Member of the Month September – Arsenis Tselengidis and the key for a successful NetCom: “be accessible and work 24/7!”

I first met Arsenis at my first AEGEE event, Agora Budapest 2012. Even though he was really busy as President of AEGEE-Thessaloniki and main organizer of the upcoming NWM Thessaloniki, he helped me to find an accomodation place for the ITC (IT Committee) meeting last year.

He didn’t just revive AEGEE-Thessaloniki, but also helped with finding members for the new board, one of them being my sister. That’s how I got to know Arsenis better. A couple of weeks after the NWM, he called to ask me if I wanted to be in his NetCom Team, and I said yes.
Arsenis is a great friend and an objective colleague. If you are wrong, he is going to say it straight to your face. As a Network Commissioner, he did a great job with the Greek, Moldovan and Romanian locals and as Speaker of Network Commission, he was really patient and helpful with the team.

When I came back from my summer vacation, he told me that he was thinking of resigning because of his studies in Sweden. I tried to make him change his mind, I offered to do his tasks. Still, he resigned and I am doing his tasks anyway, but I love him! But, you know… we are both workaholics.

You were really active all those years you are member of AEGEE. What kept your motivation up? Is there anyone who inspired you?
Arsenis: I joined AEGEE in April 2011. Even if it has been almost three years and a half since then, I do not believe that I was so active. There are people who have done more in less period of time! And of course I was not always motivated to continue. To be honest, in May of 2012 (a few months after the NWM in London) I was ready to give up AEGEE. The organization was fun for me, but not something more… Then I got an e-mail from AEGEE-L by Mayri Tiido (current Projects and Communication Director of AEGEE-Europe), where she was looking for AEGEEans to help create the Health4Youth project team. That was the decisive moment where my personal interests fitted with the activities of AEGEE. Mayri and Matthijs Overhaal (AEGEE-Tartu) were always my motivation-battery all that period. I am grateful I met them and I spent some wonderful moments with them while I was living in the Netherlands! In December of 2012, my local (AEGEE-Thessaloniki), had some HR problems and it was about to close. I decided to take the lead with Ioannis Soultanidis and after a year we managed to provide a sustainable local… our little baby! During that year, Beata Matuszka (Network Director of AEGEE-Europe, 2012-2014) -as my first AEGEE friend since 2011- was the person who was motivating me to continue, as well as the change I was seeing inside the local was an internal motivation for me. Last year, as Network Commissioner, Pauline Létard (AEGEE-Toulouse) and Mattia Abis (AEGEE-Cagliari) were the people who inspired me. Those two people had so many locals, but at the same time were the best NetCom members. Their contribution to the team was amazing and I was trying to be like them every day.  Last semester, as Speaker of the Network Commission, my Speaker Team was the best motivation-drinks that I could ever have! I already knew how Mattia Abis worked, but I had also the chance to meet Ana
 Potočnik (AEGEE-Ljubljana), whom is similar to us. It was the “super workaholic” team since our communication was 24/7 active.

But the person who inspired me and I admire the most is Manos Valasis (President of AEGEE-Europe, 2010-2011). I cannot say many things about this person without describing him completely! He supported me from the first day and he was always willing to spend his precious time to give me some knowledge transfer or advices for my work. But beyond the former President of AEGEE-Europe or Network Commissioner, he remains always a down-to-earth person, with will to help and to share with you all of his experiences and guide you with the amazing simplicity of a child.

Which was your greatest achievement in AEGEE?
I really do not have any…. I have only small achievements. Maybe, the thing that I helped more in AEGEE is when I was a Network Commissioner, bringing this role closer to the locals. I was trying to be very accessible to them and available 24/7. I believe that was something new for those locals and they really appreciated it.

You got a new position at your university. What exactly is it?

The first week of my Master studies we had elections for the Steering Committee of my Department (Master of Public Health). A Steering Committee member does, more or less, the same that a NetCommie does: interact with the students, propose ideas about what it could be changed/removed/added in the course program, create events for the students, discuss about dissatisfaction towards some teachers, etc. Then, once a month, that member joins a meeting with the Head of Department and two professors-representatives (so it’s like the CD) and brings those issues on the table. Everything can happen there: from adding a course to changing a professor students didn’t like (it happened already before). The best part of this position is that it’s paid.

When I heard about this Committee I liked it from the beginning. I am coming from a country (Greece) where the political parties have invaded the universities’ student parties and the voice of the students has been demolished. Moreover, any disagreement that we had as students never influenced the work of the professors for a change, and the course-evaluations were a bureaucratic procedure that happening every semester.

Here (in Sweden) it’s totally different. The students have the power to influence the whole program. They can see what is missing and propose alternatives for a better quality at the program. And their word is heard and implemented instantly, not after couple of semesters or years, but the following week. It’s simply awesome!!

Are you thinking of establishing or helping in establishing locals in Sweden?
(laughs) That was the first thing that I have been asked when I moved to Sweden from Greece. I was asked to help the re-establishment of AEGEE-Lund and the creation of AEGEE-Stockholm. In both cases I replied negatively.The reason is that I am very tired to focus so intensively in AEGEE again and that soon. You must never forget that establishing a new local demands a lot of time (for PR, recruitment, local activities, university contacts, etc) that I do not have!
But as I told to the Network Director, Holger Schmitt, I have no issue about helping with some knowledge transfer from my experience as president of an AEGEE local or Network Commissioner.

