German Polar Bears in Aachen: “Connecting Old and New Members Makes Working Together Easier for Everybody”

By | June 28, 2017 at 8:00 am | Network | Tags: , ,

Polar bears can not only be found in the Artic Ocean: in Aachen you can find many as well!
Board members of AEGEE-Aachen, Tim Mollenhauer and Katharina Hartz, tell us about the story behind their famous mascot, their ways of keeping members active, and much more!


Polar Bear

The AEGEEan:  Could you tell us about the establishment and the current structure of AEGEE-Aachen?

AEGEE-Aachen board: AEGEE-Aachen was established 30 years ago. From then on we grew constantly, and today we count over 160 members working on many projects. One of our biggest projects at the moment is the orientation week for Erasmus students coming to Aachen for the next semester. However, we have much more amazing projects we constantly work on. For example, our Summer University “Extrem deutsch: How to say “Streichholzschächtelchen!”” which takes place in July, or our meeting with our great twin-antenna Lviv next weekend. Another project we are currently working on is our video project “Europe at Eye Level” where we interview people from all over Europe to get to know their personal stories regarding being a European citizen.

Which typical, local traditions do you have?

AEGEE-Aachen is a very tradition oriented local. The polar bear, our mascot, is pretty much present all over the network. For example, in our famous polar bear-costumes, in our bear-bags and bear-shirts and not to forget about our lovely stickers. The polar bear even has its own Facebook page!

What is the history behind the polar bear as your mascot?

Approximately ten years ago AEGEE-Aachen thought for the first time about having a mascot. At that time, real costumes were too expensive for our local, so we took an old, and rather undefined, costume from one of our members. The animal which was probably most similar to that costume was a bear and so our first mascot was born. In 2011, when the EBM in Riga took place with the motto ”Black and White” the board members of that year came up whith a very smart idea how our mascot could join the party even though its brown colour didn’t fit. They simply ordered a polar bear costume that was totally suitable to the party. Since then we never changed it back, so that the polar bear still parties with us on EPMs, and many other amazing AEGEE events until today.

AEGEE-Aachen organises a lot of different types of activities every year, like city trips, weekly meetings and tutoring workshops. How do you keep the quality of all these activities high?

Since we changed the structure of our working groups we have a committee that always has an overview over all our projects, besides the board. Moreover, we work on most of our projects during our working group meetings, which we have twice a month. In this way, people meet in one place for planning and stay informed about all the other running projects. Additionally, a big help is our well-structured Wiki and Google Drive cloud where we can look up nearly everything.


How do you persuade locals to join AEGEE at an European level?


Of course we advertise European events strongly in our weekly Monday-meetings and ask experienced members at the European Level to share their experiences with all of us.

How do you think it affects the organisation that a substantial part of the active members are Erasmus students?

Actually, not that many of our active members are Erasmus students so that it does not affect us that much. At the moment most of our new members are students in the first or third semester, who are going to spend some more years in Aachen. Because of this, the high fluctuation of Erasmus students is not really a problem for us. What we notice as an advantage of Erasmus student members is that they are highly motivated, Europtimistic and bring fresh and good ideas we did not think of before. And of course with their presence they contribute to this special “international AEGEE atmosphere”.

How do you try to keep members active within AEGEE-Aachen?

We try to keep our members motivated by organising engaging events and interesting projects in which members can participate, but also by giving our members space to realise their own ideas. Another thing that we focus on is improving the connection between old and new members. We do this by organising events that older members are still interested in as well, so that newbies can benefit from their experience. Connecting old and new members makes working together easier for everybody, and we keep having fun together and stay motivated.

If I had to describe my local in three words, they would be:

Polar bears, cheers!

Is there anything you would like to add?

Bear bags and shirts are still available! You are always welcome in Aachen – so come and catch some!


Written by Susan Nijsten, AEGEE-Groningen

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