In the past two years Réka Salamon became one of the biggest names in AEGEE. Twice in a row she managed the project “Europe on Track”, which won the Charlemagne Youth Prize in May 2013. Next to be this, the AEGEE-Debrecen member was also Speaker of the Public Relation Committee – until today. And finally, at the spring Agora in Patra Réka nearly became President of AEGEE-Europe. In a thrilling election battle of three candidates she became a very close second, only a few votes were missing. The Golden Times asked her about the election experience and about her baby, the Europe on Track project.

Reka StrasbourgEYE_Birthday
At the final stop of Team Red in Strasbourg, Réka received a birthday cake!

Golden Times: About one year ago the Europe on Track project got the Charlemagne Youth prize. How do you remember the day?
​Réka Salamon: I remember the day very well. I was working on the morning of the award ceremony, arriving to Aachen late and actually missing the announcement of the winners. I couldn’t believe my ears when the others told me, but this positive amusement set a very nice atmosphere for the rest of my stay in Aachen – making up for the fact that I probably have missed one of the biggest moments of the whole project.

​​Golden Times: And how did you feel when the next winner was chosen a couple of weeks ago?
Réka: I wish I could have been in Aachen. But I was following the events online and I was happy to read about the great projects that won the prizes this year. However, I can’t escape this feeling that the winner of the first prize is a lot like the winning project of 2013. Only in an extended one-year version – check it out for yourselves!

​​Golden Times: Europe on Track II ended one month ago. Are you satisfied with the second edition of the project?
​Réka: I imagined we couldn’t win Charlemagne two years in a row, but the second edition would have deserved another prize as well! I am incredibly proud of the project and the amazing work the travellers have done​, we have evolved a lot since last year. The follow-up and evaluation phase has just started and I am positive that all the input collected from young people all over Europe will be a great guide for the newly elected MEPs and also for us in AEGEE to continue shaping the “Europe we want for our future”!

Reka Traintrip with the kids
The beginning of a great journey: both travel teams of Europe on Track II and Réka

​​Golden Times: How many places were visited during Europe on Track II? And how many people participated in the events at the different stops?
Réka: 28 AEGEE locals have organised Europe on Track events – or included a Europe on Track workshop in their organised events. I have been told by the travellers that the average number of people in the audience varied between 10 and 30. Some events even had over 50 participants. Combining these numbers with the online followers, the online surveys and the effective social media presence, the estimated outreach of the project is around 3000 people which surpassed the outreach of the first edition. And during the evaluation phase, we of course want to engage even more people!

Europe on Track Balloon campaign
Europe on Track Balloon campaign: people in different cities wrote what Europe is for them.

Golden Times: What were the absolute highlights of the second edition?
Réka: I personally was very much looking forward to the stop in Kyiv. For this event we joined forces with AEGEE’s Eastern Partnership Project. The European Parliamentary Elections Youth Event in Riga was also among the best ones, hosting MEP candidates, but also the first stop of Team Red in Orléans, holding a workshop on mobility for highschool students in cooperation with the Regional Europe Direct office. The travellers attended a great event also in Sofia which was a joint event of several youth organisations and the embassy; furthermore the team met the audience of Spring Agora Patra… I really cannot stop at a few events, and also it is not fair to pick a few, all the locals have done an amazing job and I am incredibly thankful for their contribution!

Golden Times: What could have been better?
Réka: We have improved a lot, but there are still minor flaws. Communication between the coordination team, the travellers and the locals is always a key element and I believe we have room for improvement especially here. We are planning to have a short evaluation meeting in Brussels in the beginning of July to work on the results and for a proper project analysis. And for more exciting news to come!

Europe on Track Pecs
Europe on Track stop in Pécs – on the screen the travel route of the two teams.

Golden Times: W​hat were the main topics of the stops?
Réka: The main topics aimed to mirror two important highlights of 2014: the new Erasmus+ programme ratified by the European Commission and of course the European Parliamentary Elections. Within these rather broad themes, we selected five subtopics – which were also aligned with AEGEE’s focus areas for 2014-2017 – to narrow down the information we wanted to channel and for the outcomes to be more concrete.

Golden Times: And how were the local events coordinated?
Réka: The local events all had one appointed person as local coordinator who was responsible for organising the event and they could choose one of the topics the event should focus on: Youth Mobility, Youth Employment, Youth Participation, Spreading Europtimism and the European Parliamentary Elections. This mean that the travellers presented this certain topic at the event, then opened up the discussion with the audience for feedback, opinions and recommendations.

