In November 2019 Verena Schmidt passed away. Far too young, at the age of 37. Verena was an energetic and high-spirited woman, who cared a lot for others and society. She was not only active in AEGEE, but also in the Green party in Germany. Among others, she was Speaker of the Human Rights Working Group, President of AEGEE-Tübingen and editor-in-chief of the AEGEE News Bulletin. The following interview appeared in the Golden Oldie, the predecessor of the Golden Times magazine, in September 2011. May her soul rest in peace.

Verena Schmidt (29) had a wide variety of jobs on European AEGEE level, especially in Working Groups and projects. She made her first steps on European level as Human Resources responsible of the Environmental Working Group in 2007/8,was then founding team member of the project “YOUrope needs YOU” and speaker of the Human Rights Working Group. Verena, who was in the board of AEGEE-Tübingen for several years, also likes publications a lot. So she joined the Key to Europe team in 2008, was Chief-editor of the NewsBulletin in 2008 and Chief-editor of the Members’ Manual in 2009. Verena was also member of the AEGEE25 celebration team member. Verena is still a student and lives in the beautiful city of Tübingen, near Stuttgart.

Golden Oldie: When and where were you born?
Verena: I was born in May 1982 in Backnang, a small city near Stuttgart. Not to be mixed up with Baghdad. Famous people were born there, at least for football fans: Ralf Rangnick, Julian Schieber and Andreas Hinkel.

Golden Oldie: Where and what did you study?
Verena: Politics and English Linguistics in Tübingen, which is also close to Stuttgart. While I like politics, I just want to get rid of linguistics…

Golden Oldie: Sorry to hear. When did you join AEGEE and how?
Verena: I joined AEGEE in October 2006 when I came back from two Erasmus semesters in Nottingham. A friend who had joined AEGEE told me about this European students organisation, and the local meeting that night.

Golden Oldie: Are you still member? If yes, of which antenna?
Verena: I paid my membership fees for 2011 to AEGEE-Tübingen. It always has been and always will be ‘my’ antenna.

Golden Oldie: You are best known for being involved in several WGs and projects, especially in the Environmental WG and the Human Rights WG, plus, doing a lot of publications. How come?
Verena: First I got elected in the board of AEGEE-Tübingen, which was quite a small antenna back in 2006, so everyone motivated joined the board. However, only a few months later I discovered the European level which seemed very appealing to me as I’d meet and work with other AEGEE members from all over Europe there. Also, I could gain experiences there which I couldn’t get on local level. During Agora Valletta I participated in a workshop which was run by the newly founded EnWG, which was quite interesting. So when the EnWG board was looking for someone to present it and the next flagship topic, SuFu, at the Network Meeting Karlsruhe in May 2007, I was ready to help. Soon afterwards, they had board elections and I dared to candidate.

Golden Oldie: Nice! Why did you join the Human Rights Working Group? Wasn’t one WG not enough?
Verena: Concerning HRWG, the participants of the European School 2 in Oviedo in 2008 had the task to make a SWOT analysis of all European level bodies of AEGEE. When we discussed the HRWG, I was sad to hear it’s so inactive, as it deals with a topic that should be dear to everyone and fits to AEGEE’s aims. So I hoped for a chance to reactivate this WG and candidated for the board in summer 2008.

Golden Oldie: And then you also took over some of AEGEE’s most prestigious publications!
Verena: When it comes to publications, I just love them, and AEGEE was a great way to make my first steps as an editor. So I first helped out as editor, but when the NewsBulletin team 2008 lacked a chief-editor and I got curious about the tasks of the one holding that position, I was told that I’d “just have to write a few emails” if I became chief-editor. Even though I already assumed that it’s not that simple, I just dared to try out myself.

Golden Oldie: Of all these, which were your favourite tasks?
Verena: My favorite tasks were the publications, for the simple reason of seeing a clear outcome and the great teamwork in some cases.

Golden Oldie: What where the biggest challenges, achievements and rewards of these tasks?
Verena: The biggest achievement was the NewsBulletin 2008, as many people liked it – which was the biggest reward. The Members Manual 2009 was also ok, even though it was far from perfect. The two biggest challenges for me were my involvement in AEGEE25 team, as I joined it as publications responsible but failed to coordinate the Key25 team, and the HRWG. Instead of making it one of the more active WGs, I couldn’t activate it, so it was deleted during Agora Alicante 2011.

