Around three months ago AEGEE-Europe announced three new contacts in Russia. What do they expect from AEGEE? How are they doing? Are they ready to rock the network? The Golden Times spoke with their founders, Evgenii Potapov from contact Yaroslavl, Alina Kozlineeva from contact Yekaterinburg and Marina Ulybysheva from the contact in Tyumen.

Marina Ulybysheva2
Marina Ulybysheva, Contact Tyumen

GT: When and how did you hear about AEGEE for the first time?

Evgenii Potapov, Contact Yaroslavl: It was in spring 2014, a friend told me about AEGEE.

Alina Kozlineeva, Contact Yekaterinburg: I heard about AEGEE for the first time last summer.

Marina Ulybysheva, Contact Tyumen: I heard about it from a friend of mine almost two years ago.


GT: What was your very first impression of AEGEE? Was it fascinating, strange, complicated, something you always had been waiting for?

Evgenii: My first impression was the question: is it the same as Global Shapers? However then I learned it is not the same, absolutely!

Alina: It was and still is a little bit complicated.

Marina: I thought that AEGEE was a great opportunity of getting new experiences, traveling, meeting new people and making friends. When I found the SU of AEGEE-Leon about the topic of St. James’ Way, in which I took part, I realized that it was exactly what I needed that time!


Evgenii Potapov, Contact Yaroslavl

GT: How did you become contact? How was being in touch with people from AEGEE-Europe?

Evgenii: All the people I have been in contact with are very kind. Especially Network Commissioner Natalia Ivleva from AEGEE Voronezh. She helped us a lot.

Alina: I wrote to Network Director Holger Schmitt, he helped me very much. After that I also got in touch with Ivleva Natalia.

Marina: When I came back from that SU I started to think about founding a contact. But only last autumn it became reality. Of course it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of different people from AEGEE-Europe.


GT: When did you officially become contact?

Evgenii: In November.

Alina: We became contact on the 24th of November 2014.

Marina: On the 22nd of October.



GT: And what have you done since then?

Evgenii: Well, not much, I met some guys from AEGEE Sankt-Peterburg, built a small team in Yaroslavl and planned some stuff for the future. Now I am preparing to go to the Agora in order to become antenna.

Alina: Preparing the next steps in general.

Marina: We had two presentations at the two biggest universities of our city and started to run a group on the Russian social network Vkontakte. We also found some active persons, who are planning to take part in SUs this summer and have some really great ideas about the SU that we will organize next year in our city!


Tyumen city

GT: How many members do you have right now?

Evgenii: 11, however not all are registered in the website.

Alina: Three members.

Marina: There are seven registered members.


GT: Is it difficult to find members? How and where do you approach them? And how do they react?

Evgenii: It is not really difficult to find them. There are many students in our university. But now all the members are my friends, people who I can rely on. I simply tell them about AEGEE – mostly as an opportunity to travel and make friends.

Alina: It is not difficult.

Marina: Unfortunately it is difficult. Especially now when people aren’t so active in traveling because of the crisis and the bad political situation in the world. All registered members and active people who help us are my friends and my friends’ friends.


The Elias Cathedral of Yaroslavl

GT: Is it easy for students in your city to travel within Europe?

Evgenii: It is as hard as for students from other Russian cities.

Alina: The only complication for students is the financial matter, especially today.

Marina: Although Tyumen region is rich, it’s not easy now because of the crisis and the awful exchange rate.


GT: What will be the first activity that you want to organise in your city with AEGEE?

Evgenii: The very first event is going to be a presentation about AEGEE for the whole university, for all active students. Then I would like to make something like a job fair.

Marina: An SU, next year. But before of course we’ll have local meetings. And – well, we’ll see.


Inside the Elias Cathedral of Yaroslavl

GT: Why should AEGEE members from all over Europe visit you and your city?

Evgenii: Haha, probably because Yaroslavl is the second most beautiful city of Russia! It is very old and very unique. But since it is situated very close to Moscow, it is also a very modern city with a greatly developed infrastructure.

Alina: Yekaterinburg is not Moscow. If you want to see real Russia, you are welcome!

Marina: Tyumen is a gate to Siberia! It is a typical Russian city with splendid nature and a lot of small historical cities around. We also have hot springs! And according to the latest research, the happiest people in Russia live in Tyumen. So, if you come you’ll get opportunity to know them!


GT: How European-minded are the students in your city? What do people think if they hear it is a European students association?

