Svenja van der Tol for Youth Development WG Coordinator: “I would really like to make the Youth Development Focus Area more than words”

After one year in Brussels as Secretary General and counless experiences both with her local AEGEE-Nijmegen and at the European level, Svenja van der Tol has been really active in bringing back to life the Human Resources Committee of AEGEE-Europe and she is now candidating as Coordinator of the Youth Development Working Group. We interviewed her about it. 

The AEGEEan: Could you introduce yourself and your story in AEGEE?

Svenja 4Svenja: Besides a master student in Linguistics (although not studying as much as I maybe should [she laughs, ed.]), I am currently the Speaker of the Action Agenda Coordination Committee and responsible for the Agora Mentorship project that was relaunched by the Human Resources Committee. Before these activities, I have done quite some other things in AEGEE, including a year as Secretary General of the Comité Directeur (2015-2016), a year as Secretary of my own local AEGEE-Nijmegen (2012-2013) and being co-Editor-in-Chief of two editions of the Key to Europe (2013-2014 and 2015-2016). There is probably more, but not all of it is interesting to mention here, although you can find the full list in my candidature (hint, hint).

How did you meet with AEGEE?

I joined the introduction period of AEGEE-Nijmegen in 2011, because I had just moved to a new city and I was looking for a way to make new friends. The promised cheap travels and cultural exchanges seemed to be a nice added bonus. I learned rather fast though that AEGEE has a lot more to offer than just meeting people and travelling around Europe, so since then I have accepted it as my crazy, but never the less incredibly loved second family.

What are your plans if you are elected as coordinator of the Youth Development Working Group?

First and foremost, I would like to use my term as coordinator – if elected – to properly define the focus of this completely new Focus Area (pun intended), and especially the task division and specific role of the to-be-established Working Group, since we also have other bodies that are working in this field and I would like to combine rather than waste our resources. Since it is what the Working Groups are supposed to do, it will not be a surprise that I would also like to provide locals and fellow European Bodies with the means and support needed to implement the Action Agenda objectives. The exact actions that will make these two things happen will be decided together with my future team members, since the Working Group is not a one (wo)man show.

Svenja 1How are you going to contribute to this group?

As the coordinator, I consider my task to be the management of resources within the Working Group, meaning that I want to make sure all members can contribute with their own expertise and ideas to the work of the Working Group as a whole, while also ensuring that the Working Group functions as a team in which everyone feels heard and respected. Besides that, I would also feel the responsibility to ensure that an Activity Plan is created and, together with my future team, succesfully implemented.

What do you think about the general situation of young people in Europe (lack of job opportunities, unpaid internships, etc.)? Where do you see room for improvement?
Of course the exact situation differs per country, or maybe even city, so it is hard to give one ‘general opinion’ on that, but I do think that as AEGEE we should tackle topics like this which directly affect youth. We have been working on the lack of job opportunities with the Youth Employment Focus Area, and I consider this topic to still be part of the Youth Development Focus Area too, by providing young people with skills to find a suitable job. The unpaid internships are another big issue we face in Europe, and something that I am happy to see the youth organisation umbrella European Youth Forum is taking action on (read more here), and where I could also see a role for AEGEE. Regarding other struggles that young people in Europe face when it comes to their development, I would like to first analyse what these struggles are exactly and how we can work on those within AEGEE and the Working Group.

Svenja 2You worked in many different positions in AEGEE. Which one is the best for you?

I have indeed done quite some things in AEGEE already, but I cannot pick one that is or was the best or most suitable for me. All the experiences I had together have given me the experience that I have right now, and often they have been a support to each other – like how I can use my experience in the Comité Directeur now to support the Network in other ways, such as answering questions that require rather specific knowledge. Having said that, however, for the upcoming year(s?), I would like to orientate myself mostly in the field of internal education and youth development as a whole, since I find these two are very important topics and I see a role for myself there to support them.

You have been really ACTive in the Action Agenda Coordination Committee, why did you decide to focus on Youth Development specifically?

First of all, I was already more involved in this Focus Area during the European Planning Meeting in Zagreb, where I supported the Comité Directeur as Drafting Manager, by attending and moderating the sessions on drafting the objectives for this Focus Area specifically, which gave me a good understanding of the direction the attendants would like to take with it. Besides that, out of personal interest and a strong belief that youth development is the core of many things in AEGEE, I would really like to make the Youth Development Focus Area more than words, but implement it into concrete actions and – pun intended again – developments.


You can read her full candidature here.

Written by Firdevs Cazim