Golden Oldie: Tell us a funny story of your AEGEE time.
Verena: I remember a Sunday afternoon in Pisa. I had attended a Network Meeting there which had just ended, but my flight back home was only on Monday morning, so I had some time on my own to see the city. After saying good-bye to everyone else at the train station, I went to the Leaning Tower and back to the station, wondering what to do, when I suddenly met two retired Canadian women who asked me the way to the Leaning Tower so I guided them all the way back to the tower. I never developed from a tourist to a tourist guide as quickly as in Pisa…

Golden Oldie: What was your favourite AEGEE event?
Verena: Having participated in more than 30 events, it’s not an easy choice, but I’d go for Agora Valletta and, if it counts as event, my first ever visit to the CD house in 2007, where I found out more about life in the CD house. The Agora Valletta was great because it was perfectly organised and the location of the hotels. It opened my eyes concerning all the projects and Working Groups, where I could become active – if only I’d have time to get active in all of them! The visit in the CD house was quite interesting as there was a Netcom/Academy meeting as far as I remember, so it was crowded with a good number of experienced AEGEE members and they were all so normal…

Golden Oldie: What were your best and worst moments in AEGEE?
Verena: Best: I was impressed how happy I could make my colleagues of the NewsBulletin team simply by giving them certificates about their involvement in creating this publication. Worst: learning that the HRWG was about to be deleted, and coming to the conclusion that the Key25, the 25th Anniversary Book, would never be done.

Golden Oldie: Which AEGEE member impressed you a lot?
Verena: In AEGEE I somehow got more and more the impression that it’s not so much about an individual but about a good team spirit. As soon as a team is working well together, they can reach outstanding results. One person alone would hardly reach them.

Golden Oldie: Any things you regret that you haven’t done them in AEGEE?
Verena: It might have helped me in the WGs if I had remained on local level longer before jumping on the European level, but who knows… Working for AEGEE-TV and organising another edition of Shooting Europe would have been cool as well. There was a time when I thought about going to CD, but in the end I guess I’m rather happy I decided against it. I like having a moment for myself every now and then, which is probably close to impossible in a crowded house such as the CD house.

Golden Oldie: Did AEGEE influence your career decision?
Verena: Definitely, as I focused on European Union in politics, so AEGEE as a European students organisation was a good practical add-on to that. As soon as I will have finished my studies, I’d like to work in the field of civic education, ideally telling young people how cool Europe actually is.

Golden Oldie: As a child, what did you dream to be your future job after growing up?
Verena: I dreamed about lots of jobs – cook, teacher, astronaut, gardener, taking care of the animals in a zoo, singer, author…

Golden Oldie: Are you single/married/married with 5 children?
Verena: Happy single. :)

Golden Oldie: Which languages do you speak?
Verena: German as mother tongue, English, basic French, and some words in Polish, Dutch, Danish and Italian.

Golden Oldie: Where do you live now? What do you like/dislike about your city?
Verena: I still live in Tübingen, where I will finally finish my studies next year. I like about my city that you often meet others accidentally, because it’s a rather small city with only 80,000 inhabitants. That’s also exactly what I dislike about it – depending on which person I see again and again. Like: The city centre also has a nice architecture. Dislike: bad train connections.

Golden Oldie: What are your best and least liked cities?
Verena: I love Berlin and Paris. Berlin, because it’s so diverse and vibrant; Paris, because it’s really nice. I can’t imagine living in for example Washington DC for a long time, because of its high humidity. However, moving to Nottingham I learned that every city has its charm no matter which reputation it has. When I moved there some local students made sure to tell us Erasmus students again and again that Nottingham was the most criminal city of Great Britain – and I survived perfectly save.

Golden Oldie: What is the furthest place you ever went to?
Verena: San Francisco. It was a family vacation.

Golden Oldie: Which country would you like to visit in the near future?
Verena: After my studies I’ll hopefully have the chance to do an Interrail tour through Europe – Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Denmark, Sweden, Baltic countries… and I’m thinking about Belarus, but not sure yet. However, I’d also love to escape Europe for some weeks to visit Australia, New Zealand and Japan one day.

Golden Oldie: What are your hobbies?
Verena: Watching movies and football, reading, AEGEE also was a kind of hobby as long as I was active there, travelling, learning new languages

Golden Oldie: What are you most afraid of?
Verena: Serious illnesses and diseases in general, which make you dependent on others. Maybe not afraid, but I am disgusted by slugs and snails. I am also afraid of regretting something when I’m too old to change it.

Golden Oldie: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Verena: Mustard and cheese.

Golden Oldie: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Verena: Quiet, pro-European, travelling, indecisive, online.