Svenja van der Tol for Secretary: “I love that in AEGEE all the people I meet are happy and open to anyone.”

After entering AEGEE, Svenja van der Tol quickly rose to prominence both within her own local and on the international scene. With her many contributions over the years as secretary, writer and proofreader she has shown skill, ambition and passion for the things that are close to her heart. And with her candidature for Secretary of the Agora she has furthermore proven that her star might still be rising. At the AEGEEan we like to look at the heavens to define our future and so we decided to sit down and ask a few questions.

The AEGEEan: People can be as diverse as there are pages in a book. To those who don’t know your story yet, Svenja, who are you?

Svenja: Exactly twenty-two years ago, my German mom and Dutch dad had a little ginger girl, who they decided to call Svenja without other fancy names (to my regret). Over the years, their baby grew into a proud sister of three younger brothers, book obsessed linguistics student, baking fanatic, girly-girl and most of all, a little bit crazy twenty-something who isn’t really good at doing nothing and has a huge obsession for all things cute, especially rainbows and unicorns (or the combination of both).

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” Svenja, what is it that you love most about such a large and diverse forum as AEGEE?

What is there not to love? Three years ago I joined AEGEE-Nijmegen, mostly because I was looking for an association without the weird Dutch introduction tradition called ‘ontgroening’ which most associations in the Netherlands have, and the traveling aspect of AEGEE caught my attention. Little did I know that the association soon would grow into a big part of my life, where I made a lot of friends, saw a lot of countries I’d have never visited otherwise and most of all learned a lot about myself and how to contribute to a more active society. I love that in AEGEE all the people I meet are happy, open to anyone and more than willing to share a piece of their life and culture with you, which never fails to amaze me. Also, I love the parties.

People don’t drift coolly out of nowhere and apply for a position at the Agora. Svenja, could you tell us something about your experiences with AEGEE?

I started my AEGEE career as the Secretary of AEGEE-Nijmegen’s board, where I got my first experience with taking minutes and administrative tasks. After that year, I also learned a lot more about AEGEE-Europe, and decided I want to contribute to it too. First off, I joined The AEGEEan as a journalist and proofreader, where I became Editor of the Network section not too long after. After Agora Patra, Erika Bettin (AEGEE-Venezia) and I decided to run for the position of Editor-in-Chief of the Key to Europe, and I started to help Lia Tuska (AEGEE-Sofia) as her SubCom for the Dutch locals. Last but not least, I joined Action Agenda Coordination Committee (ACT), where I again used my love for writing and became the Project Manager of the Guidelines, which will be sent to the Network soon. Did I mention already I’m not good at doing nothing?

Of all the positions you could have chosen from, why did you decide to run for Secretary of the Agora/EPM?

Because I’m a great believer in the saying that you should do what you’re best at (and you love too). Maybe it’s my German side, but I really love proper written texts, deadlines and correcting mistakes, which are all important in the life of a secretary. Next to that, I have taught myself to type really fast because I spend quite some time at the computer and it’s a good way to save time, and it happens to make taking minutes easier too. Last but not least, I think it’s really important to have a written record of what happens during the Agora and EPM and I think I would be able to take care of it.

Everyone is unique, even identical twins have different fingerprints. Svenja, what is it specifically that would make you an excellent secretary?

I think it would be my love for writing, because taking minutes is basically writing down the stories people are telling you, so it’d be something I would like doing. I won’t go cheesy all the way and say I love it, because after a while it will get boring of course, but unlike most people I do not have a deep hatred of taking minutes.

“Nobody said it was easy.” What do you think are the most challenging aspects of being a Secretary of the Agora?

Following what everyone is saying, especially when the Agora gets interesting and people have a lot of questions (which I encourage, of course!). Next to that, having a life with other tasks too (like studying), making the deadline would be something that will need good planning, but since I managed to get my bachelor within the standard time given while doing two board years I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. I think most of all having a good Chair Team behind you for support is important, because at the end of the day, teamwork is still a very important factor in AEGEE – and I’m glad it is.

Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen