In the Ancient Rome, people adored a two-faced god called Janus, with one face looking at the past and the other looking at the future. As in life, there are always changes, with doors that are closed to be opened new ones. And in AEGEE, after being elected the new Comite Directeur during the Spring Agora held in Bucharest (Romania) in 2019, doors are opened for these new CD members that took their charges in July. This new CD, number 57th and the last of the 2010s decade, puts an end of an era marked by many different events that, in one way or another, put into a risk some of the principles that defined AEGEE as we all know.
With the 2020s decade closer, this new CD has just arrived to the headquarters of AEGEE-Europe in Brussels and is ready for action. As in the previous article, in which old CD members were interviewed, in this second part new members will ask some questions. If readers met them or not, here they are to start 2019/20 course: President Daniel Amesz (AEGEE-Leiden, The Netherlands), General Secretary Monika Mojak (AEGEE-Warzawa, Poland, in her second year after being part of the 56th CD), Financial Director Refik Baris Ozçelik (AEGEE-Istambul, Turkey), External Relations Director Álvaro González Pérez (AEGEE-Heildelberg, Germany), Projects Director Hanna Alajoe (AEGEE-Tartu, Estonia), Network and HR Director Oksana Prokopchenko (AEGEE-Sheffield, United Kingdom) and Communications Director Batuhan Çarikçi (AEGEE-Izmir, Turkey).
Hello and congratulations for being elected new CD members. For starting, how excited are you for your life as a CD member of AEGEE-Europe? What are your plans and expectations?
Hi! We’re all really excited about starting our term and have already fully gotten stuck into all the different things that we have to do. The life of a CD member is full of surprises as we have already discovered. Especially in the beginning you really just have to go with the flow to a certain extent, trying to tackle the challenges as they pop-up. We’re all still get used to our new life, finding the way in Brussels, finding the right e-mails in the inbox, etc.
We are just starting with drafting our activity plan and it’s great to see the motivation of everyone to work on a wide variety of projects and initiatives. It’s a bit early to already share any concrete plans, at the moment all of us would mostly just be repeating things from our election programme as we have yet to decide which ideas can come to fruition this year. There are some great plans in the pipeline, so we recommend everyone to read the activity plan when it gets published and discuss it with us during Agora Salerno. ;)
In terms of expectations, it’s quite cliché, but we expect the unexpected haha. Of course, we know certain things for sure. We will have dozens of meetings to discuss strategies and visions, we will welcome hundreds of AEGEEans in the house who come to visit during the year and we will probably read and write a few thousand emails. How all of those things will look like in detail, we’ll find out when we get there!
How was the knowledge transfer from the OLD CD members for you? How would you rate it in general terms?
The knowledge transfer period is one of the most intensive periods of the year. In only two weeks you need to absorb all the knowledge of the last few years in AEGEE in general and the CD’s specifically. This means that you follow a packed schedule that covers 11 hours of the day already. Then besides that, you will spend any extra time in the day to ask your predecessor specific questions you still have.
At the same time, of course the world doesn’t stop so the work of the outgoing team still continues as well. We’re very grateful for all the hard work and effort that CD56 has put into the KT to make us as prepared for the year ahead as possible. We had so many informative sessions, interesting discussions and proper training, it was a really meaningful experience.
Still, two weeks is not really enough to really get to grips with everything you’ll have to do or learn all the skills you need to start your term. Perhaps it’s an idea to make the KT period a bit longer. Other big youth NGOs here in Brussels often have the two teams together for a whole month, food for thought!
How challenging do you expect this upcoming year to be? Do you have any specific milestones in mind?
For sure the year will challenge all of us beyond what we have ever faced before, but this is also one of the reasons why we decided to run! We are eager to face all the tasks and challenges and work to grow both AEGEE and ourselves. During our term several of the biggest projects AEGEE has ever been part of will end. This means we need to make sure everything is dealt with properly in the wrap-up and of course financially.
We are also working hard to make progress on the secretariat strategy. As AEGEE keeps growing and doing more grant-based projects, we also strive to continuously make gains in the professionalism in the head office. Employees help to keep continuity as they are there for the whole duration of a project, while the CD might have changed twice already during that period. This is also very important to make sure the meticulous grant administration criteria are met throughout the whole time. Besides that, the whole CD is really looking forward to this year’s statutory events.
We hope to see all of you in Salerno, Barcelona and Yerevan and can’t wait to see what the local organisers have in store for the network. First up in October you all will of course be deciding on the future of AEGEE by voting for the new Strategic Plan. Exciting!
Coming to AEGEE-house, how was your journey? What were your expectations and how much of it is a reality? What are the things you will be missing from your life before moving to Brussels? And how will you manage to live together in AEGEE-House?
Here we want to spend some space on one of the biggest struggles we have faced so far. Due to a change in Belgian migration laws, we are no longer able to have our non-EU members apply for the same visa procedures as before. The policy has become much more restrictive and it’s virtually impossible for volunteers to come to Belgium through the regular channels. We are currently missing our Communications Director, Batu, as he is stuck in Turkey awaiting procedures. Two other team members will have to go back to their country in the coming months as their short-term visa is expiring.
We are using all our contacts and capacity to try to arrange the right documents so the whole CD can stay in Brussels for the whole term, but it’s an uphill battle against changing regulations and restrictive policies. Now, more than ever, we need to keep up the advocacy work that AEGEE does to change policies. AEGEE’s stance on visa procedures is quite clear. They oppose our vision of a borderless Europe. It is extra ridiculous that people that want to dedicate a year of their life to volunteering for a non-profit organisation are kept from doing so. We will update the network on the progress of the situation as well as initiatives to try to make a change in the new regulations.