Paolo Santoni (43) was for many years the heart and soul of AEGEE-Firenze. He was 10 years in the antenna’s board, of which he was three years President. In this time he organised many events and Summer Universities. However, this was not enough for him. Paolo also founded AEGEE-Siena and was first President of the antenna. He also saved AEGEE-Pisa from deletion. Paolo, one of the most legendary Italian AEGEE members ever, works as analyst programmer for Banca MPS in Florence.

Golden Oldie: When and where were you born?

Paolo Santoni: I was born in Firenze on 15th of June 1967.


Golden Oldie: Where and what did you study?

Paolo Santoni: I always studied in Firenze. My first specialization was “Accountancy and computer programming” – that is why I started to work for a bank as a computer scientist. Then I graduated in Political Science, studying the whole term while working.


Golden Oldie: When did you join AEGEE and how?

Paolo Santoni: It was 1997, when I was sitting in a bar where usually Erasmus students meet. I saw strange guys proposing something to the customers regarding a certain students association of which I never heard before. One of them started to talk with me, but I told I was not interested. So she said:  “So you are not interesting in going for a two-week meeting in summer with a group of international students in a European city for a price of 120 Euro???” One week later I already had my first AEGEE card!


Golden Oldie: Are you still member? If yes, of which antenna?

Paolo Santoni: Yes. I am honorary member of AEGEE-Firenze.


Golden Oldie: You are best known for being involved in AEGEE-Firenze over a period of ten years, being in all kind of board positions. How come?

Paolo Santoni: It was ten years of very busy times in AEGEE, but still the time that I will always remember as a great time!  Nothing was planned, everything happened very spontaneously. I started as treasurer, because I was working in a bank. For my studies and my affinity to figures I was the perfect person as treasurer. After several years as treasurer finally the members of AEGEE-Firenze convinced me to become president. At the beginning I didn’t want and was very scared of the position. Then I got used to it and only after three years I decided to quit, in order to be able to dedicate more time to AEGEE in Siena and Pisa. In fact I was president in both, AEGEE-Siena and AEGEE-Pisa, and I started the formula of a Travelling Summer University in the three Tuscan cities. In 2005 we set up the longest AEGEE event of the year with a TSU between Firenze, Pisa and Siena, which lasted 22 days!


Golden Oldie: Sounds great! What where the biggest challenges of these tasks?

Paolo Santoni: The biggest challenges in these years were the organisation of three big events. 2001: Socrates Action Day with about 140 participants. 2002: the 10th Anniversary of AEGEE-Firenze with about 125 participants. 2004: the post Agora event after the Fall Agora in Torino with 110 participants. Apart from these events the real annual challenge was to make the Summer University in Firenze happen. Hosting 30 participants in an expensive tourist city for a very low fee and almost no support from public institutions was a small miracle every year.


Golden Oldie: What were the greatest rewards?

Paolo Santoni: The most rewarding things were: whenever a new member was coming to Firenze for a Summer University and find him or her active in an antenna around Europe after few months, maybe with a board position, this was a fantastic feeling. It was also great to see European framework events like European Day of Languages (EDL), which I strongly wanted to organise for the first time in Firenze in 2002 and did it again for next 2 years. They became a habit for AEGEE-Firenze – every year with a different organising team. Next year it will be our 10th edition.


Golden Oldie: You also saved AEGEE-Pisa and founded AEGEE-Siena? Why?

Paolo Santoni: Actually AEGEE-Siena was the hardest job in AEGEE ever done by me! At that time I was often going to Siena for work and I saw how nice students structures the city has. I said: why not creating AEGEE in a place like this? However, people from Siena are quite closed and far from having a European vision. Therefore it was hard to establish a contact there. It was also challenging to fulfil all criteria to upgrade to contact antenna and finally to become antenna with the above mentioned TSU in 2005. AEGEE-Pisa exists since the mid 90ies, I got involved there in 2001 when AEGEE-Pisa was declared cancelled, because of a total lack of activities. I was able to save it with the help of  the CD and NetCom. In 2005, again after a period of lack of activities and zero members’ growth, I became president with a brand new group of people in the board. In four months the antenna grew from four members to 85!


Golden Oldie: Impressive! Tell us a funny story of your AEGEE time.

Paolo Santoni: One of the funniest happenings was during the SU in Salamanca in 2000. At that time I used to teach Salsa dancing also in AEGEE events. One afternoon we had no Spanish lessons due to the vacancy of a teacher, so we decided with the whole group to go to Placa Mayor, the main square of Salamanca. With the help of a portable stereo I gave a lesson of salsa right in that marvellous square with a lot of tourist and normal citizens that joined the group.


Golden Oldie: What was your favourite AEGEE event?

Paolo Santoni: Difficult to say. I remember with great pleasure the Agora in Barcelona in 1999, the SU in Sevilla in the same year, the 10th Anniversary of AEGEE-Roma on Ventotene Island in 2001 and the SU of Firenze in 1998, 2000 and 2002.


Golden Oldie: What were your best and worst moments in AEGEE?

Paolo Santoni: Probably the best moment ever was signing of Convention d’Adhesion for AEGEE-Siena at Agora Torino in 2004. The worst moment was the failure in organising the first Summer University Project School in 2002.


Golden Oldie: Which AEGEE member impressed you a lot?

Paolo Santoni: If we are talking about local level, of course Lapo Filistrucchi, former president of AEGEE-Firenze, who was somehow my teacher in AEGEE. On European level there are many, but I would like to mention very special people like: Gunnar Erth, Nicola Rega, Olivier Genkin, Silvia Baita and Koen Berden.


Golden Oldie: Any things you regret that you haven’t done them in AEGEE?

Paolo Santoni: Probably the fact that I never tried for a European position.


Golden Oldie: Did AEGEE influence your career decision?

Paolo Santoni: No, actually not. It influences many other things in my life except my job career.


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

Paolo Santoni: I had many strange ideas, but the most frequent was to work in a shop to sell and produce fresh pasta.


Golden Oldie: What are you doing now as main occupation?

Paolo Santoni: After 25 working years I am still working in the same bank in a department for informatics developing. Recently I joined the directing career.


Golden Oldie: Are you single/married/married with 5 children?

Paolo Santoni: I met Kasia Kaczor for first time in the SU of Firenze and since 2003 we are always together. We got married  in 2007, still without babies.


Golden Oldie: Which languages do you speak?

Paolo Santoni: Apart from Italian and English, I speak a bit of Spanish and German as well.


Golden Oldie: Where do you live now? What do you like/dislike about your city?

Paolo Santoni: I am still living in Firenze, despite all the problems with traffic and air pollution I deeply like to live in a human-sized city like this.


Golden Oldie: What are your best and least liked cities?

Paolo Santoni: The best city in Europe for me is Istanbul, Sevilla as well. The worst is Dublin.


Golden Oldie: What is the furthest place you ever went to?

Paolo Santoni: It was California, when I was studying at U.S.I.University of  San Diego.


Golden Oldie: Which country would you like to visit in the near future?

Paolo Santoni: For sure Cuba and Mexico.


Golden Oldie: What are your hobbies?

Paolo Santoni: Definitely AEGEE, and when my job lets me free I like to travel a lot.


Golden Oldie: What are you most afraid of?

Paolo Santoni: Somehow the most scaring thing is the actual political situation in my country and the world-wide economical crisis that is still affecting all countries and projects an invisible black shadow on our future.


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

Paolo Santoni: Meat and salad, but a good wine too!


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

Paolo Santoni: Talkative, friendly, well-organised, realistic, reasonable.