Local of the Month AEGEE-Leiden: “The strength of our local is definitely formed by our members!”

In 1985 Leiden was among the founding locals of AEGEE, and ever after it has never stopped to exist or amaze the Network. Last May they didn’t only organize a very successful Week of Europe to gain attention for the European Elections, but next to that they also managed to organise a NWM in April. Reason enough to name them the Local of the Month for May. The AEGEEan talked to the Dutch local to find out more about their local, activities and of course the main reason for the nomination: the Week of Europe, visited by the prime-minister of the Netherlands! 

Currently, the local has about 200 members, which they keep active by involving them in everything AEGEE-Leiden does, either by taking part in one of the eleven committees AEGEE-Leiden has or being a part of project teams like the team that organized the Spring NWM or the Week of Europe. Next to this, the existence of fraternities/sororities in the local also helps, since this way members are part of a group of friends and therefore more likely to come to events. “The strength of our local is definitely formed by our members”, says Sandrine Lafay (European Affairs Officer in the board of AEGEE-Leiden). “They are active on the local and European level, they are enthusiastic and they are capable of organising great things!”

One of the things the local did to keep members interested in the European Level is the establishment of a committee which every month organizes an activity contributing to the Action Agenda of AEGEE-Europe. “In May for example we organised a wheel-chair race”, Sandrine says. “This month we are organising a thematic evening about voluntary work that can be done in Leiden, with different organisations telling us how we can contribute to their goals.”  Next to the committee, the local also has individual members to the European Level, like Marije Arentze, who was content manager of EBM Lublin, and Casper Renting, who was one of the election observers in Ukraine.

A good example of this is the Week of Europe, which took place from 6 – 9 May and had the goal to convince students to cast their vote during the elections for the European Parliament. During the week, the project team of AEGEE-Leiden, consisting of eight enthusiastic members, was supported by other students and study associations in Leiden, which took up some of the activities. “We wanted to create a program that would speak to a lot of different people”, Sandrine says. “Therefore we offered activities that focused on the institutions of the European Union, but also activities that focused on European culture, like a lecture about the history of European music. Next to serious activities, we organised an European Party and, in cooperation with two large student associations, we could offer an European Menu in their restaurants.”

The week started with the official opening ceremony, including an interactive debate between Eurosceptics and Europhiles about controversial subjects. The day after activities based on the theme “The Europe of Yesterday” were organized, namely a lecture about the history of democracy, a carsh course about basic rules and institutions, musical presentation, documentary, literature evening and the European Party. The day after, the theme changed to “The Europe of Today” and there were several presentations, a Green Office workshop and a debate with members of the European Parliament organised. The last day carried the theme ‘The Future of Europe’, and consisted of a lecture, a debate and the final speech and Q & A by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

All in all, the week was a great success, with the activities being visited by about 870 people, although within this number some people are counted double since they visited multiple activities. “When our team looks back on the Week of Europe, we do so with a lot of happiness”, Sandrine says. “Organising this event took us a lot of time and it was great to see all the things you wrote down happening in real life! We handled everything really well and had a great crew consisting of a lot of AEGEE-Leiden members but also people from outside our association.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the local would love to organize another Week of Europe in five years, although the local would also love to organize the EPM. “We applied for the EPM 2015”, Sandrine says, “but unfortunately we didn’t get it. Organising an EPM is still on our wish list though!” Next to this, the local still has many other plans, like a Travel Summer University with AEGEE-Delft and AEGEE-Utrecht and another introduction period in August to attract new members. “In September we will have a new board, and it will be their turn to make new awesome plans for the upcoming year”, Sandrine concludes.

Written by Svenja van der Tol, AEGEE-Nijmegen