Being active in AEGEE is sometimes not easy – but ultimately worth it. A personal voyage through AEGEE – written by Shakira Rompf.

First, when I started my AEGEE “career” I was so damn enthusiastic, I really felt like I can change the world. A lot of people around me gave me the best insight to this organization I could’ve ever wished for. I never felt lost or was struggling with all our internal ongoings. Neither on local level, nor on European level.

I joined the Board of AEGEE-Heidelberg as Secretary General and I really loved my board position as it was tailored for me: administrative tasks, HR tasks and the ability to sign contracts on behalf of my beloved local.

First steps on the European stage

During Agora Catania, I spoke in front of a huge crowd of people for the first time in my life, starting during Agora Inspire – which was really touching, as people applauded when I said I joined the local board two months after my membership – and continuing in the closing plenary when I had to present the Twinning between AEGEE-Heidelberg and Kyiv! Speaking in front of so many people became immediately something like opium for me. Others are jumping out of a plane with a parachute – I am doing THIS to let the adrenaline kick in.

This Agora was the proof that European Level is my home, my place to be, the chance I have been waiting for my entire life.

Everything started to make sense. Changing my university, moving to Heidelberg, a city where I didn’t know anybody, some random meetings with special people who brought me to this association and the ones who made me stay!

Back to reality

Once the first hype was gone, the first of countless walls and challenges appeared and brought me back to earth. Took away this unconditional love, support, commitment and rose-colored glasses I wore back then.

Facing criticism even if I gave the best I could, need to improvise because people didn’t keep their word, lucky coincidences without them everything would have been super fucked up. In the end, I somehow – and I really don’t know how – managed. Why? Because of the people around me who supported me and calmed me down when it was very much needed.

At this point I thought it couldn’t get worse or more stressful at all. AEGEE thought: „Challenge accepted, you stupid little girl!“ and let me start planning the AEGEE-Heidelberg Gala-Ball 2018.

To be frank: what the hell was I thinking to do that?! I mean… seriously! People warned me that this is a bit too ambitious for our local, for myself, for my time resources. There were thousands of reasons why I should have given up on this plan, but one reason was enough for me to keep going and push away all doubts, warnings and fears: Even before I joined, I promised that this ball would happen again, no matter what.

In the end, it was worth all the pain, the countless nightmares, sleepless nights, hours of work I put in this event, endless calls with people all across Europe to facilitate high class content, negotiating with companies and locations, asking for support, hearing multiple times the sentence „No, we’re not supporting a youth organization, we are just supporting something useful!“  – or mentioning the favorite sentence I heard: „Students can pay for alcohol, so they can also pay for flowers!“, when I was asking some local gardeners for support – wow!

The Gala-Ball in Heidelberg

The mother-in-law effect

However, this evening of the 1st of June 2018 healed all my wounds and made me feel like I was really doing the right thing. After I finished suffering from all that went wrong and the emotional stress I had to face, there was no question whether I would do all of this again.

Of course I would.

At some point, especially after the end of my board term, I realized that the local level is not fulfilling me anymore. Also, because I could hardly let go on my board position as I loved it so much but couldn’t run for a second term due to time reasons.

I have to admit that working with me is a challenge. I expect myself to fulfill tasks perfectly and so I request from my teammates. That was the reason I was questioning everything my successor was doing and claimed all what was done differently from what I expected. I guess I must have acted like a wicked mother-in-law… It was hard for me – and it still is – to realize that not everyone is working on an equal level when it comes to resources or commitment.

Appreciation is the key

At this stage, one point was crucial for me not to give up on AEGEE: the appreciation. Especially of my Eastern Partnership Project Team and other people who are active on the European level. So many people told me that it is remarkable how much I know and what I did and will do in AEGEE, even if I had only been a member since 12 months.

My mentee during Agora Salerno put a super sweet postcard in my luggage before she left on Sunday morning with a couple of nice words and expressed her thankfulness for my help and guidance during her first Agora. Finding this card after waking up hungover, tired and emotionally stressed, made me sit down in the middle of our bungalow and start crying.

All of this makes me feel needed and appreciated.

To conclude, I found friends and soulmates – I have lost some of them again, but all of these experiences made me grow stronger than I ever thought I could be. I learned to apologize when I did something wrong or hurt people, regret things I have done, question myself what the hell I was thinking to do those things, but also experience forgiveness or learn to accept that people will not forgive my mistakes.

AEGEE will take care of you

In addition to that, I travelled to countries I never thought I would travel to. My parents and grandparents were asking whether it is safe to go there, why I am so curious about visiting these countries and who is joining my crazy trips across Europe. Sometimes I even received the question where some of those countries are that I am continuously speaking about!

The answer was always: Yes it is safe, my AEGEE family will take care of me, capable people will carry me through all problems that possibly appear and my travel buddies are always going to be by my side. I never expected that traveling together leads to such a close connection to those who accompany you.

Well…this is exactly the reason that keeps me active and still love this organization, even if I sometimes hate it!