Evgenii: The only association they have is the Global Shapers community. This is a respectable organisation. Europe was always well respected in Russia. All the wars and conflicts are just between politicians. People are all very kind and friendly.

Marina: It’s really popular for students in Tyumen to go to Europe to study for half a year or one year. It’s not easy, but students try to do it as much as possible. Also they’re active in volunteering jobs in Russia and Europe. So, I can say that students are European-minded enough. We’re in the middle between Asia and Europe that’s why people here are interested in East and West cultures. When they hear it is a European students association they become very curious about it. But at the moment they really worry about visa and money unfortunately.


Yaroslavl even made it to a banknote

GT: Right now there is a big conflict between Russia and the EU. Does it make it harder to get people interested in AEGEE?

Evgenii: No it doesn’t, I explained the reason in the previous question.

Alina: We don’t have any conflict. It is our governments that have it.

Marina: I can’t say that there is a conflict. I came back from Europe just one month ago and I didn’t feel it there at all. It’s more about politics and not about people and their attitude to each other. Whether it makes it harder to get people interested in AEGEE? Only because traveling is much more expensive than it was.


Tyumen Russia saviours church
The Russia saviours church in Tyumen

GT: What do you think about the topic “Russia and the EU” at the next European Planning Meeting in February in Burgos?

Evgenii: I copy-pasted my opinion from my EPM application. I got accepted, but I decided to keep some money for the Agora, because it is not really cheap to go to Spain. The question was: “How would you assess the current relationship between Europe and Russia?” My answer was: “The current situation between Europe, the USA and Russia is similar to the Cold War. But, nowadays it is a war of mass media and politicians. The worst thing for me as a student and consumer is ruble falling. It influences prices of all goods. There are two questions I want to be answered: why do most of European countries follow the point of view of the USA in this conflict and what is the main purpose of the sanctions? It seems like these sanctions have worse consequences for Europe than for Russia.

Alina: It is a very great opportunity to get acquainted with AEGEE, but I think that this topic is too subjective and some misunderstandings can happen.

Marina: I think it’s important to discuss such things and get to know what people really think and how they see this situation living in their countries. Because we can’t get the real view of what is happening now in the world from news. We should listen to ordinary people, not politicians.


GT: What can AEGEE do in this conflict?

Evgenii: Personally, I think youth is a power of every country. Youth is a source of all changes all around the world. We create ideas that are followed by projects, plans, acts. Besides, youth is the most various kind of people. Thus we can approach this conflict between Russia and Europe from different angles. One of these angles is mass media. Lots of people watch YouTube videos. I know AEGEE created its own channel. We can post there more videos and promote it, using well-known web-promoting tools. In my opinion AEGEE definitely can influence change in this situation. Youth is a very important part of society in general. Information is the most powerful weapon among social tools. First of all we can show our attitude towards the situation through our network and some special projects. For example, an annual European Students forum is a great opportunity to achieve our goal. Also our meetings and projects can show that this conflict doesn’t make people enemies to each other.

Marina: Meeting, discussing, keep being friends, organizing actions as AEGEE-Dresden did.


AEGEE promotion in Tyumen

GT: Are you coming to the European Planning Meeting in Burgos or to the Agora in Gijón?

Evgenii: I am coming to the Agora.

Alina: I am not sure.

Marina: Unfortunately no.


GT: A few words about you: how old are you, what do you study?

Evgenii: I am 21. I study telecommunications and am in the first year of my master’s program.

Alina: 27, I am a professor of French in the University.

Marina: I’m 24. I’ve got a master in Economics. But I’m working now as an English teacher at school.


Meet some of the members of the contact in Tyumen!

GT: What other hobbies do you have besides AEGEE?

Evgenii: I like many kinds of sports: basketball, running, table tennis, workout, cycling. Also I do enjoy watching TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory. Last year I studied English.

Alina: Sports, languages and working on my PhD thesis.

Marina: I do like traveling, playing the violin, playing in a theater, practicing yoga, learning Portuguese. Also I can say that my recent job is a kind of hobby. What else… I like reading and knitting especially during our long, long winters. I’m a happy person and AEGEE is one of my opportunities to share my happiness with people. I know that I can travel even with a little money, but I want people to do the same thing. I want them to become more open-minded and see how big and at the same time small this world is. I want them to find new friends, to learn about different countries not from the books or as tourists, but from locals’ point of view and to get new unforgettable experiences.