Perfect organizer: mother, brother, best friend and psycologist

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There is a moment when you organize your first, second, third summer university and feel that you became so close with your participants as they are your own kids. You sacrifice your time, your nerves, even your personal life sometimes to make everything perfect and satisfy them. And at the same time you are ready to kill them all when they are asking you obvious questions.

We are all perfectionists and most of us are ready to die but organize the best Summer University ever so coffee and energizers become your best friends few days before and during the project. But you have to remember that physically you cannot control everything and stay awake 24 hours  7 days a week. Your health is more important than anything else. It’s possible to have a rest during SU. Shocked? Following advices might help :)

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Be the team

 This is the most obvious but nevertheless the most useful advice. Usually, while submitting your Summer University during the winter holidays, active members already  gather to discuss the up-coming tasks and deadlines. However, some of them might change their plans, the team of coordinators might stay the same.

During following months their task is to build the team (and become friends) till participants rely. Spending time together after SU-meetings, checking places to show the guests and even try ice-breaking games will help you. The more time you spend together – the better it is. During the 2 exhausting weeks every team member has to feel that it’s possible to rely on other team members and pass the responsibilities if needed.

Make sure the whole team knows about the changes

Be sure that you and the rest of the team know the programme, the changes and also the routes and the places where participants can buy food, charge the phone, find WI-FI, drugstores and anything they need. It’s you, not AEGEE-Google organize Summer University.  What’s more, do not forget to tell about the last minute changes to other team members. It happened that organizers didn’t have each other mobile numbers till the Summer University started – to avoid it we suggest the main coordinator print out detailed programme of SU with all numbers and addresses.

Daily meetings

How to make sure that everyone knows about changes? Sending messages, talking to each organizer.. or gathering in the evening to talk about the day and prepare for the next one? Daily meetings with all organizers  will take at least half an hour, but highly effective. It’s perfect opportunity to discuss the good and bad things about the day, to complain, to praise someone and most important to motivate the team. If you have doubts that it’s impossible as there is no time for it, we suggest you to combine them with dinner and discuss everything while participants are busy with eating. Moreover you can use this time for writing the programme of the following day on the flipcharts.

Use “Day-Responsible” system

Being the main coordinator is not easy at all. Too much to think about, too much to worry about. The “Day-Responsible” system is great example of successful delegation of responsibilities.  Every evening the main coordinator can ask two of organizers to be Day Responsible, usually one of them more experienced than the other one. They are going to follow all the programme and check that everything goes according to the initial plan and counting participants to make sure than no one is lost. Other organizers meanwhile are spending more time with participants, playing ice-breaking games and socializing, usually helping after the party when it’s time to go.  Another good thing about being Day Responsible is that after you can have your free time!

Have a day off!

There is a moment in the middle of any Summer University when any organizer feels that he needs to take his time off. Until the catastrophe happens, it’s better to give the person the possibility to spend some hours without AEGEE-people. Some organizers simply sleep and it’s one of the best thing you can do, others prefer to come back home and do something from their daily routine. Even drinking coffee in a quiet place without participants around you will help you calm down and come back to the group fresh and motivated.

 

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Explain city/country customs and traditions

There are many things in your city/country that you and locals got used to. However, of them might be shocking for participants coming from different countries, having different background and traditions. For example in Ukraine, Russia and some other countries, there are special small yellow buses where you can ask the passengers to pass the money to the driver and have to shout in order to take off at the stop you need. Knowing these unique traditions might help your participants to adapt to the circumstances faster.

Do not discuss problems in front of participants

It happened: one of the participant got lost/vegetarian got food with meat/you couldn’t enter the club you have arrangement in advance with – some of the organizers failed. And in this exact critical moment everyone need to focus on the solution, not starting to argue in front of participants. Even when you use your native language, your face and tone of the voice will tell everything. Thus, never make it on public.

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If you have unsolved problems, ask participants for advices

Giving participants a right to choose might be tricky – what if they divide 50/50 and start to argue? On the other hand, there are always more experienced participants, leaders of the groups, who you can ask for advice for. And for example it’s better to ask participants what they prefer to do if it rains – to make calm evening with movies and games or to take umbrellas and go to party.

Remember they are adults. Let them go if they really want to

Everyone expects something from their Summer University, especially from the first one. And unfortunately all sending locals prepare their members to intense programme, sleeping in one gym all together, gossip box and other rules of the project. It might happen that participant will ask organizers to give him some days off,  to spend time separately from the group or even leave. Do not take it personally and talk to this person to understand the reason of his strange behaviour. As organizer you can set the rules and ask them to choose.  But you also need to remember that they are adults, so  if they want to leave, maybe it’s better for everyone?

Have fun as well

The most difficult for organizers – to have as much fun as participants! And it’s possible if you have a great team and can be friends with participants. This is your summer as well, enjoy it!

Let this summer be #summerofyourlife

P.S. And speak English!

Special thanks to When You Are in AEGEE creafors for permission to use the pictures!

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Summerly yours,

Anna, Francesca, Gerardo, Kathrin, Tercio.