Patra Europe on Track
Europe on Track meeting at Agora Patra

Golden Times: It looks like team Red had a much longer trip than team Blue. Is it true?
Réka: Team Red had a more intense travelling schedule than Team Blue, changing cities and sometimes countries almost every second day. This is again something to rethink for next time, not to exhaust the ambassadors too much. However, the difference in kilometres is a simple result of Team Red and the coordination team flying from Spring Agora Patra to Strasbourg to represent Europe on Track as the Charlemagne winner during the European Youth Event 2014 in May.

Golden Times: ​​How many people applied as travellers?
Réka: We received 64 applications – and eight more after the deadline.

Europe on Track Blue
More than 2000 people followed the trips of the two teams on Facebook. Team blue said Thanks!

Golden Times: That’s a lot! How difficult was it to choose the right ones?
Réka: It was incredibly hard to choose, especially after we narrowed them down to the final 12. Not only hard, it also felt very unfair as there were equally competent candidates. It was just a matter of places and InterRail passes we had for the project. The number of travellers is also a point worth considering for the possible next edition.

Golden Times: How come that you coordinated also Europe on Tack II?
Réka: During Agora Zaragoza I had a talk with the CD and was informed about the lack of candidates for the coordination team of Europe on Track. Since I was the one with the most experience – and my sense of responsibility for the project is something I cannot leave behind – I decided to apply again.

Europe on Track Belgrade
Team Red in Belgrade

Golden Times: What were the main differences for you between coordinating the first and the second edition?
Réka: The main difference was the time we had to arrange everything before the travelling period – three weeks for the first and six months for the second edition. I was relieved we had enough time to ensure the quality of the local events. The structure and management of the coordination team still has a lot to improve, but I already have a plan for how to make it work even better next time.

Golden Times: How did you actually coordinate the trips? Was everything done beforehand?
Réka: I started the active communication with the hosting locals in January in order to set up everything for April. Again we were faced with the usual delays and inevitable loss of information on the mailing lists, but still everything was ready and prepared by the time the travellers started their journey. Probably the hardest part is to align the events with the detailed train arrival and departure times. But the travellers of Europe on Track landed on time in over 95% of the time at all cities!

Golden Times: That’s amazing! Were some things done also spontaneously?
Réka: Of course there were some spontaneous street actions and university campus interviews as well, but my favourite is the Balloon Campaign.

Europe on Track Thessaloniki
Europe on Track stop in Thessaloniki

Golden Times: Will there be a Europe on Track III?
Réka: This is depending on our partnership with InterRail and the Activity Plan of the new CD. I will do my best to get both of these favouring the idea of Europe on Track 3, since the project is an obvious success and something AEGEE can be proud of.

Golden Times: If there will be a next time, what would be your recommendations? More travellers? Different routes?
Réka: The future plans and improvements will have to be discussed, so I cannot say anything with 100% certainty, except for that – if my new job allows – I want to finally travel next year!

Europe on Track in Strasbourg
Europe on Track stop in Strasbourg

Golden Times: What effect did coordinating this project for two years have on you?
Réka: Probably the strongest impact Europe on Track had on me is the belief that great ideas can be turned into reality and you should not let anything stop you. It taught me that hard work pays off, that keeping a cool head can solve literally any situations, it developed the creative chaos in my mind ​into the complex understanding and being meticulous about the smaller details, yet not losing sight of the bigger picture. Coordination for me is not delegating the tasks, but it is leading the team by example, be responsible for your own tasks, and always, always aim higher and try to do better. Well, most of this comes from my standard working mechanism and I guess it only got enhanced as the coordinator of the project.

Raka Salamon Hello brussels
Réka Salamon coordinated the project from the AEGEE-Europe headoffice in Brussels.

Golden Times: At Agora Patra you ran for the task of President of AEGEE-Europe and nearly won. What made you decide candidating?
Réka: It is kind of common knowledge that becoming a member of the Comité Directeur has been my dream and my main driving force since the beginning of my AEGEE life. Initially I wanted to run for CD to cover the fields of communications and maybe external relations. I decided to run for president because I believe AEGEE is in a crucial point of transformation nowadays. We are becoming key players on the advocacy and political field and undeniably we have developed a lot over the past two years. But I have also seen the struggle of the network to keep up with all the changes and I knew the new leadership has to put a strong emphasis on the speed of this development. We have to slow things down a little in Brussels and let the network catch up with the new identity of AEGEE.

Golden Times: How sad are you that you lost the election by a narrow margin?
Réka: I am content with the results of the elections showing half of the network wanted me to become president and this is far from disappointing. I believe in the cliché ‘everything happens for a reason’ and accordingly to this, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. At least not this time.

Golden Times: Is your AEGEE career over now or what’s next?
Réka: Some have asked if AEGEE is over for me, to which my answer is: of course not. See you all in Cagliari!

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