AEGEE’s Culture Interest Group saw a flourishing under the guide of Sergio Genovesi and Alessandro Montefameglio, previous coordinators of the CIG. Recently, new coordinators Marta Pagnini and Anna Inozemceva were elected, and they started working intensively to explore all the opportunities that this Interest Group can offer to AEGEE members. The AEGEEan interviewed them for you.
Old and new coordinators, please introduce yourselves.
Sergio: I am 26 and I live in Bonn, Germany, where I am doing a PhD in philosophy. In my previous AEGEE experience I was a very active member of AEGEE-Torino. In 2015 I was also elected president of this antenna. My dream job would be to work in the cultural field, either as a cultural event manager or as a teacher. Or both. [he smiles, ed.] Alessandro is 25 years old, he lives in Padova, where he is doing a Master in philosophy. He collaborated actively with AEGEE-Pisa. He is a literature lover and a writer. He lived in Belgium for six months, where he did his Erasmus. He is addicted to anything that belongs to humanities and arts.
Marta: I am 23 years old and I used to live in Paris where I studied sociology and international politics. Now I live in London where I am doing a master in educational planning and international development. I have been an active member in AEGEE since 2014 and in particular in the organisation of local events and SU universities. My dream job would be working as an education-policy planner for the UE institutions.
Anna: I am 21 and I live in Belarus, in a cozy city called Grodno, where I am finishing my bachelor in translation and intercultural communication. I also work as a teacher of English and do translations as well. I am a member of AEGEE since 2016, a not so long but very active and productive period, I can admit. I am the president of AEGEE-Grodno and during this year I was the main organiser of three European events in Grodno (Cultural winter event, EoT4 and Summer university in colloboration with AEGEE-Warszawa). AEGEE gave me a lot during this period, for me it is something completely special and life-changing even. [she smiles, ed.] Concerning my dream job, I would like to be connected with languages and culture for sure, especially with the Italian language as it is my greatest passion. [she smiles, ed.]
Sergio and Alessandro, you brough the Culture Interest Group back to life after Agora Asturias and now you are leaving it -in good hands-: did you achieve all that you planned at the beginning?
Yes, we did. We increased our visibility, and we set strong basis both for the development of our cultural blog, which focuses on a number of different themes related to culture, and the realization of branded AEGEE-CIG events (take a look at our booklet!). We hope we caught the attention of many people and we made them understand the importance of culture for the European project. Now it is time to bring some fresh air and some new ideas, in order to let our Interest Group grow further.
How did your initial plans change, if they did?
We actually did not expect to be able to organise so many events. At the very beginning we thought that being able to edit the cultural blog was already a big challenge. Thanks to our amazing team we also managed to organise two photo contests, an art exhibition in Köln, the book crossing and the AEGEE-Culture Training in Bruxelles. Moreover, we also delivered two CIG workshops at NWM-Mannheim and NWM-Moskva. I do not know if in the future the CIG will invest more energy on the editorial project or on the organisation of cultural events. In any case, we are happy we were able to explore both paths.
I can’t help but notice that your logo and blog, while very evocative, don’t really follow the common Visual Identity. Is that a precise style choice or do you plan to integrate your image with the common style in the future?
Thank you for the question, you are not the first one asking this to me and I would like to answer properly. The logo actually does follow the common Visual Identity: it does not contravene any rule and it was formally approved by our Interest Group responsible in CD. However, you are right: it does not look like other AEGEE logos. We wanted a logo that could express the meaning of our motto, the famous Schiller’s verse “wo dein sanfter Flügel weit” and the book-winged eagle turned out to be a perfect embodiment of this idea. We worked very hard with our designer, Claudia Cassina, to follow our inspiration and at the same time fit the AEGEE standards. You cannot imagine how many drafts I have on my computer and how much time this thing took. I’d like to thank Claudia very much because she is a professional (actually a very good one) and she did everything for free, just because she believed in our project and for the sake of the challenge. Now the new coordinators are free to do whatever they want. If they want to change or improve the logo they can. But honestly, I hope that they will spend their time and energies in more meaningful and productive activities. There is so much to do and their work can really have a big impact on the AEGEE network and beyond.
Anna and Marta: what brought you to the CIG and what convinced you to take up this new challenge?
Marta: I first heard about the Culture Interest Group last spring, when I met Sergio in Paris. I saw him walking in the Quartier Latin and realised I had already met him in a summer university in Italy. Was it by chance that I met him? The path that began that day in the CIG group would not say so!