This semester you had only seven locals, the Greek ones. What do you think that should be done with them on the next term?
Internally, they should start cooperating with each other. Unfortunately, it was very difficult for me to bring them at the same table all together. The last years in Greece, people stopped being interested in what was happening outside their door. It’s sad that also happened in AEGEEan Greek locals. I had the same issue with the Romanian locals at the beginning, but we managed to solve it and they did a great job in this direction. It’s more difficult to change a Greek mind. I hope they will manage to cooperate after the NWM in Ioannina. We added a workshop especially for this aim, and I hope the organizers of the NWM will coordinate it successfully.
Externally, it’s more difficult to say. It depends on the locals’ distribution from the new Network Commissioners at the Agora Cagliari and the person who will take them over. I hope I will see the Greek-speaking locals eventually with the rest of the Balkans or the Turkish and not with the Romanian ones again. The issue of the distance isolated the locals during the first period of my term and it was bad for networking. Bringing the Greek speaking locals with the Turkish ones or the rest of the Balkans will help a lot the networking for both sides.
But all those are scenarios. Everything depends on what will be discussed on the table of the locals’ distribution after the elections at the Agora.

What are you going to miss the most from AEGEE and from the Network Commission?
To be honest I cannot tell! After leaving AEGEE, I joined the Steering Committee of my department and also with another few students around Sweden we are working on establishing the “Swedish Network for Master’s in International and Public Health”, or simply SNMIPH. I joined both because they are very similar to AEGEE work and especially the one of the Network Commission such as networking, collecting both sides (students with professors, students with alumnies, etc), supporting.
Thus, I can say that I am still on an AEGEE mood but now outside of AEGEE. Maybe with less people now interacting at my workplace and also with people with an older average age than in AEGEE. Which is something good… for now!

Any advices for the next Speaker of Network Commission?

I will not speak about the current Speaker of the Network Commission (Ana Potočnik). She is great at her work and she knows exactly what to do. The role of the Speaker of NetCom has no big differences from the position of the NetCom. He/she does the same as the rest of the team does, but the extra tasks are to do overview of the NetCom every couple of days and push the team if the direction goes wrong or slowly.
Thus to the Speaker that would be elected after the Agora, I wouldn’t say anything else than I’d say to each NetCommie: work 24/7 for AEGEE, do not be lazy to contribute to the NetCom issues, reply to mails no later than 48h, travel and have fun.

Do you plan to get back on track in AEGEE after your Master’s is over?
I am not totally gone from AEGEE. I am still following the NetCom issues and contact the Speaker Team if it’s necessary. But I do not have time to reply on mails or participating at NetCom discussions.
So far, I am local-less. The board from AEGEE-Thessaloniki was gentle to let me use my intranet account. I contacted AEGEE-Kobenhavn (the closest AEGEE local to my city) but the communication is a bit slow from both sides. I hope will find my next local soon and maybe interact about some AEGEE issues. But for sure I am not going to do something which demands a lot of time, because I do not have. After the Master’s, I am not sure if I will return to AEGEE. It’s also the issue that I will have to find a job and gain eventually some money.


What do his AEGEE friends say about Arsenis?
Ana Potočnik, AEGEE-Ljubljana: “It’s really hard to write something not to sound too cheesy. To be honest, I didn’t like Arsenis at first (he doesn’t know this yet). But after a few meetings we really clicked. He turned out tp be one of the most organised and funny people I ever worked with. I will definitely miss him in our Speaker team and without his master skills for organising timelines, I will miss many deadlines”
Aggeliki Achtypi, AEGEE-Patra: “My personal opinion is that Arsenis is two people in one body! What do I mean? Arsenis, in his personal life, is an amazing person, funny, sweet, polite and really a gentleman! In his Network Commision life, he was more serious, stubborn, and patient! Sometimes, I think he was more serious than he had to be. But this behavior helped a lot to connect between us, the boards and the Greek antennae too! The most important for me is that he is the reason that I’m involved more in AEGEE in European Level. P.s. Arsenis, don’t kill me!”
Fotis Pastrakis, AEGEE-Kastoria: “Typical, but not strict. Straightforward guy, but not rude. Very cooperative and always ready to work hard. He honors the title of being “Member of the Month” with his name.”
Dimitra Amorgianou, AEGEE-Athina: “A guy with good taste in chicks and a person that you’re going to enjoy working with! Also, a good friend!”
Danae Matakou, AEGEE-Athina: “Arsenis is a person I appreciate a lot because I learned a lot working with him… He is a great team player and always willing to help, very organized and always gives 110% of himself to what he does! And most importantly he is a great friend you can always depend on!”
Fotini Touska, AEGEE-Thessaloniki: “Arsenis is the person who convinced me not only to join AEGEE, but also to run a position in the board. He helped me a lot during the first months of my term. He is objective, but sometimes he is over-objective. He has really soft hair! I’m sure he is having fun in Sweden…”

Written by Lia Tuska, AEGEE-Sofia