Maria Arends for NetCom: “I see potential in our network, but it may need a little push”

Maria Arends from AEGEE-Groningen (and AEGEE-Tarragona) is running for a position in the Network Commission. She was already on the line for this position during Spring Agora Rhein Neckar, but unfortunately she was not elected. One year later, she is running again, let’s discover why.

The AEGEEan: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

Maria: My name is María, I’m 24 years old, studying Spanish philology, but I have a broad interest in many different things, such as human rights and psychology, but also more practical things like hanging out with friends, cooking, travelling, learning and practicing languages, the combination of discussing politics in the wide sense of the word and some beers, and my biggest passion is Latin America. Furthermore, we could say that I’m a dreamer, an optimist, and an idealist.

The AEGEEan: You have been Patricia Anthony’s Subcommisioner. If elected would you like to work with the Nordic Stars or the Dutch network?

Maria: I expected that question! I don’t know that very well. I have had long talks about it also with Arsenis Tselengidis (AEGEE-Thessaloniki), Dominique Lessen (AEGEE-Leiden), and Patricia Anthony (AEGEE-Zaragoza), because I cannot seem to figure out the perfect solution, especially because I am the only candidate for either of these regions. I also believe that I could work with either of them, so now the question really comes down to what do I want? There are various reasons to mention for both of them: as a Subcommie I’ve been responsible for AEGEE-Durham, AEGEE-London, and AEGEE-Sheffield, I have been to both Nordic NWMs as a trainer and for NWM Tartu I even took on the programme as Patricia was not able to be there at that time, so I have met the other locals of the Nordic Stars as well. I have also been to NWM Leiden both this and last year, so I’ve met these locals too, and they are amazing as well. Besides that, they are geographically much closer, so visiting them in person would be much easier for everyone I guess. Lastly, it should be said that the locals that Dominique takes care of are completely different from the ones that Patricia works with, but both seem equally challenging and I know that both girls would provide me with an awesome knowledge transfer. In other words, if I would be elected, I would discuss it within the team and also let the locals decide.

The AEGEEan: My question concerns the gap between the local and European level. Would you consider implementing some ideas to reduce it? In case you already thought about it, what are the ideas you would like to be put to work?

Maria: No, I would not consider that. I think this is a Network Commissioner’s job and duty. So yes, I have thought about it, and it depends a bit on the locals for which I would responsible in the end, but for sure I would promote Regional Training Courses (as stated in my candidature, I want to organise at least three of them), promote events that take place, Network Meetings, but also encourage locals to organise events and training courses for various thematic bodies. Next to that, I would be at their disposal for any question they might have about the European level and I would pay special attention to the topic during the NWMs I would organise.

The AEGEEan: You have a lot of European level experience, but you were never in a local board. Do you think you can relate to the needs or the problems involving your locals?

 Maria: Define relate. No, I have not been in the board, as in AEGEE-Groningen this would be 40 to 60 hours per week, and I have considered this a couple of times, but the problem was always with my studies; after this year the field of my studies will not exist anymore in my university, so I needed to finish my Bachelor’s as soon as possible.

However, it’s not like I haven’t done anything instead. As you said, I have quite a bit of European level experience, but I have organised several events, both local and European, I advised and informed some local board members about different matters that play a role in the network, and I have talked to my friends who were in the board about things, and as a Subcommie I also learned a lot about it. So relate in the strict sense of the word where you actually mean: have you experienced what they experience? No, maybe not. But I do have experience and I have learnt a lot about the local level. And as mentioned before, I have quite a bit of spare time next year, so I am willing to give it my all.

 The AEGEEan: You are member both of AEGEE-Groningen and AEGEE-Tarragona. Can you tell us the story behind this double membership?

Maria: Once upon a time there was a girl who went to the Summer University of AEGEE-Tarragona, fell in love with it, came back the summer after, and couldn’t get rid of the butterflies she felt in her tummy whenever she was there and for their amazing members, so she decided to become a member.

It’s rather symbolic, really, but hey, I’m a proud AEGEE-Tarragona-member. And Groningen, I just happen to live here and I’m very thankful for what AEGEE-Groningen gave to me, and of course, the first local is like a first love, right?

The AEGEEan: United Kingdom and Ireland seems to be not very interest in AEGEE, how would you change this situation?

Maria: I would rephrase the question. The UK and Ireland do not know how much they are interested in AEGEE, but if only they were aware of this, they would love AEGEE just as much as, for example, Poland, Italy, or Turkey. Okay, maybe not entirely, but I believe it’s time that AEGEE really starts facing Euroscepticism. Europe is a wonderful continent with a lot of abilities, and AEGEE is the perfect tool to make youngsters see that. The Y Vote bus tour has taken the first step, but now we should keep people’s attention there and focus on the things that British students do like (career options) rather than what they do not, but I am confident that through non formal education we can make them like that as well. It will be quite a challenge though, as universities are not directly making it easy for pro-European organisations such as AEGEE to exist…

The AEGEEan: Can you explain a little bit more about your idea of mentorship?

Maria: The idea already exists (I don’t know whose it is), but great ideas should be kept. It includes twin antennae and cooperation in various ways, but the idea is that locals can (and should) learn from each other. As you see in big companies for example, where a manager builds one branch successfully gets to move on to do the same with a next branch, here it doesn’t mean changing the management, but learn from the management and share practices with each other.

The AEGEEan: Why should people choose you as NetCom?

 Maria: Because I have considered it deliberately, I ran for NetCom in Rhein-Neckar, but now I have had another year to think about it. I have had a year to be a Subcommissioner and see how it works, and as a member of the Identity Team and the Planning Team, I think I have a lot of relevant experience for being a NetCom. Furthermore, I am very passionate and this I can carry out to the locals. I see potential in our network, but I also see that it may need a little push. And I can push. Next to that I will have quite a lot of spare time next year, which I plan on investing in NetCom matters. Also I kindly invite everyone to take a look at my programme. That’s why.


Written by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Venezia