Still New, But Already Successful: Contact Antenna AEGEE-Dresden and Their Buddy Program

A few years back, AEGEE-Dresden was erased from the list of antennae. Luckily, in the beginning of 2014, it became a Contact of AEGEE-Europe again and just a few days ago, Dresden was officially promoted to Contact Antenna at Agora Cagliari. Although these events are quite recent and the number of active members is limited, Dresden managed to build up a very successful Buddy Program for international students. The AEGEEan talked to Ingo Kaiser, current treasurer of the contact antenna, about the history and plans of AEGEE-Dresden and especially about their extraordinary Buddy Program.

In 2003 already, AEGEE-Dresden was established but became inactive seven years later due to a lack of active members. When Ingo Kaiser, by then already an experienced AEGEE member because of his work in AEGEE-Aachen, moved to Dresden in the beginning of 2014, he was very pleased when he found out that Jorge Sánchez Hernández, from AEGEE-Alicante, had registered a Contact of AEGEE-Europe in Dresden just a few weeks before. That was the first step to reviving AEGEE-Dresden! “We worked very hard in the last few months to start activities, gain members, transfer the old registered association from 2003 from the old board to the recent one, get funding from the University and prepare everything for the signing of the Convention d’Adhésion at Agora Cagliari”, Ingo tells us.

It was not an easy task to revive the old antenna, because they were lacking members and therefore were running out of time every single day. They had to deal with quite a number of obstacles, the biggest one being such a small thing as the name of the contact. While there actually was no such thing as AEGEE-Dresden in terms of AEGEE-Europe (by then, there was only a contact and AEGEEans in Dresden therefore should not use the scheme “AEGEE-cityname”), the registered association “AEGEE-Dresden e.V.” still existed on paper and the name was used. A situation which was quite confusing: “I think, I personally had to invest more time in discussing this specific topic, which is not covered by the CIA, with the Network Commission, Juridical Commission and the Comité Directeur than any other AEGEE-related topic in the last month”. In fact, during Agora Cagliari, a motion by the Comité Directeur and the Network Commission was proposed, in order to clarify the linkage that Contacts have with AEGEE-Europe.

Nevertheless, the process of becoming an official antenna is doing well right now. One aspect which helped a lot was the fact that both Ingo and Jorge were already experienced members who had a lot of contacts all over the Network. By now, the contact antenna has around eleven new and active members. And even some more people are helping them to organize the Buddy Program, a project which is quite extraordinary, especially taking into account how recently the contact antenna was re-founded and that there are not so many active members.

The idea behind the Buddy Program is easy. It is a program which brings together local and international students who come to Dresden to study at one of the Universities. Their two aims are to give the internationals a good and easy start in the city and to give the local students the chance to experience a more international flair “so they want to join AEGEE”, Ingo says smilingly. The idea of such a program came up quite instantly since Dresden was missing such a program when Jorge first came to the city. Later they found out that one of the very first International Buddy Programs in Germany was introduced in Dresden back in 2001 and that it had even won several prizes. Ingo explains the further process: “We were able to contact the “old” organizers of that program and even got a very nice and active new member that way”, meaning Nora, the current secretary of the contact antenna. Within the Buddy Program, many events are happening. The most successful idea was an event called “International Night” which took place only a few weeks ago. The concept resembles that of a European Night, only that is was even more international. More than 120 people attended. All in all, there are almost 400 international students taking part in the Buddy Program at the moment.

That so many people find out about AEGEE-Dresden is surely due to good advertisement. The AEGEE Contact Antenna advertises mainly on their own website and – very successfully – on Facebook, but also within the university on digital screens and on print media such as flyers. “We even got featured in several of the smaller newspapers”, says Ingo. Nevertheless, one of the biggest supporters and also advertisers is the University of Dresden. While normally the members of AEGEE approach the University and ask for help, it was different in their case: “They were approaching us with ideas of how to promote our association. I had never experienced it in this way, only the other way around”, says Ingo. For example, the University’s International Office sent the Buddy Program flyers to all the new international students together with the acceptance letters via postal service. Therefore, they actually reached 100% of the internationals, which was just “awesome”.

The Buddy Program works well, one can conclude. In terms of winning new members for their antenna, the internationals are not the main target audience though. Instead, the main target group are the local students, the local Buddies. “By organizing nice events, like all the stuff happening in the Buddy Program right now, we want to link them to AEGEE and the European idea. And – it works. The Buddy Program is a good magnet for getting new active members”, Ingo tells us. One can be sure that they will have no problems growing to a bigger local in no time.

Even though the Buddy Program is obviously a very big and successful project, it is not the only thing that the contact antenna has planned: Soon, a Regional Training Course (RTC) will take place in Dresden from 11th to 14th December. It will be a four day all-included training course for 25 local students and AEGEEans, and it will be the first international event for them.

AEGEE-Dresden seems more than motivated and obviously they manage to transform their motivation into actual success! And for all the support they got on their way they want to say thanks: “I want to thank all the people that made AEGEE-Dresden coming to life again and constantly support us, including the members of the old AEGEE-Dresden who we call “Dinos” and dedicated our mascot to, DresDino. My biggest wish for the future is that AEGEE stays alive here in Dresden.”

Written by Katja Sontag, AEGEE-Aachen