Travelling with the Transsiberian railway from Moscow to the Baikal Lake – everyone has seen this on TV, many people dream about it. AEGEE-Moskva is making this dream reality every year. And every year it is truly legendary. Ksenia Lupanova, PR responsible of AEGEE-Moskva and main organizer of this year’s Transsiberian Dream TSU, told the Golden Times why no one should miss this event this year, which takes place from 19th of July till 3rd of August.

Ksenia Lupanova Transsib3
Ksenia Lupanova

Golden Times: What will be the highlights of this year’s edition of your famous TSU?
Ksenia: The route will be the same as every year. We start with five days in sleepless Moscow, then we will have the first night train to Kazan, a unique city, which is the capital of Tatar’s republic. We will have one more train to Ekaterinburg, an industrial spot on the boarder of Europe and Asia, where we will finally stop for normal beds and showers. After that the in my opinion best part of this TSU starts: three days by train in a row to Irkutsk. We will conserve the whole group in one wagon, they will be talking, chilling with typical AEGEE games, resting after our intense programme and preparing themselves to the gem of Siberia: the Baikal lake, where we will spend five days in a volunteers camp, specially organized for our group, just near the lake, with own banja – the Russian traditional sauna. For sure our participants will be surprised by the list of voluntary tasks, because they are totally untypical…

Golden Times: How is the group spirit during this event?
Ksenia: For sure, the participants will be our highlight. The Transsiberian Dream used to collect the craziest AEGEE people, ready for real challenge, going out of Europe, far away from rest on the beaches. Each of these Transsiberian TSU participants is unique, but together as a group they are proving the best AEGEE spirit in every single second.

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Be prepared for great adventures on the train!

Golden Times: How does it make you feel to see that your TSU is among the most popular Summer Universities this year?
Ksenia Lupanova: I was so happy to see ourselves in the Top 10 a few days ago, but of cause in the last week we won’t be able to hold this position, as all our lovely AEGEEans prefer to fill in their applications in the last moment and many will choose places in the South. However, I expect more applications than last year, which is great itself!

Golden Times: Did you make special PR?
Ksenia: No. I am with the Transsiberian Dream TSU already for the third time, since I joined AEGEE in 2012. And I honestly don’t remember that we have ever been doing special PR, we always got enough applicants, even with highest fee ever for a TSU and a hardcore programme. The event was just so cool itself, that after three years – the Transsiberian Dream was launched in 2009 by AEGEE-Sankt-Peterburg and AEGEE-Moskva – everybody was following the news about it. But I think it’s not really the best way just to sit on one’s ass and wait for applications. Many people still have a lot of questions about this trip, or doubts whether it is all worth it. I am glad to help anyone who has questions!

Happy participants on the Red Square in Moscow

Golden Times: What does organizing this event mean for you and your antenna?
Ksenia: Last summer something happened to me. I realized that after five SUs with different companies, topics and highlights in different spots of Europe, which was aegeeanly awesome, I will prefer not to participate in an SU this year, but to organize the Transsiberian Dream one more time. We concentrated also on PR for Russian organizers, because in order to make the the Transsiberian Dream happen, we need to have enough motivated and crazy organizers. So it turned out that after our New Year’s event Noviy God po-russki, our organisers’ team was sitting in a café, read the last evaluations and had no power even to eat donuts; but some people, who were originally not planning this trip, said, that they will be in the Transsiberian TSU Team. This was the first and the best highlight of this year!

This year's organisers
This year’s organisers

Golden Times: What makes your team so special?
Ksenia: I like about my team that it consist not only of AEGEE-Moskva members, but also of people from AEGEE-Paris, AEGEE-Kyiv and AEGEE-Sankt Peterburg, as Moscow collects all those people to work here! Moreover, I feel that with this team we can move to another level. Until now I always happened that although the Transsiberian Dream TSU is a cool event we never got perfect evaluations, as it is impossible to have a perfect meal or accommodation in the train. Now we can compensate this with new great ideas. I participated in the Summer University Project School in Izmir last month and got motivated by trainers and other participants. I can see how our creativity will move the Transsiberian Dream TSU to a new quality top. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not about beating the best rated Summer University of AEGEE-Catania, it is about challenging ourselves.

