So, you’ve been accepted to go to the Agora as a visitor? Congratulations! You’ve packed your bags, you’ve printed your boarding pass, you’ve said goodbye to family, friends and whatever, and you’ve arrived at the most special of locations, the Agora. Yet, you don’t know what the hell you’re supposed to do there. Do not worry my friend, this is ‘Being a Visitor for Dummies’.
Don’t plan on getting any sleep
One of the things you most often hear when you apply as visitor for the first time is that you can sleep out, while the others, most of which being delegates, have to go to the mandatory bits of the Agora. While it is true that, as a visitor, you are allowed to skip bits of the programme, you cannot, however, sleep in.
You are awoken in the morning and it is expected of you to proceed almost immediately to breakfast. You cannot have your breakfast, or any other meal, at any time later on. If you skip your breakfast, you, simply, won’t get any. Even if you’re okay with missing out on it in order to sleep in; tough luck. At some Agoras you’re not allowed to stay at the sleeping location between breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening.
As a matter of fact don’t even plan on getting any sleep, even if you skip the parties. At the Autumn Agora Kyїv 2015, for instance, attendees who did not go to the parties could only have about six hours of sleep at the sleeping location each night. Far less than the recommended minimum of eight hours.
Go to the Agora a couple of days in advance
One of the downsides of an Agora is that it has a really full programme. As a visitor you may want to attend most of it, but you would also like to go out and relax or do some sightseeing. One golden tip is to arrive half a week earlier in the city where the Agora will be held. This way you have some extra relaxed days to wonder through the city to your heart’s content. It’s more comfortable to go earlier with the other people of your local who will go to the Agora, or to go to one of the pre-events. Don’t plan to stay a couple of days longer to do some sightseeing though, because after the Agora you’ll simply be too exhausted.
Don’t treat the Agora as a necessary evil to go on holiday
The Agora is an impressive and important statutory event, and, as a visitor, it’s a surely nice way to feel like being a part of a European community and to make new friends. However, to some visitors the Agora is only a way to go to a nice location, party all four to five nights, and maybe do some sightseeing during the day or otherwise sleep in the hallways.
You may find some bits of the Agora boring, and as a visitor you surely do not have to go to any of these. Nevertheless, please, try some of the workshops, attend the opening ceremony or go to something informal, such as ‘AEGEE inspire’: you might very well like it. Furthermore, ask your local, seasoned Agora attendees what they most like to do at an Agora. Their suggestions might be golden.
Consider to participate as a visitor
Aside from going to plenary meetings, workshops and possibly some Prytania, it might arguably be more fun to participate. Listening to a lot of information on topics, on which you’re maybe not even up-to-date can be either overwhelming or plainly boring. However, the idea of an Agora is not necessarily to be a long four-to-five-day-lecture with some parties during the evening, a lot of it relies on participation. Granted, especially during the plenary meetings, speaking rights are not often granted to visitors due to time constraints.
Nevertheless, as a visitor there are still some other and creative ways to participate or to let your voice be heard. Maybe you’ll like to actively participate in a workshop or to speak during ‘AEGEE inspire’. Another thing you might want to consider is to work together with some of the delegates of your local. As a visitor, you may have been denied speaking rights, but your local’s delegates are still free to address the Agora or the Prytania. By collaborating with your local’s delegates you can offer them your thoughts and opinions, which they, in turn, can voice because of their status. This way you might even indirectly participate during even the plenary meetings or the Prytaniae.
And most importantly: have fun
As a visitor, you basically have no responsibility, except to yourself and to basic decency. Let these aforementioned tips guide you, if necessary, but do also know that any Agora that you enjoyed going to, is an Agora well travelled to.
Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen