London: city of the Big Ben, Buckingham’s palace and since recently… AEGEE! London is one of the youngest contacts within our network. Youngest in its current form that is, because AEGEE-London actually existed before; it was already founded in 1995 but unfortunately died a silent death. Luckily, Eszter Bango (President and Project Management Director) and Maarten Veldmans (Foreign Relations and European Questions Director ) revived it! AEGEE London is back and stronger than ever, promoting multiculturalism in one of the liveliest cities in Europe.
Eszter: I was looking for an AEGEE local in London when I came to live in London, but to my surprise it didn’t exist. I sent e-mails to other AEGEE-contacts asking why. I met with network commissioner Wieke van der Kroef and AEGEE-Sheffield to get more information about establishing an AEGEE-Contact. Things really started to get rolling when I met with Stefan Nikolic (Vice President, Secretary and Human Resources Director) and Maarten. They helped me get a support letter from the local University, which I could not do myself because I am not a student (I work in London).
Maarten: I am Dutch but I study in London. When I came here in September 2012 I got the same idea as Eszter: starting an antenna here. I checked out the conditions, made a plan and e-mailed the CD. Luis brought me into contact with Wieke, who in turn connected me to Eszter, making the circle round again. We had some difficulties, like the University not granting us the needed support letter. Luckily, my school (London school of economics) did express their support so we could start working. Stefan van Hult helped us get enough board members and from then on we really made progress. We have a great team with a common goal: esthablishing a great antenna and keeping it alive and kicking. The biggest challenge for us is to find Brits in their bachelor studies willing to contribute.
Eszter: indeed, there are not too many British people in London: according to the latest researches only 40% of the london population actually is British. But what does ‘’British’’ means exactly? Coming from a British father and mother? British grandma and grandpa? What about bbc (British born Chinese)? Are they British? We are talking about London her: one of the most international cities in Europe. Perhaps in the whole world as well…
Where do you guys stand at the moment?
Eszter: we are a Contact, we need to sign the statue at Agora in Mannheim and then we are in!
What are your future goals and plans?
Eszter: we really want to get the right people on board. Also, in autumn we are doing a project called Euro scepticism. This is a project that deals with scepticism people might have about Europe and multiculturalism. We will organize discussions, offer a platform for exchange of opinions and host a training course to raise awareness on active European citizenship. We dicuss for example what kind of scepticism there is (hard versus soft, policitical versus economical etc). We also look at the influence of media, economic insecurity, cultural treat and much more.
Maarten: We would love to organize events on the European level in the near future, but for now we focus on mobilising people on the local level. We are still in the start-up phase of course but we are optimistic about the future of the Contact in London. After all: we live in a beautiful, lively, diverse and geographically ideal city.
What makes AEGEE London different from any other AEGEE local?
Eszter: London’s universities have a very diverse student body. This gives us a unique opportunity to not only connect the different London students but also connect London’s student with the rest of Europe.
Stefan: What also makes us different is that we work together with human rights organisations from the Hult business school. We have a great balance between an professional and educational character on the one hand and an informal and fun character on the other hand.
Anything else we absolutely must know about the new AEGEE-Europe Contact in London?
Eszter: The AEGEE-Europe contact in London has an extraordinary strong multicultural character which gives us a unique position in Europe. And London is the heart of Europe and economically flourishing so everybody comes here: “the capitalism really can live and raise in London”, giving our Contact a great chance of being a strong local!
Maarten: and… we wil most likely organize an introduction party soon, so keep an eye out for that!
Written bij Maartje Natrop, AEGEE-Utrecht
Featured image source: London SNAP