Rather often, the Member of the Month is someone the whole association has seen and heard about already. This might not necessarily be the case with our newest Member of the Month, Damien Latacz, a Frenchman from AEGEE-Aachen. He became a member less than a year ago, but already participated in many events. He is a member of his local’s board, was one of the main organisers of the Night of the Seven Antennae and is already famous for traveling Europe as much as his limited time allows. Read more about him in this interview!
The AEGEEan: Damien, please introduce yourself, your studies and your most famous character traits.
Damien: Hello, my name is Damien Latacz, 26 year old French guy now living in Germany for the last two years. I am doing a double master: metallurgical engineering in Aachen where I live and process engineering in France where my university was kind enough to let me go away. I am quite a cheerful person, and probably a bit annoying too!
I have two passions which are cooking and hiking. I spend hours every day trying new recipes and techniques. And every year I spend weeks alone in the mountains in my tent, preferably in winter because I love snow!
When and why did you become a member of AEGEE?
I became a member last June because one good friend of mine was in the board and told me it was fun. So I went to the weekly meeting to check it out, and it was indeed great. I had the opportunity to be a helper for our Summer University (SU) a few weeks after, which was a good way to get involved quickly.
Was it a surprise to you when you got the information that you were elected Member of the Month?
Yes! I thought you had to be already quite famous to be elected. But I am really happy, it is a real motivation boost.
Being quite a new member, you nevertheless were already active both on local and European level. What gave you the motivation to become so active?
Well, I like meeting new people, talking with them, sharing our points of view. It is the best way to improve yourself and discover something new. And I also love to organise events, there is always something challenging, something you have never done before, and you need to understand it and adapt.
And on the European level you have a chance to discover a new culture, another way of doing things, and you can have a voice in AEGEE. It’s not often that you get a chance to say what you think and try to improve your world on a scale as large as AEGEE.
It might be frightening sometimes, but it’s a rare opportunity, and that’s what gives me motivation: facing something challenging and just thinking “Okay, let’s do it!”.
You are a board member and even the Vice President. What exactly are your tasks in the board of AEGEE-Aachen?
My official position is Internal Relations and Vice President. We have Working Groups in Aachen, they do a lot of work. Part of my job is to help them and make sure they have everything they need, but at the same time make sure they follow the general goals of our association, which is a bit tricky sometimes. But in the last months I also spent a lot of time planning the Night of the Seven Antennae, now I can focus again on improving the structure of our local.
You were one of the main organisers of the Night of the Seven Antennae. What did you like best about the event?
When we knew we were one of the organising locals, we were really happy. For me the event was a bit of everything: celebrating the birthday of AEGEE, debating about our future in Europe, sharing our vision with other cities. I love the fact that it is possible to do an event that includes all of it.
We also had some really interesting speakers in Aachen, from the European Parliament for example. That’s what I liked the most, and I hope the participants did too: having the opportunity to talk face to face with these people, and just sharing our ideas even if we come from two different worlds.
Where there any obstacles during the planning process or the event itself? How did you manage to overcome them?
Oh, there were a lot of obstacles! And planning an event where seven cities spread across Europe have to gather at some point is not easy. What should we do? When? And of course how can we do such a live-stream?
But we managed it because we worked all together. All seven organisers talked a lot and we helped each other a lot during the previous months.
I think the key is not being afraid to ask for help or to take decisions even if it is risky. At some point it doesn’t matter what people may think of you, you just have to try.
What was your best AEGEE related experience so far?
My best AEGEE experience was for sure organising the birthday dinner of AEGEE-Aachen. It is nothing extraordinary but the atmosphere was amazing. 40 people from Aachen and some friends from other antennae were there. Of course I didn’t cook everything all by myself, I had some amazing cooks helping me, but sharing my passion with them, and watching everybody having fun, laughing and even dancing… It was really pure joy for me!
How often can someone expect to see you wearing a polar bear suit?
Not that often actually. I prefer wearing my usual French styled outfit and hugging the polar bears around me. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should: best hug ever!
What would you say to someone who has never heard about AEGEE concerning becoming a member?
Whatever you want to do, there is a place for you in AEGEE. If you like to organise events, if you want to change Europe because you don’t like the way it is, or if you just want to drink a beer with some new people, you can find it in AEGEE.
Written by Katja Sontag, AEGEE-Aachen