Europe on Track is an AEGEE project whose main aim is to spread awareness about social issues all around Europe, to create a space for discussion and to capture the opinions of the European youth. One of the reasons that make EoT so special is that the workshops delivered by ambassadors do not have AEGEEans as their only target, but also high school students and every person in general who is interested in the topic.
The seventh edition of EoT was an unconventional one due to the pandemic that has affected the world, nevertheless, the Project Team managed to keep doing the activities online and they achieved great results, gathering 20 online sessions, 52 hours of workshops and participants from 30 different countries, most of them in Europe but also in Africa and Asia.
The edition had as main topics gender equality and mental health, an even greater challenge to tackle since COVID-19 has also increased disrespect towards human rights and has affected the mental health of millions of people who have been locked down with their abusive partners at home, as EoT7 claims in their results report. In order to know more about Europe on Track 7, we have had a talk with Elitsa Hadzhieva, Project Manager and Alejandra Piot, Content Manager.
On the 12th of March the project had to stop its travel due to COVID-19. How long was the original travel supposed to take and which kind of activities were originally organised?
Elitsa and Alejandra: Usually every year the journey of the ambassadors of Europe on Track around Europe is for a duration of one month. The initial plan was that it would end with a Final conference organised by AEGEE-Leiden. Every year the hosting locals are surprising us with their creativity in organising different activities with our ambassadors. The project team and the ambassadors create workshops that can be delivered in front of high school pupils or young people above 18. So, for Europe on Track 7, we prepared 5 workshop sessions and in addition, the local organisers are free to also organise events connected to the topic and our ambassadors are also usually interviewing young people from the city where they are on the topic of the edition.
How did you manage to keep your activities online?
Elitsa: It had been quite challenging to face a global pandemic, however, organising the online stops was an incredible and easy-going experience that came together very smoothly. I was mostly coordinating it with the help from the 2 route managers and the ticket for our success was the quick reaction and I saw how much the locals appreciated being involved in something online and a lot of them were very helpful and supportive to me in terms of promoting the online sessions. I think it was also quite effective for the format that we had with the registration and using the ClickMeeting platform for the sessions. In general, I have to say that the interest was really high in attending the workshops which made us over the top happy. And of course, all of this would have not been the same without the help of Alejandra Piot and our two ambassadors: Anne-Sophie Klein Gebbink and Gasia Ohanes and preparing the two online sessions and to everyone who delivered sessions; again those three, myself, Evita Locmele that was the project manager of Europe on Track 6, Leonie Decking and Andrea Magazzani.
In your final results, you mention that this difficult situation also meant an opportunity to be the greenest edition of Europe on Track. Can you explain this a bit further?
Elitsa: It was kind of a joke from my side in order to look more positive towards the situation we had to face. And we were more environmentally friendly due to the circumstances, although Europe on Track has been a project that always would prefer to use the more sustainable way of travelling, which in my opinion should be more and more used by other projects and bodies within AEGEE, even when we all start to travel again way more.
Did you notice a strong awareness from people towards mental health and gender equality? Do you believe that your activities broadened their view of the topics?
Alejandra: The two workshops that we delivered had a basic level on both topics, but we always tried to measure since the beginning the level of knowledge of the participants. That said, in the end, thanks to the final discussions and mainly the evaluation form we could check how much the participants had learnt. In general, we noticed an increase of awareness towards both topics, as there were some participants that came without any knowledge and finished it being able to understand some basic concepts. Others already had more knowledge but it was really good for us to have those people as participants in order to get their perspectives and opinions as well. Now, with the new focus area on mental health and the continuation of projects on gender topics, we hope that this knowledge will still be spread around and that the awareness will keep increasing around the network.
It is time to say farewell to Europe on Track 7 and to thank them for their hard work, which continued even in choosing the Ambassadors for Europe on Track 8. The first person of the new team to be selected was Marco Melatti, this edition’s Project Manager, who was also involved in the selection of the rest of the team.
EoT8 is currently working on making this an unforgettable edition of the project, and although they can’t reveal many details for now -we’ll have to stay tuned and check their social media-, we have just known this year’s topic: The change is between YOUth, a claim for activism at the local, national and international level and leading our own future after the pandemic. “We’re going to dig a bit into our past and talk a lot about the future, but that’s the only spoiler I can give for now!”, confessed Melatti some days prior to the news, while also giving us some clues about EoT8.
Are you starting the project traveling around Europe or are the workshops going to be delayed due to the pandemic?
We’re still in a planning phase and we are monitoring closely the evolution of the pandemic in Europe. Since the development of the virus itself and of the political reactions to it is not easily predictable, we’re working with a very flexible mindset – our idea is still to make the routes happen physically, taking special measures to make sure the journey is safe for the ambassadors, the local organisers and the participants alike.
If we found ourselves facing quarantine again, would you continue the activities online just like Europe on Track 7 did or would you do anything different?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how great AEGEE has been at moving a lot of its activities online, helping its members and young people in Europe to cope with the isolation of quarantine and maintain social contacts in a safe way. Proposing our content online will naturally be a possible solution in case the physical routes are deemed too unsafe.
What do you expect to accomplish with Europe on Track 8?
Europe on Track is one of the projects of AEGEE with the biggest outreach to young people who are not necessarily members of our organisation. We’d like to further make its name known in Europe, implement some changes in how the project works, and steer yet another great edition towards success!