In the occasion of the Youth Development month, the Youth Development Working Group reached out to four AEGEE alumni and interviewed them, with the intention to connect past, present and future of AEGEE. Here’s the first interview of the series: Berat Ezel (formerly) from AEGEE-Izmir.
YDWG: Hello Berat, can you introduce yourself a bit?
Berat: I am a volunteer, youth worker and consultant on training design solutions and recently I have been working with Syrian refugees and professionals who work with disadvantaged target groups in the frame of social inclusion. Apart from these fields, I am actively working on outdoor education, entrepreneurship trainings for youngsters and women entrepreneurs living in rural areas. I live in Bodrum,Turkey.
And when did you become a member of AEGEE? How many years did you volunteer in it and what have you done during those years?
Well, I became a member of AEGEE-Izmir in 2000. I was actively involved in local and European activities until 2008. Since then I have been supporting AEGEE locals or members as alumni member. When I was an active member of AEGEE, I had many roles in the Network. I was a board member of AEGEE-Academy, SUCT, DWG, Network Commission at the European level and I was a board member of AEGEE-Izmir, organising committee member of AGORA Izmir 2005, which was awarded “best event” and I was organiser of several Summer Universities.
What does AEGEE mean for you?
AEGEE means a big network and family which can broaden your life vision and give you many opportunities, more than a young person can ever imagine.
What was the biggest thing that AEGEE brought to you?
Obviously the reason of choosing my current job career and my lifelong friends from Turkey and all over Europe. Before being a member of AEGEE, I was involved in volunteering activities but I was feeling that something was missing. Then, after meeting different people from different backgrounds from all over Europe, I realised that youth’s needs and problems are not so different in different countries. And this network motivated me to step up to extend my competences in order to be more active as citizen. On the other hand, while organising social projects and activities for youngsters, I had the chance to meet amazing people who are willing to make a positive impact in society. Some of them are my close friends and some are my colleagues now. We have a strong connection thanks to the AEGEE spirit.
Which skills did you improve most during your very active years in AEGEE?
Well not only skills, but I would rather say I had the chance to develop knowledge and attitudes in my job and life too. First of all, I had the chance to explore civil society and its power for a change in the community. Intercultural learning, conflict resolution, active citizenship, volunteering, human rights and advocacy, and designing learning activities (LTCs, European Schools) are only some of the fields I got knowledge of. Surely event management, project management, FR and PR skills, how to run an NGO, how to manage volunteers and many other skills helped me to build my career. Working in the right field, with the right target group and with the right team helped me to develop my attitude towards my job. Sharing information and gaining knowledge became the vision of my life.
Did these skills help you to find a job easily? And what is your job now?
It was NOT so easy at the beginning. Including my friends and family, nobody ever believed that I could have a good future or good life by choosing social work. When I was travelling in Europe from one event to another, they mostly thought that I was just partying and enjoying life and that’s it. Obviously, recognition of youth work at the beginning of the 2000s was not so developed as much as today. So it was not so easy to find a job to work on. On the other hand, thanks to my social and organisational skills, I had the chance to work on large scale projects of national and international foundations and institutions and this helped me to start working as freelance youth trainer. I still am a trainers’ pool member of different European youth networks. But I work as project manager in an youth and culture centre in Bodrum, Turkey.
What would you say is the biggest benefit of AEGEE for young people looking for a job?
The biggest advantage of AEGEE for a youngster is being a member of huge network/family full of opportunities. Each youngster has skills and motivation, desires but mostly they think they are alone. For a young person, playing a violin in Izmir is nice, but if you tell him/her “there is an opportunity to meet different people who play different instruments from Madrid, Athens, Krakow, Baku, Budapest, Prague, Zagreb” and he/she can come together, meet, understand each other, work together, organise a concert together with those people and invite a whole European community to that, and if you tell him/her that it is not only a music performance but promotion of solidarity, unity and a better future for new generations with no prejudices through this event, then I am sure that youngster would say “It is impossible!”. Well, it is possible..I’ve seen it with AEGEE.
Lastly, do you have any advices for the newbies in AEGEE?
I don’t know if it is advice, but I would say I am very sorry for them. Because if they are already a newbie, that means they are already infected by the AEGEE virus. It will be following them entirely. [he smiles, ed.] AEGEE is like a simulation of life, both professionally and socially, and it is also life itself. So they should enjoy it and use it and gain from it. But they shouldn’t forget to give back to AEGEE as well.
Written by Batuhan Çarıkçı, Youth Development Working Group