Member of the month Lavinia Manea: “Volunteerism is not something we do only when we are young and inexperienced”

The Member of the Month of April is…Lavinia Manea from AEGEE-București! “Volunteerism is not just a word” according to Lavinia, and she proved that by being an active member, not only on the local level, but also on the European one and having key roles in the WDEE (Where Does Europe End) and Y Vote projects and working as Content Manager for the EBM Lublin.

The AEGEEan: Lavinia, you have been elected as the member of the month. Congratulations! Could you introduce yourself for those who don’t know you yet?
Lavinia:  I’m Lavinia Manea from AEGEE-București, and along the years I have been involved in different projects, mostly on European level: I worked three (wonderful) years for the Where Does Europe End (WDEE) project as External Relations responsible and trainer, I worked for EBM Lublin as Content Manager and currently I am finishing my tasks for the Y Vote project, for which I worked as part of the content team, as EU affairs “expert” and trainer.

The AEGEEan: When did you join AEGEE and, in particular, why?
Lavinia: I joined when I was 19, during my first university year, but in fact I found out about AEGEE while I was in high school. I was preparing to take the university admission exams when I discovered AEGEE. I liked the idea and I promised to myself that once a student in Bucharest, I would join this association. And so I did. At the beginning, what drove me towards this choice was mostly the idea of meeting new people and developing new skills. I was moving to Bucharest from the “province” and I was eager to expand my horizon outside the university environment as well. Little did I know how important AEGEE would become in my life.

The AEGEEan: You have done a great job as a trainer for the Y Vote. Why did you choose to be part of such an important project?
Lavinia: Well, this is an interesting story. When I graduated from my second master degree, I thought I would never become involved again in an important project, due to the lack of time that a job would have implied. Having graduated from what many consider to be a prestigious graduate institute, the logical “next step” would have been a job in Brussels or elsewhere, in a field related to international relations and/or diplomacy. But I like to do things differently and I’m not afraid to go “right”, when everyone else goes “left”, if this is the right thing for me. So when I considered my options, I realised that what I love most is working with people to promote values I believe in. I am a striver for a better world, and that always begins with us. So I did something that many considered insane: I put my career plans on hold for something less prestigious but richer in essence: travelling across Europe as a volunteer and inspiring young people to become a driving force for change in our society. I was often asked what did I do after graduating from the College of Europe, followed by how much (money) did I make. But as you know, in AEGEE we don’t make money, we make “people” and that is much more valuable in the long term. Human resources are our planet’a greatest asset if well-managed. We can either make or break everything.

Of course, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t believed in this project: in its necessity, its potential and in the people behind it. No achievement was ever the result of a one-man show. So knowing well my cause and believing in the people I worked with was essential. I cannot thank the Y Vote team members (including the Comite Directeur and the local organisers) enough for all their effort and enthusiasm.

The AEGEEan: Is there an AEGEE member in particular who has inspired you in your work? Why?
Lavinia: The are many people who inspired me and continue to do so. But if I should point to one person in particular, then I would mention Veronika Braun, former member of AEGEE Passau, and Y Vote 2009 PR Responsible. The reason I mentioned her has to do with timing more than anything else. I met her while I was attending my first Youth in Action event, in Rome and it happened to be a Y Vote convention. Her energy, her ambitions and the results of her work, triggered in me a strong wish to becomes active at European level. From that point on, I met many other inspiring people but that particular event was the beginning of everything for me. It would be unfair though, not to mention -if only briefly- my former WDEE team members Percin Imrek (AEGEE-Çanakkale), Thomas Leszke (AEGEE-Köln), Kasia Bitka (AEGEE-Kraków), Casper Wolf (AEGEE-Utrecht) and Juan Sordo (AEGEE-Oviedo) and of course, my (soon also former) Y Vote team members Ola Kluczka (AEGEE-Kraków), Léa Charlet (AEGEE-Paris) and Javier Mendoza (AEGEE-Tenerife). All these people taught me something valuable and I am grateful to them for that.

The AEGEEan: Are you currently working on any projects or initiatives belonging to AEGEE?
Lavinia: Yes I am, although they are mostly related to tying loose ends. I am finishing my last tasks related to the Y Vote project, working on the Position Paper resulted from the EBM and waiting for the results of an Erasmus+ application for the Europe in Exchange project. Should that be successful, I will work on organising a youth convention in Poznań, together with the other team members: Jorge Miguel (AEGEE-Valladolid), Cerem Çavdar (AEGEE-Ankara) and Sanja Zivanović (AEGEE-Zagreb).

The AEGEEan: What about your next plans both on the European and on the local level?
Lavinia: For the moment, apart from finishing my ongoing tasks, I do not have specific plans. I like to believe that when nothing is sure, everything is possible, therefore I keep my options open. If I believe I can bring added value to a certain initiative, I take the challenge. However, realistically speaking, the Y Vote project was the last important initiative I got involved in to this extent. Whatever may follow should be compatible with my working life as well. I am saying this because out of the past six months, three I spent travelling with AEGEE, working sometimes 18 hours a day together with my team mates. I am not complaining, of course. Nothing is better that working until exhaustion for what makes you happy. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity but it is time to step aside and let other young people take over. AEGEE represents a great opportunity for self-development and I hope as many people as possible take advantage of it. But while I have no certainties as to my future in AEGEE, one thing I can guarantee is that I will always support AEGEE as much as I can, throughout my career. Because AEGEE needs not only committed members but also committed alumni. And I hope that when they leave AEGEE, most of our prominent members remember that volunteerism is not something we do only when we are young and inexperienced. Volunteerism is something we all need to do once in a while, no matter how “busy” we become. Doing good things for reasons other than money or personal benefit is, in my opinion, the only way we can truly pretend to be creating a better Europe and a better world.

Written by Larisa Smajlagic, AEGEE-Verona