“If my house was on fire and I could only save one thing, it would be my fridge”. How to disagree with Ralitsa “Rali” Mihaylova from AEGEE-Berlin, one of the six candidates for a position in the Summer University Coordination Team. Bulgarian by birth, the 21 years-old Ralitsa joined AEGEE-Berlin in February 2015 and now she is the treasurer (and unofficial mascot – the Bulgarian Bear) of the German local. She is studies Comuputer Science and she works as a motion designer. Within the SUCT, she aims to cover the task of Publications Responsible.
Ralitsa: I have the skills, the motivation and the spirit for the job and since my term in the board is coming to an end and I’m definitely not about to stop being active in AEGEE in the near future, I didn’t think twice about candidating again.
You already run in Autumn Agora Kyïv with great competition. What has changed in the past year?
I got to experience the SU project from a lot of new perspectives – I was participant, main organiser and I helped the SUCT with PR materials. I got a better understanding of the current issues and a clearer vision of what Summer Universities are about and how they can reach more of their potential. The only thing that hasn’t changed in the last year is my motivation!
The current team started a sort of Interest Group about Summer University (Supporters) where people helped SUCT. Would you like to keep it alive?
In your candidature you said you developed a clear idea of how you want to contribute to raising the event quality and getting more new members and non-members interested in participating. What is your idea?
The thing is that today cheap travel with awesome people is something you can find in a lot of places, some even easier and cheaper than Summer Universities, so promoting them in this way is equivalent to saying ”nothing special”. Everyone who has participated in a SU knows that it’s about way more than just travelling, and so should the people who haven’t done it yet. That’s why it all starts by clarifying the meaning of Summer Universities and the participants we want to target. I want to ”cut out” the cliches from the PR materials and social media and concentrate on the self-development, thematic content and of course on AEGEE. To expand the reach of promotion and information, I want to create more interactive content (videos, animations, infographics) and partner with other student organisations with similar member groups and activities. Other improvements I would make are expanding our pool of trainers beyond AEGEE bodies (mainly by cooperating with other students’ organisations), providing help with materials and activities for compulsory sessions and establishing stronger link between organising locals and our WGs and Projects.
By increasing the visibility of WGs and Projects on the SU communication channels and working on clear guidelines for what the cooperation should consist of, for example setting a minimum for thematic content and activities, and requiring a tangible end result – it could be a common project, publication, etc. That way it’s mutually beneficial and it can be a very effective promotion for future events or initiatives.
How do you envision the cooperation with other students organisations?
AEGEE has great partner organisations like ESN and BEST and I don’t see a reason why we can’t make our SUs more visible to their members and offer their trainers to cooperate with our organising locals. We have a lot in common with other student organisations, but in some areas our vision and approach is completey different, which is why I think a cooperation like this would be an amazing learning experience and should be encouraged more.
This is a recurring question when it comes to Summer Universities: the decreasing number of applications and local organisers. What do you think about these issues?
About the number of applications, I think it’s a natural result of the existence of Ryanair, Tinder and all the student projects you can participate in literally for free. We can’t and we really shouldn’t compete with them based on ”cheap and fun travel” anymore. If we put more effort into reaching people outside the network and do it with the right message and the numbers keep going down, I will personally go count the applications, because that’s impossible! As for the number of organising locals, I don’t think we have a deficiency of SUs. What we should work on is filling the event quality gap, mainly by paying extra attention to smaller and inexperienced organising teams.
In the application process we often see that certain locals are very popular, while others struggle even to find participants and (in extreme cases) are forced to cancel their Summer University. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any idea how you can level this phenomenon?
Does this ring a bell? One of the Summer University videos of this year was edited by Ralitsa Mihaylova. Check it out:
You can read her full application here.
Written by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Verona