AEGEE Welcomes the New Contact in Canterbury

Canterbury is ready to make its entrance in the AEGEE’s Network. Here the story of the new Contact since the first steps, told by Emily Zerling, one of the founders.

The AEGEEan: Please, introduce yourself.

Emily: My name is Emily Zerling. I’m 20 years old. I’m from Paris in France. As the daughter of a French father and an English mother, I feel very European myself. I’m a student in my second year studying at the University of Kent (Canterbury) doing a five-year course in Politics and International Relations in partnership with one of France’s “Grandes Ecoles” called Sciences Po Lille. At the end of these five years, I will have spent two years in Canterbury and three years in Lille and I will receive a double degree. I would like to work if possible in the European Union institutions.

How did you hear about AEGEE?

I first heard about AEGEE last year when I was studying in Lille. I was one of AEGEE-Lille’s first members and coordinated the society’s communication and advertising through its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Why did you decide to create your own Antenna?

I really enjoyed being part of AEGEE-Lille, so I wanted to continue the AEGEE experience in Canterbury by creating my own. With some friends, we decided to create a new contact based at the University of Kent where we all study. The University of Kent describes itself as the UK’s European university but there wasn’t any European society we could join so we decided to set up an AEGEE on campus.

The main motivation and the main reason why me and my team decided to create a contact of AEGEE Europe in Canterbury was to raise awareness about the EU in the UK and challenge preconceived ideas, especially the rise of Euroscepticism which the UK is facing at the moment. We are therefore mainly addressed towards British students who take an interest in European projects.

Was it difficult to start?

It wasn’t easy at the beginning because we first had to get the university’s approval which took quite a long time. But once, we had their approval, everything went quite quickly. Experienced AEGEE members also helped us to get everything started so it wasn’t too difficult.

How many people are currently involved?

For the moment, six people are involved full time and all come from different European countries, but we aim to target many more members in the following weeks.

Do you get any support from other AEGEE-locals?

We don’t but we are going to try to establish a contact very soon with all the other UK AEGEE-locals.

Is there something you need?

We need to find as much members as possible who are interested in helping us setting up our contact.

How would you describe Canterbury?

Canterbury is the ideal place for setting up AEGEE because it will provide our antenna with many opportunities such as the fact that the city is well connected to other important European cities like London, Lille, Paris and Brussels. The town is also a very popular tourist destination and a historical city with a wealthy legacy.

The city is full of students who come from all over England and from all over Europe and the rest of the world. It appears to be a very dynamic town with an important student life with many bars, clubs and events for all occasions. Kent Union, the University of Kent’s student organisation, looks after more than 200 societies and gives each and every society the possibility to develop itself, providing them with facilities and equipment.

What are your plans for the new Contact?

Our plans are to organise many events, conferences at the University of Kent where we could discuss European issues with students studying in Canterbury. We would like to put in place many debates where we could invite British MEPS or MPS to talk to students about European issues, objectives and especially engage a discussion about a burning issue at the moment which is the UK’s tricky relationship with the European Union. During the following year, we intend to run a campaign called “UK stay in the EU” if the EU referendum was to take place.

Are you already organising something?

Our first project will be to take part and support an Election Observation Mission focusing on the 2015 General Elections in the UK, that will be held in Canterbury in May.

How do you imagine your Contact in a year?

We hope that in a year’s time, we will have been able to expand greatly and many UK students will have joined us and taken part in our European projects.

Written by Karina A. Silivas, AEGEE-Udine