Ana Fernandez
Ana Fernandez, happy participant

Golden Times: This year you also cooperate with a working group, right?
Ksenia: This year we are cooperating with the Environmental Working Group, as we have the greenest way of transportation. We will have the possibility to explore and improve the Russian way of sustainability, a part of our TSU will take place in eco-park on Baikal lake and one board member of the Environmental Working Group, Dasha Onokhova, will be one of the organizers.

Golden Times: Will your antenna organize this type of SU forever?
Ksenia: It will exist as long as we will find organizers, because even for Russians it is a big and expensive trip. On the one hand I think it will be useful for AEGEE-Moskva to organize an SU just with a few trips around the Golden Ring – a ring of beautiful and ancient cities northeast of Moscow, with a longer programme in Moscow, but not going too far to the east. But this TSU is on the bucket list of almost all active and great AEGEE people, so I am wondering how we ever could stop it. We will see, what will happen next year, but this summer the Transsiberian Dream will rock AEGEE one more time, for sure!

More info:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Transsiberian-DREAM/107315289356377

 

And this is what former organisers and participants say about this TSU.

Vlado Leszczynskij, better knows as “Dr. Vlado” from AEGEE-Sankt Peterburg, first coordinator and creator of this event in 2009

Dr. Vlado, Transsiberain DREAM creator
Dr. Vlado

How was this marvellous SU idea created?
Vlado: The idea was in the air. During all my travels in Europe many people were asking me, if I ever was in Siberia or travelled by Transsiberian railway, and everybody was saying that it was their dream to do this. When we were discussing plans for an SU during the previous years, it was always someone who would say “Let’s go further to Siberia”, but there were always not enough resources and courage to make it. So one day this idea again came up and we made this dream come true.
How big interest was there for the Transsiberian Dream vol. 1?
Vlado: When we announced the SU many people didn’t believe that it will actually happen. Although the participation fee was twice bigger than usual one, the interest for the SU was high, on Agora people were lobbying others. After the pre-selection we got about 60 applications and we had only 20 places.
What places did you visit?
Vlado: We started in Saint Petersburg, then went to Moscow, then spent two days in Yekaterinburg and the final destination was Olkhon island on Baikal Lake – which was the true pearl of the whole trip. In total we spent four days and nights in trains, six hours in buses and one hour on a ferry. Once you went that far, you shouldn’t stop travelling – the main concept was that the journey should continue further. We made a special mailing list, aiming that people should discuss their travel plans after the SU ends: some people continued the journey till the very end of the railway in Vladivostok, many went to Mongolia and even to China.
So how was the atmosphere?
Vlado: Many AEGEE members had never left Europe before. Honestly, even none from the organizers had so deep in Siberia! That SU was a great journey to unexplored places for most of us. We had participants who had travelled all over the world, but never to Siberia.
What’s the most memorable story from first Transsiberian Dream?
Vlado: In my mind I was imagining the train part as the scariest one: imagine 33 people in the same sleeping carriage for two days and two nights in a row – it was the way from Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk – without proper shower. I was waiting to get a lot of complains. But everybody was saying that the train part was the coolest and craziest one, and it also made us closer to each other: you cannot escape from the train, so you are always together as a group. I’ve celebrated my 24th birthday in that train and it was one of the coolest moments for me. I haven’t been on other Transsiberian trips, but I think the main tradition that was set is to travel as far as your eye can see.

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In the middle of nowhere great things happen…

How was it to show real Russia to Europeans? Did the participants break some stereotypes?
Vlado: Everybody learned something new about Russia, because we were not only in capitals, we went to the very heart of the country. The participants could see how different Russia is and how diverse its cultural background is: for example, many people in the area of the Baikal lake don’t look like Europeans, they are more like Mongolians and they are not Christians. Also, the participants learned some typical Russian things: how to survive four days in a Russian train or how to live in the Russian countryside.
How was the cooperation with the other organisers?
Vlado: It couldn’t be possible without a team. I had a great team of people, who helped me and supported me a lot, especially Olga Basova and Irina Tveritneva. Olga and I sometimes called each other “Mama and Papa of the Transsiberian Dream”.
So, did your dream come true?
Vlado: Definitely. But I’m more happy that the tradition continues and now it’s going to be the sixth generation of crazy travellers who are going to try the Transsiberian and fulfill their dreams.

