Let AEGEE Inspire Your Life!

AEGEE Inspire aims at inspiring AEGEEans, giving everyone the opportunity to present their inspiring story in a limited amount of time in order to motivate other members. The AEGEEan interviewed Mathijs Waegemakers, AEGEE-Enschede, and Anna Gumbau, AEGEE-Barcelona, about their experience as host of AEGEE Inspire at Agora Patra 2014 (Mathijs) and at EPM Burgos 2015 (Anna). Read on to find out more about it!

The AEGEEan: Can you introduce yourself?

Mathijs: My name is Mathijs Waegemakers and I am a proud member of AEGEE since 2008. I was very active on our local level, but in 2013 I tried something European. That year I went on a Summer University in Kyiv and it was awesome. Once you start with the European things, you never want to quit. After being a delegate for a year, I am currently member of the Audit Commission. When the open call was sent for participant, and later host, of AEGEE Inspire, I knew I wanted to be part of it as well.

Anna: My name is Anna, I am an AEGEE member since late 2011 and I am currently board member of AEGEE-Barcelona, as well as assistant to the Comité Directeur at AEGEE’s head office in Brussels. Apart from being an AEGEEan, I am a journalist, so you can imagine which my three biggest passions are – writing, travelling and AEGEE!

What is AEGEE Inspire?

Mathijs: AEGEE Inspire is an event in which every member of our association has the opportunity to present something they find inspiring. This can be anything, from very personal stuff, to very large new concepts or ideas. The participant is free to present what they want, and how they want to present. The only rule is that you keep your presentation within the limited time, as we only have one hour and we want to give an opportunity to as many persons as possible.

Anna: AEGEE Inspire is a session that was first adopted in EBM Valletta 2013, if I am not mistaken, aimed at inspiring AEGEEans. It is envisioned to be a TEDx event (the popular platform where inspiring speeches take place, and are afterwards recorded), where AEGEEans share their stories on a wide range of topics in order to motivate members in a limited amount of time. In each of our statutory events, all of the speakers have had around 5-6 minutes to inspire, and many of them have succeeded!

Why did you decide to be a host at Agora Patra 2014 and how did it go? Who were the speakers?

Mathijs: The question that you need to ask is, why not? We got a lot of response from people who wanted to participate and in the end we had nine presenters. It was amazing to see the difference between the speakers, and their motivation. Someone wanted to promote stuff, another shared a very personal story about Famagusta (Cyprus) and another girl just wanted to overcome her stage fright. In the end, everyone did a great job.

Why did you host it at EPM Burgos 2015 and how did it go? Who were the speakers?

Anna: I decided to apply as EPM Inspire host because I have always been a big fan of these sessions – it is the one that I really look forward to in each statutory event. Moreover, I lived a very special moment at Autumn Agora Cagliari 2014, where I got the chance to share my own personal story. It was something so memorable to me, that I wanted this time to give the floor to new, motivated speakers. And I had six great speakers who covered a wide range of topics, from health, to music, to personal experiences, AEGEE local projects, IT and travels!

What does this project mean to you?

Mathijs: It is a wonderful platform to share ideas, I hope we can keep this project alive for a long time. Last EPM I applied again as host, but they chose someone else. At first I was disappointed, but the motivation of the CD was that they wanted to give someone new a chance. In the end, I think that it’s the best decision. New people also have fresh ideas. Let’s keep it that way.

Anna: It has a very special meaning to me – as I said, it is one of the sessions I always expect the most at our Agorae and EPMs. I am a journalist, so I have always been fascinated by the stories that people tell and getting to know what moves these people. I have stumbled upon some people who might be like you and me, but have done extraordinary things or have some really interesting ideas on a certain topic. And I am sure that AEGEEans are no exception to it, since I have met some really brilliant minds and inspiring people in here.

Why should people apply to tell stories too?

Mathijs: Everyone who feels that they have a story that they want to share, can apply. That is the fun thing about the event, it can be everything. From small and personal things, to great ideas on how to change the world, everything is possible. Especially the diversity of all these topics makes it so interesting.

Anna: Because I really think that everyone has a story to tell, something we would like the world to know, or maybe some anecdote we have learnt from and that is worth spreading. I have felt identified with many of the stories that have been shared at AEGEE Inspire, and this is very rewarding! And, as I said during the EPM Inspire session in Burgos, simply because “to be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible!”.

What is your inspiring story?

Mathijs: My stories have not been that inspiring. My goal is to entertain the audience for one hour, as we already have a lot of serious business. I let the real inspiring stories to others to present.

Anna: Well, I actually shared my “inspiring” story in Autumn Agora Cagliari. I just told the story about how AEGEE changed my life for the better. During my high school years, I had a pretty hard time with the classmates around me, and I was filled with insecurities and low self-esteem. I never really found a place where I could feel comfortable, despite the fact that I had joined several student organisations and projects during my first years of university. Then I found out about AEGEE, went to my first Summer University, and I suddenly felt something really strange: I was actually feeling comfortable in my own skin and around the people surrounding me. AEGEEans don’t lie when they say they feel empowered – I felt like that myself. So I feel really happy that this could inspire people!

In conclusion, a question to Antonija Parat, Secretary General at AEGEE-Europe about the future of this session.

Are you going to change/improve the session of AEGEE-Inspire? How?

Antonija: Instead of Inspire, in AgorAsturias we decide to have an Open Space session to give members more space to discuss different topics that are not addressed during other sessions. In Agora Asturias, we didn’t have enough space in the agenda, so we decided that it would be nice and maybe more useful to have the Open Space session this time.

Written by Karina A. Silivas