“Use your Tongue… Eat and Speak!” this year AEGEE-Torino’s Summer University (SU) was such an amazing event that I feel the need to share it. But I don’t want to bore you with how cool it was being there, I want to tell you which where the key elements that let a small antenna make such a good SU.
Before talking about the SU though, I should tell you how AEGEE-Torino selected its amazing participants. Every member rated from one to five the motivation letters based on seven criteria (the SU theme was Italian language and cuisine):
-Desire of learning Italian and Italian culture
-Curiousity towards Turin
-Curiousity towards other cultures
-Curiousity towards Italian cuisine
-Level of English (to be sure it wasn’t zero)
-Will to party
-Is there a person behind this motivation or is it just filled with what we want to hear?
Reading carefully and rating 62 motivation letters took a while, but it was not over because the 25 participants that came up where highly unbalanced both by nationalities and by gender. Therefore a discussion on all the “close cases” was needed: a Facebook group with all the likely candidates was created and e-mails were sent to those who where not in it, this way the board managed to get to know them better and finish the selection.
The whole process took from three to five weeks, but I assure you that the group that emerged from it was the best one I’ve ever seen in any international exchange: there were all type of nationalities and personalities, but during the SU we all became a “big family”.
The SU opened on an evening with a speech by Vittorio La Monica (AEGEE-Torino vice-president) introducing AEGEE-Torino, all the organizers and giving a brief overview of their work. This was a key point to let the new AEGEE members understand where they were, what they should have expected and prevent the mistaking of AEGEE for a travel agency. The mood was set.
Help them bond
The first evening was all about the classical ice-breaking and name games, than the organizers carefully switched day activities between activities with the whole group and activities in small groups (the small groups were decided by the organizers themselves and were always changing). This helped everybody bond easier in smaller groups, while never losing the community feeling. The majority of the parties where held at the house, or at least where only participants and organisers could go. This relative exclusiness helped creating a space-time distortion in which only the SU and us existed, a space-time we as group “owned” and felt at home in.
The Italian course
Among the participants there were all different kinds of levels of Italian and we all know how difficult it is to learn stuff when you lack sleep. In order to cope with this difficulties the language course was made to be as dynamic and active as possible: there were dialog to reproduce, songs to learn and sing together, guessing games to distinguish false and true word “friends”, hangman game to get a feel of the abundance of letters in Italian and other things.
I personally found the first mini-lesson a stroke of genius and I totally want to share it: the participants were divided in three groups and made to work together in order to find Italian acronyms (if they didn’t knew any Italian words they could say something that sounded Italian to them and the teacher would help find a similar Italian word). By doing this, they had quite a pool of new words from which to pick and we made them choose which one they would be the Godfather of. The Godfathers of a world had to teach it to the others by using it as much as possible during the whole SU. People were shouting “Madonna!” (“Holy Mother!” it’s an exclamation) or “Bambola!” (a funny way to say “Babe!”) all SU! The course also included the making of pizza and some cultural lessons such as Turin’s architecture and Italian Television history.
Parties, Excursions and Stuff
Obviously there were also parties and a lot of excursions. We had film-character costumes contest, karaoke, white T-shirt party, aperitivo and disco in front of an artificial lake, chill out all night in Valentino’s park (close to the river), night view over Turin from Europa park (a high-ground one). We did both bike and on foot tours of Turin and for the optional activity we went to San Fruttuoso (the fantastic place in Alev’s photo). After the SU we kept writing to each other and lots of us started travelling to meet up, our Facebook private group is filled weekly with new photos of participants/organizers hanging out in some city around Europe.
So to end this I’ll sum the message up: activities are important and you should invest time in them, but remember that they are just the surface. What really matters is the group you’re building and the message of European community you’re giving.
Written by Luca Lombardo, AEGEE-Torino
Featured Picture by David Meckelburg, AEGEE-Maastricht