When I found out that this celebrating conference is going to be held quite close to the place I currently study (Cologne) I immediately decided to go there. Luckily Brussels is close to Cologne, it takes only about three hours by bus. What was a bit pity is that I couldn’t participate the whole event, because I had final exam from one block seminar. So I missed Thursday and almost all from Friday. I arrived on Friday just when the dinner was served. After dinner we went to taste the best French fries in the city (tip: when you are choosing your dressing, choose Andalusia). Waiting for the French fries I got to know some new people from AEGEE Heidelberg, Udine, Talinn and the president of AEGEE-Tartu.
On Saturday me and my roommates didn’t make it to the breakfast, in fact when we woke up, we just heard the voice saying „we are leaving“. All Saturday we spent in Instituto Cervantes, where it began with an “opening speeches” from supporters of AEGEE. For example Franc Biancheri wrote a book „The Emergence of Eurocitizens, a brief history of AEGEE-Europe form its creation to April 1988“ (available here!). After that we had a short coffee break and we were getting ready for panel discussion, there were three options available.
1) Peace Academy and Turkish-Greek Civil Dialogue: AEGEE successful stories in peacebuilding
2) Lobbying for Erasmus: remembering that dinner with Francois Mitterand
3) Bringing AEGEE to the East: the success of „Quo Vadis?“ and East-West Working group.
I choose the third one and I didn’t regret it. I was told that AEGEE looked different before the fall of the iron curtain. At first it was an elite club, not open for everyone. The biggest centre was in Amsterdam. Beside that the organization was spread only in Western Europe not in Eastern. Very first antennas from the East were set in Warsaw, Dresden and Prague. What we cannot imagine now is how hard the communication in the past must have been without Internet, Facebook and mobiles.
In the afternoon our discussion continued. Again we could choose 1 from 3.
1) The role of youth in advocacy – now and then
2) Non-formal education
3) Agorae: past, present, future?
I choose that one with non-formal education but it didn’t reach my expectations. We discussed what non-formal education is and what is not. In my opinion we focused on terminology too much. Probably better topic would have been “The role of youth in advocacy – now and then”. A lot of speakers were encouraging us for higher political activity. They stressed the Erasmus project as an example. We celebrated AEGEE birthday as a real birthday with cake and cheering.
At about 7 pm we returned back to our hostel, where our dinner was already waiting. Another plan was to go to the party “Back to 1985”. But this party definitely wasn’t like 80s party. At some point they played the mainstream music like Avicii or Guetta, which was quite okay for me. I really enjoyed this evening with great Belgium beer (if you are ever in Belgium try a Duvel or Leffe for me!) and drunk Italian girls. And I also had a good conversation with Mr. President of AEGEE – Paul (and yes it is that cool guy with afro).
When we were returning from the party, we crossed a tram path. But suddenly one of our friend from the Netherlands fell down. At first we thought that something happened with his ankle (at least I thought so). But it wasn’t the ankle, it was a knee. He told us that it is not the first time, he had problem with his knee in past as well. His knee-cap was out of it’s place so we stretched his leg and I pushed his knee-cap back. It was really astonishing that the guy walked normally next day.
On Sunday we visited Instituto Cervantes again. Firstly we made groups and discussed about the future of AEGEE. Then we presented our ideas to other groups. The aims were for example to increase the number of members of AEGEE from current 10 thousand to 50 thousand and in long term even to 100. Another aim was to be more politically active and to lobby for new ideas. Then there was also an idea of having some events in different languages than English (or just a part of some events), so that the participants can improve also another foreign languages. To sum it up we heard a lot of creative ideas which could be realized in the future. Some people were a bit sleepy from previous evening (or maybe they were just meditating about some new ideas 🙂 Nobody knows.) Than we had a lunch and the conference was over. We went back to our home countries, which are across the whole Europe.
Personally I think this conference was well prepared, I had an opportunity to meet a lot of new interesting people and I hope I will see them again sometime. Unforgettable experience is Belgium beer and french fries (however they are still from potatoes J). Only thing I regret was that I couldn’t be there from the very beginning.
Author: Adam Kubák