Pink-blue bow for Den Haag

Meet the new contact of AEGEE-Europe in The Netherlands: Den Haag (in English – The Hague)!

 “The Hague, also called the International City of Peace and Justice, is a very suitable city for an AEGEE-local. (…) The fact that the Peace Palace, the Humanity House and the Clingendael Institute of International Relations are located in this city gives numerous opportunities to work together with institutions on thematics, attend lectures and workshops, and make ourselves known as a good partner to address the youth of the city. (…) AEGEE could be the link between those young students and all that The Hague has to offer when it comes to teaching them about international relations and human rights.” ( extract from the motivation letter to become a Contact)

The birth of this Contact is a result of the work of the NetCom Team for Dutch speaking locals, meaning Wieke van der Kroef, and her subcommissioners Mathieu Soete, Paul Smits and Marije Arentze.

Marije starts telling this story: “The day right after the Agora, it was my birthday, I received the request from the Faculty Board of the Campus Den Haag, part of Leiden University,with the question if we wanted to start an AEGEE-local there. Fortunately, the four of us stayed in Enschede a little longer, to celebrate the fact that we were chosen as a team and to brainstorm about some ideas for the upcoming year for Wieke’s Activity Plan. We directly started deliberating all possibilities, and making some ideas for cooperation with institutions in The Hague. So right there, while we were all having a big hangover from the Agora, the plans for an AEGEE-Europe contact in Den Haag began to materialise”.

Despite they did not have a thought-out strategy, they did effective guerrilla-promotion and it worked! “We went to Den Haag one afternoon in early September when the introduction festival took place. Paul brought two vertical banners from AEGEE-Enschede, I brought a banner from AEGEE-Leiden, some Summer University (SU) booklets and a map of the Network and Mathieu brought some Project Result Booklets and Key to Europe’s from the Comité Directeur-house. Two board members of AEGEE-Leiden, Boudewijn and Aida, joined us later on and we just tried to talk to as many students as possible and tell them about the work of AEGEE in an enthusiastic way. At the end of the day we had a list of around 30 interested people, and that list has been growing ever since” explains Marije.

Aron Miszlivetz, student of the Bachelor International Studies, and a fresh member, presents how promotion will continue: “Monday we will have a presentation right after the lecture of Dr. Griffiths, where we will explain what AEGEE is, why people should join, and how people can benefit from AEGEE. After that we hope a lot of people will sign in.” This professor appeared to be a big fan of AEGEE, as he recommended it to his students even without being asked to.

Esther van Tveen, also enrolled in the Bachelor of International Studies, points out one of the reasons why our association conquered her and has potential for development: “Our studies fits perfectly with the fields of actions and focus areas of AEGEE, so a lot of students have the right mindset to join AEGEE.”

Despite the city being seat of several international organisations, AEGEE covers a niche that has complements the rest: according to Zaynab Lasshab, “what makes AEGEE different from other organisations is that AEGEE focuses on youth. So AEGEE will be a complementary organisation in Den Haag, because we address the students, and student life is only just starting to develop here.” Plus, as Baykan Yilmaz expresses, “What makes us special is our big Network with antennae all over Europe. We are one of a kind.”

As you could have notice from the names, the interim board includes a diversity of nationalities: from Lithuanian to Hungarian, from Turkish to, of course, Dutch! This is an asset of the contact that could be the starting point for a thematic event. “I am Turkish and I have some experiences with the Turkish Embassy. I know that the Turkish government is making some steps to abolish visa restrictions for students and maybe we can provide our input. We could benefit from all the international institutions in Den Haag to raise the topic of visa problems and organise activities about it. An idea is to set up some kind of a relationship with Turkish locals. Ieva could do the same in Lithuania and Aron in Hungary,” explains Baykan.

Thematic events would not be the only reason to visit The Hague: Zaynab points out the beach and the green heart natural park, supported by Ester saying that: “we are unique because at the same time, there is beautiful nature just around the corner.” Ieva Punyte, with the enthusiasm of someone who has  been in town for just one month adds that “the people here are super friendly, really willing to help if you have a problem. It is really nice to be here, and it is very cosy (gezellig!). And Egbert concludes saying that “I am nice, Esther is smart, Aron looks good and The Hague is an awesome city!”

The future of AEGEE-Europe contact in Den Haag… quite a discussion took place about the name of the soon-to-be-established association. AEGEE-‘s-Gravenhage was the second option: this is the official, historical name of the city and it provides a certain cultural identity. “We decided to let the members vote upon this issue on the first local Agora, and now we are making sure that they are aware of the arguments from both sides in order for them to cast an informed vote,” explains Marije.

The name “Den Haag” resulted as winner: no one in The Hague uses the name ‘s-Gravenhage in a regular conversation and a lot of international students have never heard of it, let alone that they are able to pronounce it!

As you could see already from this article, team-work is a key component of this newly born antenna. In fact, when asked for suggestions about how to establish a Contact, they focus on people: “Find a couple of people and just go to sites and contact people. Spread the word! The more interested people you have, the more ideas you have to share” (Baykan). Also through their experience with AEGEE-Leiden, they can suggest to “Get a good “mama” (or daddy), a mentor from a more established local, who takes care of all the important stuff and makes sure you know what to do” (Egbert).

Becoming a contact antenna was the first step to cut the umbilical cord. Now, the future of AEGEE-Europe contact in Den Haag starts developing by itself and surely it will reach great destinations.

Written by Martina Zanero, AEGEE-Torino