both main cities of the Canary Islands have an impor­tant har­bour. Con­tain­ers are not the only valu­ables that have entered for cen­turies trough these har­bours, also peo­ple. This fact has made the char­ac­ter of the Canary Islanders to be open-mind­ed and tol­er­ant. Also the fact of being a touris­tic region has made pos­si­ble that locals get to know peo­ple com­ing from all over the world. Our geo­graph­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is also remark­able. The Canary Islands are a con­nec­tion point for three con­ti­nents: Europe, Africa and Amer­i­ca. Among our peo­ple you can find almost every nation­al­i­ty in the world. Locals and for­eign­ers live togeth­er and no sig­nif­i­cant xeno­pho­bic acts have ever raised up.

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Trip to Lan­zarote, April 2011

Gold­en Times: How much does trav­el­ling cost to Cen­tral Euro­pean loca­tions, such as Munich or Vien­na?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: From 200 to 400 Euro, it depends on which com­pa­ny you choose, and also if you mean only one way or round trip. As you may know, it also depends on the dates and what city you want to go exact­ly. Also, it may be cheap­er, although longer, to fly with a stop-over in Madrid or Barcelona.

Gold­en Times: Rough­ly how many for­eign mem­bers are attend­ing your events year year?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Well, if we are talk­ing about our Euro­pean events, around 65. For the past years we have been orga­niz­ing two events per year: a TSU with around 40 par­tic­i­pants and anoth­er event like YiA exchange or a train­ing with around 25 to 30 par­tic­i­pants. In all of them, we bare­ly had any oth­er Span­ish par­tic­i­pants, but all for­eign­ers.

Gold­en Times: Did you coop­er­ate in 2012 with oth­er anten­nae?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Dur­ing 2012 we signed many part 3 for dif­fer­ent YiA events with oth­er anten­nae. We also kept in con­tact with AEGEE-Yere­van, AEGEE-Peira­ias and AEGEE-Riga, as a fol­low-up of the exchange project that we organ­ised in Decem­ber 2011, and we also includ­ed Prague. Dur­ing the sum­mer, we organ­ised a TSU with Lan­zarote and The ARC train­ing, in coop­er­a­tion with the Acad­e­my and oth­er anten­nae, like AEGEE-Aachen and AEGEE-Pra­ha.

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Hik­ing in cen­tral Gran Canaria, May 2012

Gold­en Times: Excel­lent! Will you con­tin­ue these kind of coop­er­a­tions in 2013?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: For 2013 we are in con­tact with AEGEE-Barcelona, with the idea of organ­is­ing a TSU togeth­er. We also received some requests for exchanges, but we don’t have so many active mem­bers liv­ing in Las Pal­mas right now and we want to take it easy. We also want to orga­nize a Region­al Train­ing Course with AEGEE-Lan­zarote and AEGEE-Tener­ife. In gen­er­al, we nev­er stop the con­tact with oth­er anten­nae. In our region, we usu­al­ly coop­er­ate a lot to help each oth­er, we try to send mem­bers to Net­work Meet­ings and oth­er statu­to­ry events, we try to reply to any request that we receive from oth­ers and we keep in touch with our for­mer twin, AEGEE-Riga!

Gold­en Times: In gen­er­al, which inter­na­tion­al events are you plan­ning for 2013?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Through­out the cur­rent year 2013, we will hold three inter­na­tion­al events. Even if the fig­ure does not sound too promis­ing; the rea­son is that these three events are meant to be pret­ty ambi­tious. First­ly, we will orga­nize AEGEE-Las Pal­mas re-foundation’s 5th anniver­sary, where we intend to hold a series of activ­i­ties, a com­mem­o­ra­tive con­fer­ence and a ball. Then, of course, sum­mer will come togeth­er with our always-sought-after TSU, this time in coop­er­a­tion with AEGEE-Barcelona. This year’s crown­ing jew­el will be our EuroArab Case Study Trip, next Decem­ber. We are real­ly eager to organ­ise this CST, but if we do not get any grants in the end, we will try to organ­ise it in 2014. Apart from these inter­na­tion­al events, we will organ­ise an RTC and plen­ty of local activ­i­ties both for local and exchange stu­dents.

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Wel­come BBQ, Sep­tem­ber 2012

Gold­en Times: Do you some­times wish your anten­na was more cen­tral or do you enjoy being at the edge of Europe? Or do you also enjoy it?
AEGEE-Las Pal­mas: Of course, our ultra-periph­er­al loca­tion entails a series of dis­ad­van­tages when it comes to reach­ing Cen­tral or East­ern Europe. Above all for statu­to­ry events; we always have dif­fi­cul­ties on find­ing suit­able mem­bers will­ing to pay such high prices for the tick­ets for such a short peri­od. Oth­er­wise, we real­ly enjoy our unique cli­mate, people’s char­ac­ter, col­or­ful tra­di­tions, breath­tak­ing land­scapes, mixed cul­ture, music and gas­tron­o­my and every­thing else which our strate­gic geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion has made pos­si­ble.

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