Réka Salamon joined AEGEE back in 2012. Since then, she has worked with several antennas, organised and took part in dozens of events. The AEGEE Member of the year two years in a row (2017 and 2018) tells about how AEGEE changed her life and how privileged she is to call Europe her home.
1. What does it mean to you to be the double winner of the AEGEE-Member of the Year award?
I have reached this point in my AEGEE career path when I am glad people even remember me. I am really touched by the warm words (I said this last year as well, I think), but I truly believe there is no “one member of the year”. AEGEE grows thanks to the tireless work of hundreds of active volunteers – it just so happens that some of the faces become more popular than others. My white hair might help to stand out these days.
2. What is the most heartwarming experience you have had in AEGEE that you always remember?
Again, cannot have had only one. Let me take us down in a short memory lane…
I remember I visited the AEGEE house for the very first time exactly 7 years ago, in February 2012. It was the old AEGEE house in Schaerbeek (the bad part of town), that was the day the Hungarian Airlines went bankrupt. But I was adamant about going to Brussels and arrived 12 hours later than planned and spent a lovely awkward weekend with CD members for a non-existent PRC meeting. The heartwarming part was the dinner with all CD members, listening to the stories and that wishing one day I would have so many stories as well. I do now!
I remember my first trip to Italy, it was NWM Salerno. I remember the hospitality and amazing food and just all-around feeling of falling in love with the country. The country, the sea, the feeling for life, the people – but not any particular person. Throughout all these years, the Rainbow has always been close to my heart and I cannot wait for Agora Salerno!
I remember the last heart-warming experience at the closing plenary of Agora Istanbul. I do not remember exactly every detail or what I said in my last speech as part of the organiser team, but I remember the epic group hug when I suddenly just got surrounded by a flood of red t-shirts and I could not stop crying. I then had to pull myself together and watch over people surviving the epic boat party on the last night!
I also remember that the most heart-warming experiences happened not on big stages but in private talks with AEGEEans; every single time we got to that level of confidence and honesty, vulnerable to share a story and a secret, and be in that moment to really understand each other. I often wonder, amazed, how there is no scientific process to this “open mind” process, because every single conversation opens your mind a bit more.
3. Do you remember your first year at AEGEE and why initially you decided to join the family?
I attended a Summer University information evening because one of my friends wanted to go. She ended up not joining, and I still have never been to a Summer University. I joined because the presentation included AEGEE’s ties to the European institutions and I was interested in it. I remember the first weeks after joining, I attended meetings of board members of AEGEE-Debrecen, who were revising the statutes of the organisation. Remember, all the fun people were at SU and I did not go. I think the board members were also wondering why am I joining for the boring part – but I just got hooked on the promise of a new discovery and wanted to learn everything, everything that there is to know about AEGEE. This habit followed through all my years.
I remember my first Network Meeting in Hamburg in 2012, and as I often say to AEGEEans: it is your first international event abroad that will truly make you fall in love with AEGEE. The Network Meeting was partly about topics I didn’t understand (Strategic Plan and Action Agenda, say what?), but it also had a parallel full day of PR training where I learnt a great deal and really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the intercultural exchange part a lot (not in the way you think!)
4. You have already been in AEGEE for a long time and organized a lot of nice events. How do you imagine your future?
I am moving into alumna status. People don’t believe me when I say it. Maybe because I am living in Brussels and I happen to live 5 minutes away from the AEGEE house. For real, my time to contribute with ideas on internal affairs is done, my time to leave my mark is over. I would truly like to be the story-telling alumna who is also a source of information when the newbies request it – I did read a lot in the archives of the organisation, trying to uncover AEGEEs magic since 1985. But my story-telling role is more important, therefore, expect more sentences to start with “I remember…”
I am also currently working for the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. I did not stray far from the youth organisation world, but I have the opportunity to work with a new one, a global educational movement that happens to be so similar, yet so different from AEGEE.
5. Describe what AEGEE means to you in three words.
You mean like I did here? This one went really well. Also brings up a lot of fun memories.
6. You have worked in many places previously. Which AEGEE antenna is your favourite one?
That is not fair to ask. I love AEGEE-Debrecen for giving me the opportunity to discover AEGEE on the first place, I love AEGEE-Aachen for a lot of great memories I have had with the polar bears, and I love AEGEE-Istanbul for an unforgettable summer in Turkey and the craziest project I have ever done. Yes, Agora Istanbul 2018.
7. What advice would you give to young or new AEGEE-ans?
Explore. Dream. Discover. I am super cliché but take a moment to analyze the true meaning of those words. Explore: yourself – take on challenges, be brave, because this is the way to grow as a person. Dream: follow AEGEE’s vision for a borderless Europe – practice empathy to your friends who might not have the same opportunity as you, dream of a world of equality and also work hard on making it happen! Discover: Europe – our continent is truly magical and every new discovery will bring you not just closer to understanding, but also closer to appreciating that we live in a time of peace and prosperity (for the most part) and we are privileged to call Europe our home.