He explained me patiently all the information about the CIG and integrated me immediately in the group. I first wrote an article for the CIG after a few weeks on the Disney film Mary Poppins with a gender-interested lens. What I really loved about the CIG was the courage Sergio and Alessandro, its coordinators, gave me to express myself openly; they gave me a lot of trust even if they had know me only for few days.
When I discovered that there was a vacancy in the role of coordinators, I proposed myself as a candidate. I felt that I needed to improve my leadership skills and in AEGEE everybody always told me: “Volunteering for AEGEE is a great opportunity to make mistakes without formal consequences”. AEGEE for me is a gym for professional life, where I can firstly take a responsibility role with the help of wonderful people that can assist me whenever I need them.
Additionally, I consider that volunteering for AEGEE is also a chance to develop networks with international students and stimulate enriching discussions about cultural issues.
Anna: As I have already mentioned my experience in AEGEE is short but enermously rapid. [she smiles, ed.] I wanted to take part in everything where I could be useful and that could help me to develop as well. That is why when I met Sergio during a network meeting in Moscow, I was captivated by his presentation of the CIG, as this world seemed to me a great platform where I could learn a lot and contribute a lot, taking into consideration that culture is also my major at university. I wrote him just after my return home with the request to explain me how everything worked and how I could be the part of the team.
From that moment my relations with the CIG actually started and seems that they are long-lasting. [she smiles, ed.] I started to write articles for Momus as writing is my second passion – after Italian, of course. [she laughs, ed.] Then Sergio proposed to organise a CIG live meeting at the AEGEE- house and that idea was marvellous indeed. We got acquainted with each other at first, spent fantastic time everyday sharing ideas which can be easily implemented in every local and maybe right there we understood that the CIG would live long and prosper. And I can tell that our Booklet is the “baby” of that meeting.
Then in summer Sergio approached me with a proposal unbelivable for me – to become a coordinator of the CIG! I am not going to lie, I was surprised, excited, a bit thriled but without any shade of a doubt I accepted his proposal at once. For me it is one more chance to develop and be developed at the same time, to do the things that I love, to be a part of an amazing international team and expand our cultural wings further. I believe that AEGEE needs it as our organisation is all about culture and its aspects. So this year promises to be hot. [she smiles, ed.]
PS: I would really like to thank Sergio and Alessandro for discovering the CIG, for their passionate and enthusiatic work there, for their trust, their help and their wise advise to the new coordinators now.
In your blog, Momus, you state that you want to “start spreading and producing fresh European culture”: what is your definition of European culture and why do you think this endeavour is important nowadays?
We think that it is really hard to define a European culture, which is all but homogeneous and unified. However, we consider that the multiple cultural settings that frame European identities can mix with each other and create a common and respective interest among people. Additionally, we think that, although it is so diversified, cultural exchanges are the key to a more peaceful and tolerant society. Culture is an invincible power because it unifies people and it increases social and economic mobility.
In the past spring you conducted an edition of bookcrossing: what do you think of it as a way to spread culture?
The purpose of the bookcrossing is to exchange books a person feels passionate about and encourage cultural exchanges. We are proposing a book crossing event at the beginning of our coordination experience because it is actually quite simple to organise but can have a real impact on people. Reading paper books is more and more a rare activity and we are now encouraging this practice among the young generation.
Can you give us a sneak peek of what you have in store for the future?
The Official Culture Interest Group of the year 2017/2018 has just been created. It shows the activities we will implement in the antennas that will collaborate with us. The first event of the year took place at the end of September during Agora Catania. We are referring to the book crossing: during Autumn Agora participants exchanged books with a partner met at the event. This will encourage intellectual exchanges and stimulating discussions between the participants. Additionally, we are planning to continue enriching our official blog, Momus, with stimulating articles and organise cultural debates and games in the antennae.
How can AEGEEans reach you? Who should be joining?
Everyone who is interested in culture is warmly welcome! The Culture Interest Group lives thanks to the input of new members. They come from a variety of experiences, backgrounds and cultural settings. We really suggest to be part of the CIG because we strongly believe in the power of culture: everyone needs it to fully enjoy social relations. Here, you can have the opportunity to express your creativity with a team of assistants that will help you write articles or create cultural events. Culture is a key to successful communication, without doubts.
Written by Federica Soro, AEGEE-Cagliari