Leadership Summer School 2014 – Learning Experience for Future Leaders

This year, the Leadership Summer School (LSS) was organised by the local committee of European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) in Yeditepe University, Istanbul, between 16th and 25th of July. More than 30 international youth organisations were represented by more than 60 participants interested to be trained on different leadership skills and competences. Among them were also six enthusiastic AEGEEans, Alessandra Dehò, Balázs Kovács, Bozhidara Evstatieva, Isi Boriga, Lia Tuska and Tsveti Stoycheva, and The AEGEEan got the chance to interview them.

The AEGEEan: Who are you?

Alessandra Dehò: I am Alessandra Dehò, HR responsible of AEGEE-Brescia and Medical student.

Balázs Kovács: My name is Balázs (Bali) Kovács from AEGEE-Debrecen and I am also a member of AEGEE’s Network Commission.

Bozhidara Evstatieva: Bozhidara (Dara) Evstatieva from AEGEE-Sofia.

Isi Boriga: Isi Boriga, former member of AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca, and current board member of AEGEE-Maastricht.

Lia Tuska: I’m Lia, member of AEGEE-Sofia, Network Commissioner, PR of The AEGEEan and Democracy in Practice, Secretary of Human Rights Working Group and Vice-Speaker of information Technology Committee.

Tsveti Stoycheva: Tsveti, AEGEE-Sofia.

The AEGEEan: Why did you decide to apply for LSS?

Alessandra: Since I have joined AEGEE, I feel that I have started a process of self-growth. I saw LSS as an important part of this process. It was necessary for me to be the best version of myself, to grow up as a person, as student and as citizen.

Balázs: Since I joined AEGEE, I have met with several fellow youth activists and volunteers who have somehow been involved in previous editions of this one-of-a-kind event. After hearing many stories from these people, I have become totally inspired and I knew that I had to see it for myself. Heartfelt thankings go to AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca for giving me the initial enthusiasm pushes back in the days!

Bozhidara: LSS was the next sequential step  after European School 1 (ES1). For the past one year I have been challenging myself, my knowledge and skills. What is more, LSS was the perfect playground for exploration of the limits of one’s comfort zone.

Isi: I knew that LSS is an event not to be missed ever since I heard amazing stories about it from the organizers of the 4th edition (Cluj-Napoca, 2011). Because I am now in a transitional and decisions-making phase (at the end of my studies and preparing for my first real job), I thought this summer was the perfect timing for me. So when a friend notified me that the application period has opened, I went for it.

Lia: I first heard about LSS when AEGEE-Sofia applied as hosting local and I told them I was sure they would make it and that I would be there. I applied as participant and I got rejected, but that is what motivated me to be more active on European Level in AEGEE, so last year I was at LSS as helper. When it was over, I challenged myself to apply again and I got accepted!

Tsveti: I got involved with this event last year when our antenna hosted it. The atmosphere of LSS is very special and unique – one of the main reasons for it is that participants come from various organizations. I have a passion for trainings so I wanted to go through the real experience as participant this year and when the open call was out there was no moment of hesitation whether to apply or not.

The AEGEEan: What is leadership to you?

Alessandra: Leadership means to create a connection between people and let them express themselves in their best way. Leadership has many different aspects, but the one I prefer is to inspire and motivate people and let them to inspire and motivate you.

Balázs: Leadership is a complex concept and it always depends on the given circumstances. This event has ultimately aimed at focusing at the question of “How can one become the most effective, responsible leader of his/her own life?” I would define the term “leadership” as a never-ending series of challenges.

Bozhidara: A leader is one who can motivate others not only by talking and sharing experiences, but by merely standing and smiling for example. For a leader, even the little things in life matter and one should take all the opportunities we are presented with. To know how to become a leader is no easy task and requires loads of skills, experience, the right attitude, and in my personal opinion- optimism.

Isi: Ability to inspire, ethical behavior, commitment, trust, tasks distribution, diplomacy, adaptability to change, communication, feedback-seeking and receiving, awareness, empathy.

Lia: Everyone has their own view of what leadership is. For me, it is to inspire, to help (sometimes without knowing it), to care and to support people around you. Leadership is also being able to lead yourself before you lead others.

Tsveti: It is hard to put this in a sentence or two. For me leadership is knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and acting upon that. And of course showing the same understanding for others.

The AEGEEan: Why should other AEGEEans attend LSS?

Alessandra: Because it is a challenge. You start taking awareness about who you are and what you want, but above of all WHY? And they show you the way to find your answers, testing yourself in many ways. The most important thing is that during this process you are not alone.

Balázs: Let me just give you all a couple of hints about this year’s event. Imagine an 10-day-long, “non-formal education meets informal learning” kind of youth event with circa 100 youngsters from 30+ countries from all over the Globe representing some dozen of (I)NGYOs where we all participate/deliver and actively engage in many trainings/workshops, discussions and we share and exchange our knowledge and experiences. It is impossible to briefly describe this event but it is definitely meant to be lived!

Bozhidara: LSS is the needed ingredient for everyone who is on the personal development path, looking for answers, inspiration, and motivation. It is also for all the dreamers who wish for change on a bigger scale. The LSS atmosphere is so open, sharing and one can feel the breeze of understanding and acceptance in the air.  It is also a great way to explore and enhance oneself on every possible levels.

Isi: There’s no general answer to this question, because I think that everyone attending LSS is seeking for something different. But no matter what that may be, one thing is certain: you will be sharing this educational and emotional experience with dozens of people who will inspire you, accept you, and who will make you dig a little deeper into yourself. You won’t only get what you came for – you will get much more.

Lia: Having the chance to be at two versions of LSS, I can say that every year was special. You do not only learn some new methods or improve your skills on public speaking, group dynamics, conflict management, etc. but you also meet people from other NGOs that you wouldn’t have met in any other case, you make new friends and even Project ideas are born.

Tsveti: Join LSS and you will make true friends from all over the world and know what it really means to care for others and being cared for. It is a life-changing experience after which you will hopefully be more mindful, develop your social skills and have the courage to put your ideas and dreams in action.

The AEGEEan: What have you learned from the event?

Alessandra: It could be easier to say what I haven’t learnt. The most important thing that I will take with me is that a leader without other people to support him, is nothing. You can be a good leader only if you keep in mind that other people are all important in the same way and that you have to take care of them.

Balázs: Although, the event provided me with quite some learning points but, as I said, neither them nor LSS can be described shortly, they are simply meant to be lived. I would still pick a quote from the Queen of Denmark saying that “Maybe the reason for all the war and conflict in this world is all the conversations that were never held.” This idea has meant a lot to me in the past years and it came very handy now as a mantra.

Bozhidara: I learned a lot about Life, Universe and Everything else. ;) But no, LSS reflection is still in process and so far I do not have a proper answer to this question.

Isi: Many, many things. I have learnt the huge impact that sharing, connecting and opening to others can have, I have been amazed by the beautiful people around me, by their ideas, projects and philosophies, and I have developed skills important not only for a leader, but for any young professional. Most importantly, I was reminded that life should be lived doing things that make you happy, and that are meaningful. Find your own dream, and make it happen! It is as simple as that. :)

Lia: LSS is not just an event, it is a process! People who weren’t there won’t understand, LSS is not just an Summer School on Leadership, it’s a place where you leave some parts of yourself (fears, doupts, etc.) and get new ones (courage, confidence, etc.).

Tsveti: I learned that being open is the best favour you can do yourself.

Written by Svenja van der Tol, AEGEE-Nijmegen, with the help of Lia Tuska, AEGEE-Sofia