The current situation with COVID-19 caught everyone off guard, it has led to a number of events being cancelled and plans being changed. With travel being out of the question, it would seem like the Europe on Track Project would be derailed. This likely prospect was however avoided with a strong leader at the helm, she made it seem like a piece of cake charging through the virtual world. We are happy to announce the Member of the Month, March 2020, Elitsa Hadzhieva!
Congratulations on being awarded the Member of the Month! We are all eager to hear your AEGEE story.
The way I got to know about the existence of AEGEE somehow got me into what I did after I became a member. In 2014 there was a Europe on Track stop and a Y Vote local action organised by AEGEE-Sofia and JEF Bulgaria, and this is how I heard about AEGEE for the first time in my life. But I became a member one year after that when I went to a Summer Universities presentation at my university and thought that it would be quite cool to travel for projects and meet new people and get outside of my personal box. What motivated me is definitely the vision that AEGEE has and I loved the European vibe of the organisation that was a very important thing for me as an EU geek and a european citizen.
What has been the highlight of your time in AEGEE?
I don’t want to be cheesy but the truth sounds a bit like it. I cannot just identify one highlight of my time in AEGEE. I loved being the president of the only Bulgarian local. I am more than proud of everything we did in Y Vote for the European elections and the higher voting turnout amongst young people. And I feel quite lucky that I also managed to be the project manager of Europe on Track 7 and make it work even when all odds were against us.
What are some of the most memorable moments you have had in AEGEE?
I have a very vivid and detailed memory, so one can say I remember everything that ever happened to me in AEGEE from going to a party to having sleepless nights working on grant applications or developing new ideas. But most memorable would be:
1. Organising 2 Summer universities, a Network meeting, an Erasmus+ project and
some other funded activities with my local
2. Working and giving my heart for the European elections for 2 years in Y Vote with organising 7 thematic conventions, 1 Final conference, an awesome voting app, going to numerous events to represent the project and what AEGEE did for the European parliament elections
3. Receiving a call of a person that will become one of my best friends that he and his team decided that I am the best possible option to be their CD assistant and leaving my whole life and career in Bulgaria and moving to the AEGEE house in Brussels to dedicate all of my life to AEGEE.
4. Being able to make “lemonade” when the world is giving you a pandemic and not lemons and trying to make Europe on Track works in an online environment.
5. Being nominated by the current CD for the European Movement International and the European Women’s lobby “Women of Europe” award. It was very obvious I cannot compete with the rest of the nominees (one of them was Greta Thunberg) but the consideration and the gesture meant a lot to me.
6. The opportunity to also be a speaker at external events and represent AEGEE
7. Being able to help in writing several grant based projects (My Europe, My Say; European Changemakers Academy, HerMainY) who gave thousands of euros to AEGEE and enabled the organisation to organise a great amount of events and support AEGEE bodies and locals.
8. Finding the greatest friends ever. They know who they are, obviously, but I would have never survived 5 years in AEGEE without the amazing AEGEE members that I call friends.
9. Last but not least, I remember every person and every time when someone just said thank you to me or they appreciated my work. Maybe some of them made me cry (for which I am sorry, those were happy tears for sure). But hearing nice words about your work that you love so much means everything to me.
What are some ways in which AEGEE helped you in your life?
Again, a lot of things can be listed here. Starting with the professional side: the opportunity to include “worked in an international environment” got me my first real job at the British Council in Bulgaria. Also, I was employed by AEGEE-Europe as well, so in a sense, my work in the organisation helped me gain a job in the organisation. And of course, thanks to the whole overall experience I have had in AEGEE and the contacts I obtain, I managed to get my current job as well in the Secretariat of JEF Europe. On the personal development side, I can say that every single thing we do in AEGEE gives us something on a personal level. I do think I have grown and changed a lot as a person as well thanks to AEGEE and I wouldn’t be who I am without being part of AEGEE. And on the communication skills… I can just say that when I was in high school I was having such huge anxiety when speaking in front of people, that I was getting panic attacks and I was not able to speak. Now, more or less, people cannot make me shut up and I can speak freely in front of people and also in front of the whole Agora (that was a challenge).
What are your words of wisdom to your fellow AEGEEans?
Work hard, play hard. My main principle in life. If you work hard in AEGEE you will never regret the achievements you made and the experience you had and there are so many things a person can learn from the organisation and from the people they will get a chance to work with. I would be that self-centred person and quote myself from few days ago when we had the European Bodies online fair and say that “ there is no particular skills one should have to join a project or a body in AEGEE as long as they are motivated and willing to learn and doing their job.” And the “play hard” part. I do have a lot of fun in AEGEE and that’s a nice bonus and I believe it is feasible to work hard and play hard in AEGEE and be good at both.
Any closing remarks?
Thank you so much to all the people that nominated me and recognised my work in the past one month and thanks to all people who also personally approached me to say so many nice things about what we did with Europe on Track.