How European do people feel in Las Palmas, Porto or Sankt Peterburg? How do the AEGEE antennae in these cities cope with living on the edge of Europe? In the fifth part of the series “Living on the edge of Europe”, Ani Khachatryan, President of AEGEE-Yerevan, tells her experiences about living in the Armenian capital.

AEGEE-Yerevan celebrated its second anniversary in autumn 2012.

Golden Times: Let’s start with the basics: how many members do you have? And in what year was your antenna founded?
Ani Khachatryan: AEGEE-Yerevan was founded in autumn 2010 with just 10-12 members. Currently we have about 80 members which is a rather outstanding number for Armenian NGO reality. I can proudly say that our members are actively involved in our committees, working groups and project teams.

Golden Times: How European-minded are normal people and students in your city?
Ani: Year by year we are getting more and more Europeanized. Compared to other parts of Armenia, people living in Yerevan are European-minded, especially students and youth.

AEGEE-Yerevan mapGolden Times: Is it hard to find members?
Ani: The experience has shown that AEGEE-Yerevan mostly recruits new members thanks to local events, as we always try to involve as many youngsters as possible in our events. After participating once or twice to them, they are applying for membership. So it depends on us: more professional and interesting events, more members.

Golden Times: What do you tell potential members when they say: “AEGEE sounds nice, but all the events are far away…”
Ani: Looking back at AEGEE-Yerevan’s history, we have never faced such a problem. We realize that in an international organization networking and mobility play a great role in the further development of the organization, but taking into account our location, we do our best not to let our members get bored here and feel that magic spirit called AEGEE. Besides we are trying to keep our members always busy with local events, so they would not have time to think about European events… (joking)

Ani Khachatryan
Ani Khachatryan is the third President of AEGEE-Yerevan.

Golden Times: Are there also positive aspects from your geographical location?
Ani: We are a good destination for all travel enthusiasts with our mountains, the view to Mount Ararat, natural hot springs, endless forests and the sun, which even in winter time stops shining only at nights.

Golden Times: How much does travelling cost to Central European locations, such as Munich or Vienna?
Ani: For Central Europe, depending on the airlines, it can be starting from 350 to 500 Euros. We do hope that low-cost airlines will offer flights to Yerevan as well.

AEGEE-Yerevan members at the main square with the music fountains.

Golden Times: Is getting visa for events a big problem for your members?
Ani: Thanks to the recently signed visa facilitation agreement with the EU we can apply for Schengen visa with fewer documents and at a lower cost. So we are getting closer to Europe. Though even before the agreement we had no problems with visa.

Golden Times: Roughly how many foreign members are attending your events year year?
Ani: In 2012 we had a lot of ‘foreigner guests. We held an SU, a special event for AEGEE oldies and made an exchange with AEGEE-Athina. Besides, also individual AEGEEans visit us from time to time. Really roughly saying about 80 foreign members visited us in 2012.

Participants and organisers of the oldies Summer University in October 2012.

Golden Times: Did you cooperate in 2012 with other antennae?
Ani: In 2012 the cooperation with other antennae was mostly in the framework of the Youth in Action Programme. We had a bilingual exchange with AEGEE-Athina and a training course in cooperation with AEGEE-Oviedo.

Golden Times: Which international events are you planning for 2013?
Ani: No way without SU. Also we are looking forward to new Youth in Action trainings and exchanges. We also plan once again to organize a Model European Union. It’s just the beginning of the year, so we’ll see what else we can plan for AEGEEans.

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?
Ani (smiling): I guess our location makes us more exotic and mysterious, so we rather enjoy being at the edge of Europe. But wait! Who said that we are on the edge of Europe? Maybe Europe starts with us…