 

Alexianne Galea from AEGEE-Valletta was participant in the first Transsiberian Dream TSU. This is how the former Agora chairperson and Juridical Commission president remembers the trip.

Alexianne Galea
Alexianne Galea

How did you decide to join the Transsiberian Dream TSU?
Alexianne: The story of how I joined the Transsiberian Dream was quite simple – this has always been one of my dreams to do and one time as I was talking with Olga Basova, she informed me that they were planning to do it as a TSU. At the time, back in 2009, I had just left AEGEE after many years as a very active member who had never attended an SU. So, to some extent the TSU was my last “fun” event with AEGEE.
Tell us your personal feelings about the trip? What left the biggest impression?
Alexianne: The Transsiberian was more of a dream journey – it was an absolutely fabulous trip which has given me the opportunity to see many faces of Russia. I enjoyed it so much and often, I do recount the several interesting stories along the brilliant route. In particular, I was mesmerised by Lake Baikal – a truly stunning place and the whole train journey in itself was an experience which left me to push my boundaries further and come to a closer understanding of myself and of those around me.
So, did your dream come true?
Alexianne: So, yes my dream did come true and I’m looking forward to the next. Nowadays when I think back of the journey, I have such fond memories about it and I dream to do Transsiberian part 2 – from Irkutsk to Vladivostok!

 

Alin-Florin Calin, AEGEE-Europe Liaison Officer from Vienna, took part in the Transsiberian Dream TSU three years ago

Alin Fl
Alin-Florin Calin

How did you decide to join the Transsiberian Dream TSU?
Alin: The AEGEE Transsiberian Dream was one of the main reasons why I decided to join AEGEE. I dreamed about this trip already in high School for years. When I discovered AEGEE and heard about the possibility to explore Asia, I joined AEGEE immediately. It was a good motivation that led me to more experiences and great moments in the following years.
It’s not a typical Summer University, even for a TSU. Can you make a comparison?
Alin: It is almost impossible to compare but I give you some facts: The AEGEEans stuck together in total for almost 10.000 kilometers on railway and buses along uncountable places, ten time zones, three countries, two continents but zero minutes of boredom! This TSU means one of the best summers you can imagine and will ever have, full of laugh and amazement, group spirit and deprivation, adventure and exhaustion.

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Don’t hesitate and apply!

Tell us your personal feelings about the Transsiberian Dream TSU. What did you like most about the trip? What left the biggest impression?
Alin: There are many moments I miss and can call highlights. To mention some, the freaky European night in Moskva, the mornings in the train watching the sunrise over the Siberian desert landscape or the hours with the travel fellows next to a fireplace in the Mongolian steppe. With lots of adventure floating through your veins surviving this tour is likely possible. And take few luggage but enough time to experience the best summer of your life. This is something you do just once in your life at the best age..
Did you breake stereotypes about Russia during your trip?
Alin: Well, I broke stereotypes about many aspects and cultures in the train those weeks. You are together with a group of 30 friends from all over Europe and meet weird people on their way to noweher, so I definitely faced situations that have changed me and my attitude about the world. I won good friends from Russia and discovered how beautiful this huge country actually is.

Ksenia Lupanova Transsib
See you soon!

So, did your dream come true?
Alin: Indeed! After four years of dedication to our organisation on local and European level, the amazing SU Transsiberian Dream Volume 3 and travelling through Asia in summer 2011 was one of the best experiences I have ever had in AEGEE. I continued my route after the travel fellows split up in China. To sum up the trip I would use the slogan “never take the shortest but always the most beautiful way”. I travelled by train, bus, horse, boat, bike, Tuk Tuk, elephant, plane from Peterhof in St Petersburg to the Taj Mahal in Agra through countries like Russia, Mongolia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, or India. After those 7 weeks, 30 cities and 7 countries, I felt like a whole new person when I came back to Europe. I would recommend the opportunity of travelling via AEGEE Summer University Transsiberian Dream to everyone who is curious about exploring Asia and ready to make unforgettable memories of him or her own.

 

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