SUCT: Work hard, play hard

There is a very good proverb almost in every language which in English sounds like «repair your cart in December; in July your sledge remember», meaning if you want to get the result in the nearest future you have to start working on it now. The best result and a lot of improvements are the aims of the new Summer University Coordination Team (SUCT) elected at the amazing Autumn Agora Zaragoza 2013. So after only a little time to rest from Zaragaza they had an internal meeting in Brussels.

So these are the elected, self-called ‘Fantastic four’ – Francesca Russo, Project Manager (president of AEGEE-Padova), Gerardo Garcia Diaz, Publication Responsible (PR Responsible of AEGEE-Oviedo), Anna Pykhtina, PR-Responsible (PR Responsible of AEGEE-Kyiv) and Andrea Nostro, IT-Responsible (president of AEGEE-Reggio Calabria).

Cooking Lunch

Waffles, Belgian fries (yes, not French, not American but Belgian), beer, Grande Place and Manneken Pis – are things that the team did not have time to try or see. The most popular words that could be heard from the room during the long but productive meeting were: participants and organizers, quality and cooperation, improvements, implementations and lunch – “when is the lunch”?

Woken up by four alarm clocks early Sunday morning, the team gathered in the meeting room and started to brainstorm with sharing fears and expectations. New improvements are good, but everyone agreed that printing and delivering SU maps to locals on time is one of the more important things to do. Having a list with more than 25 things to discuss, they started with imagining what the perfect SU should look like. This was the most important thing for the team to be sure to move in the same direction and achieve the desirable result. The discussion lasted until late in the night. These are the nine main things you need to know:

1. Categories:

All activities in a Summer University, as usual, should be linked to the theme which is taken from one of the suggested categories. It doesn’t count as theme if there is only one or two activities fitting to it. (Not to confuse things, here is an example: Category = Environment, Theme = Recycling). You can find the categories below:

After eight hours of discussion

  • language
  • environment
  • training
  • local culture / history
  • sports
  • volunteering (work camps)
  • arts / creativity / culinary
  • politics / active participation
  • other / miscellaneous

2. The cooperation with European level bodies:

The collaboration with AEGEE’s working groups, projects and commissions is continuing! Each of them are ready to contribute by creating great content. The bodies will submit their information before the 13th of December, so every local can see what they could gain from a cooperation. After choosing the European Level body to work with, there will be a chat meeting with the respective body, the local and a SUCT representative.

3. Compulsory sessions:

The implementation of compulsory sessions was a good (but late) idea for the last Summer and caused a lot of controversy. For some organizers it was boring and easy to skip, but it was so sad to get «zero» on the evaluation, right? As the SU is still the tool (in most locals) for getting new members who might become active afterwards, a SU should be much more than only partying and sunbathing. The Comite Directeur will share materials on the six different topics and each organizer team will have to choose two. They will be connected to the Strategic Plan and EBM topic. The SUCT will prepare a guideline explaining how to present them and to make them into a useful and fun discussion, not a boring monologue. They will also make sure this is done on time this year.

4. Learning objectives:

As the SUCT wants to improve the content, the cooperation does not only consist of giving the organizers a set of possible activities, but also set ‘learning objectives’. Learning objectives define what the participants will take away from the SU and what they will learn during the two weeks experience (example: participants will increase their photography skills). When the locals send their proposals for SUs with website form, an external team will check the learning objectives part. Each WG or Project can propose some Learning Objectives to the SUs that wish to collaborate with them.

5. Improvement of low-evaluated SUs work:

To help locals whose SUs were badly evaluated, a mentorship system will be created. After research by the team, a letter will be sent with two options (1) collaboration with another local who will be the “coach”  or (2) obligatory attendance of SUPS -which will be organized in March. And if the local has a lack of Human Resources they can ask for extra organizers. These people will be checked by the SUCT to assure that they are acting as organizers and that they are improving the SU content, not using it as vacation.

6. Wider choice of SUs for people with disabilities:

AEGEEans who listened attentively to the presentation of Andrea at the Agora, will remember that one of his ideas was to support people with disabilities better and provide them with a wider choice of SUs they could attend. So this year the system is changed, and disabled people will be able to select among all the SUs and whether they will be selected is up to the organizers. Along with these applications will come a letter from the SUCT suggesting to think carefully about the acceptance of this participant. And useful information, guidelines and successful stories by locals who organised SUs open to disabled, will be attached as well.


7. Respect the work of organizers:

In order to avoid absurd complaints of new members who expected something different from a SU, a “disclaimer” will be created as a part of the application form.  Some organizers have already written and printed them by themselves. To decrease the amount of work, “disclaimer” will look like the “terms and conditions” form which each applicant has to read before sending their application. The main information about the format of the SU and a statement that all the organizers are volunteers will be included.

8. Problematic participants and their motivation letters:

Participant are not perfect and we love them because of that. Nevertheless, a lot of fresh members were not prepared and lied in their motivation letters about their amazing experience. There is a story about the guy who decided to leave the SU because he actually came to find a job and didn’t know that he has to stay with the group and take part in the activities. He took the place of someone who deserved that more, but how could organizers know that he was lying? Another problem is a blank motivation letter, an inappropriate one or a badly written one. It means that the outgoing responsible did not perform their task properly and that the applicant doesn’t pay much attention to the most important criteria of selection process.

Each outgoing responsible should check the truth written in a motivation letter and add a comment if it is needed. Andrea improved the panel for the SUCT so they will now easily find copy-pasted comments and letters so be smart and write your own and honest motivation. From now on, each motivation letter should have minimum of 500 characters. Other boxes cannot be empty either, but they won’t have a strict limitation. If these criteria are not filled, the application will not be sent.

9. Contests between participants and collaboration with our beloved AEGEEan:

Colorful feedback from participants is a great thing to receive, and the SUCT really loved the amazing summer pictures from the participants so this contest will continue! The rules of the photo- and video contest might change, but they will be posted online before the start of the first SU. And SU-stories in AEGEEan are a favorite for everyone, so this year the SUCT will create the contest between all of them and announce the results traditionally during the Autumn Agora in Cagliari.

All this new information might cause some discussions, but read it carefully and feel free to ask the SUCT any questions you might have.

Written by: Anna Pykhtina, PR-Responsible Summer University Coordination Team