It’s the closing plenary of Spring Agora Enschede 2017 and the next Spring Agora hosting local has been announced: it is AEGEE-Kraków! We reached out to them and spoke to Magdalena Barwinek, current president of the Polish local, to ask them more about their reaction to the good news and some sneak peeks.
The AEGEEan: Why did you apply to host Spring Agora 2018?
Magdalena: Our local has lately become more and more interested in the topic of European citizenship, so that we have opened up to the international events of AEGEE. Since the moment when 40 members of AEGEE-Kraków attended the Spring Agora Bergamo 2016 (what was the biggest delegation in the history), the idea of organising Agora in Kraków started to go around in the heads of the most experienced members. The topic of hosting the biggest AEGEE event has been present in our local since I remember, but nobody had been brave enough to discuss this issue in detail and to research our logistical potential. Finally, the departing 2016/2017 board made the decision of Open space on the topic of hosting the Agora. Within few hours of discussion, we took into consideration all the pros and cons and the result was surprising. All the 37 members that gathered voted ‘for’, nobody hold off, nobody was against. This result confirmed the Board’s belief, that hosting Agora was a secret dream of all our members.
How did you react when you first heard the news that you were accepted?
With the members who had the input into writing the application form, we have the conversation on Facebook. I remember how excited we were the day before the announcement. “The day” someone woke me up half an hour before the news was supposed to come with the information that the e-mail from CD had been already sent to me. I logged in right away, but there was nothing new, so I started to refresh the page every few seconds, whereas the other people were waiting impatiently on the Facebook conversation. As I finally received the messaged, I shared it immediately with the possible core team and the reactions were more than adorable. People started to shout at their lectures, at work, walking on the street… The witnesses of these reactions could have possibly thought that we are crazy, but this is the quintessence of how badly we wanted to organise Agora!
How would you describe AEGEE-Krakow?
AEGEE-Kraków specialises in non-formal education. We annually organise around five local projects related to developing soft and hard skills. One of the most recognisable projects is Free Language Conversations – each semester we give students the opportunity to learn a foreign language on a chosen level, free of charge. The tutors are either philology students, foreigners or any other people who speak a certain language fluently, willing to share their knowledge and gain experience at the same time. Twice a year we organise LTCs, that provide our potential new members with the knowledge about project management. Then, they get the chance to broaden their knowledge at our Management Training Course, the second level of LTC. Mentioning the other projects would take too much space, so anybody who is interested in our local activities – I recommend following our fanpage on Facebook. What I want to add about AEGEE-Kraków is that we are always trying to find a balance between hard work on the projects and the social factor of being AEGEEans. Therefore we often organise trips together to integrate or members, we keep on searching for common activities and we are very open to all kinds of exchanges with other locals. What I really love in our antenna is the Facebook group called ‘SNAP’, which aim is to post your ideas for funny and odd activities. The other members have to make up a quick decision if they want to be your companion. For instance, If I’d had an idea to hitchhike towards Berlin after our General Meeting, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to find several people backing up this idea.
Who will be in the core team of Spring Agora Krakow?
As I mentioned before, there is already a group of people who were involved into the preparation of our application form and possibly they will be the members of the core team as well. If it comes to the main coordinator, as the board of AEGEE-Kraków we decided that all our members should have a real influence on this choice. So we announced an open call for this position and the coordinator will be chosen by the Plenary Assembly a few days after Agora. Having regard to the high rank of this event, we came to the common conclusion that this is the most legitimate way to select the leader. Who exactly will take the key positons in the core team is up to the future coordinator – the board will not interfere with her/his decisions. Nevertheless, we have been observing the predispositions of our members, both the experienced and the new, ambitious ones, so that we will be always ready to suggest the candidacies if the coordinator wishes to.
Does AEGEE-Kraków have any past experience in organising an event similar to the Agora?
AEGEE-Kraków has never organised an event as big as Agora, but we succeeded in preparing smaller, international events. In November 2015 we hosted 150 participants of Autumn Network Meeting – Awaken The Dragon. In April 2016 we were responsible for the logistics of 2nd Youth 2 Youth Summit, the international conference for 100 participants related to the topics of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability and their implications on our lives. We also organised smaller events, as the AEGEE Eastern Partnership Youth Convention in 2015 and Y Vote Convention in 2014.
What do you have in mind for the facilities and the programme?
Our aim is to find a place for assemblies at walking distance from the gym, very close to the city centre. We would like to use the public or private transportation as little as possible to let the participants explore the city – walking is the best way to discover the charme of the old streets in Krakow. As I attended few international events of AEGEE, I realized that there are few factors (beyond the substantive value) according to which the participants evaluate the event in general. They expect to eat well, to take a warm shower without standing in a long line and to have a steady access to the sockets and WiFi. The organisers have to bear in mind that if they do not provide the participants with those basics conveniences, even when the content is fine, people will not be fully satisfied. So we will do our best to find the proper facilities that suit these requirements.
What will be your biggest challenges in hosting the Agora?
The biggest challenge will not be organising Agora itself, but planning the activity of our whole local for the period of preparation to this big-scale event. The key to make AEGEE-Kraków still exist after Agora is to preserve the smaller, local projects and let them function within the whole “Agora preparation” period. The challenge therefore will be to divide the workforces wisely between the big, time-consuming project and the smaller, local ones. Thus, we keep in mind that an intensified recruitment process needs to be implemented in order to increase the number of our active members.
What makes Kraków attractive to visit?
Around 20% of the people living in Cracow are students, what makes the city lively 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The historical city centre comes from the XIII century and was successfully developed within the following centuries, so that we can see a variety of architectural examples in one place. One of the most significant ones are Mariacki Church – gothic basilique in the north-eastern corner of the Main Square, Sukiennice – the Cloth Hall in the heart of the square that replaced the wooden market stalls in XIV century and the Wawel Castle, a residence of Polish kings by the Vistula river. Those examples are the absolute must-see, but there are lot more wonderful places to explore. For this reason we recommend to commit to at least one extra day beyond the official timeframe of Agora to explore the city. With a clear conscience we can assure you that in Krakow you can find everything you would expect from the hosting city of Agora – beautiful architecture, friendly people and exciting nightlife without spending a fortune! Moreover, our city is easily accessible from lots of European cities, so there is nothing more to add apart inviting you all to Spring Agora Kraków 2018! You can all feel more than welcome!
Written by Federica Soro, AEGEE-Cagliari and Maria Zwartkruis, AEGEE-Utrecht