Had anyone told me in summer 2017 that I would become Content Manager of the European Planning Meeting – a high-profile annual event in AEGEE where crucial topics are discussed and new objectives for the whole network are set out – I would have only smiled. Same would I have done if someone had told me that my first trip abroad in 2018 would be to Armenia.
I never particularly planned to do either things. But as soon as the open call for topics for the EPM 2018 Yerevan was published in August, I was thinking it over the whole night, and by 12 p.m. next morning, the proposal was ready. A lot of people helped finalize it. It was then when I got to know amazing people, among whom Marlene Rene from EaP who later became my fellow Content Manager, and Armenak, the legendary Co-Founder & President of AEGEE-Yerevan and the Main Organizer of this EPM. (By the way, he has dreamt about EPM Yerevan since 2012. Isn’t it creditable?) So Marlene and me successfully presented the topic “Borderless Europe: Can we dream that big?” at the Agora Catania and got appointed as CMs by Comite Directeur. There was no way back any more…
EPM Yerevan was the first ever EPM for me, and I think everyone would agree that it was truly outstanding. As a Conten t Manager, I arrived to Yerevan two days earlier and got the chance to bask in the warm Armenian sun (in Moscow it was -15 then; in Yerevan +15) and enjoy AEGEE-Yerevan’s hospitality. Very early next morning, my friends took me to the stunning and chilly Lake Sevan, located high in the mountains 1 hour away from Yerevan. We returned to Yerevan right in time for the city tour, which was followed by a really memorable trip for all the participants to the Genocide Memorial complex. The local organizers provided us with red flowers, and we all commemorated the victims of those faraway days. From then on, my excursions around Yerevan and Armenia were over, and work had to start. In the evening, we were all fancy for the Opening Ceremony. We saw traditional Armenian dances and listened to popular local songs. It was beautiful!
On March 9, real work started for Marlene and me. That day included a whopping 3 panel discussions with high-profile speakers, which we had to moderate. To name a few, we welcomed the Minister of Education, the President of the American University of Armenia (the venue for EPM), several representatives of the EU delegation to Armenia, and so on. Honestly, I was quite relaxed during the panel discussions. And although Marlene and me agreed that we might have done better, a number of participants came up to us afterwards and said “Thank you” for our work. This was truly priceless. 🙂 Besides, we took part in a closed discussion on Turkish-Armenian dialogue, which was a real breakthrough! Fingers crossed for the amazing ideas that guys came up with! In the night, we went out to the 90’s-style party. When we arrived, my favourite retro songs were playing, but I left fairly early because…you know, I hadn’t slept properly the night before the panel discussions 😀
March 10 was dedicated to drafting the new Action Agenda. This day was not a day-off for me, however, because together with Jasmin Kaiser I acted as a representative of the European Citizenship Working Group (guys, you are the best team!) helping participants to set out new goals in this Focus Area. The drafting process was compelling, sometimes tricky, but luckily the participants were active, and we managed to draft three ambitious objectives. (Yet if it hadn’t been for CD, I think, we wouldn’t have got that far. Thank you Fabrizio, Julia and Marco!) In the evening, a really good European night took place, the biggest European night in my experience so far. Surprisingly, the only table missing was…the Spanish one, as there were very few participants from the other end of Europe.
On the last day, March 11, we finalized and presented all the new objectives to each other and proceeded with thematic workshops. We were especially delighted to see Gunnar who overcame certain difficulties and came to give a session about AEGEE in Eastern Europe! I took advantage of the role of Content Manager to run from one workshop to another, making pictures and noticing how professional our trainers were. Seriously, I felt proud of the work we’ve done together in these past months. Once the sessions were over, we prompted everyone to welcome the EU Ambassador to Armenia. His conversation with us was truly sincere and full of personal stories and, which, from my experience, is not very typical of public speeches of politicians.
As a bottom line of the EPM, the time for acknowledgements came. Everyone involved in the organization of the EPM came onto stage, and we all exchanged gifts that we’d brought to Armenia from our countries. The dinner we were treated with that evening gave me an opportunity to finalize my culinary familiarization with the Armenian cuisine (Oh, I forgot to mention, Yerevan is probably the friendliest big city in Europe for those like me who love to eat well! Even top restaurants offer exquisite food for very low prices)
All in all… AEGEE-Yerevan did a great job. Needless to say, my rate for them (for conditions provided, persons invited, friendliness showed) is 10/10. The open call for next EPM Topic is already open. Why not go for it? The experience of the Content Manager is what I absolutely recommend to everyone. The task are sometimes challenging, but the reward is so much bigger. On the personal side, I was so happy to meet old friends and get to know new amazing people. My personal horizons definitely got broaders and the mental borders went on reducing! 😀 Again, this little success wouldn’t have been possible but for people who were near. I will not forget working with Marlene, AEGEE-Yerevan, Comite Directeur, with the former Content Managers who were my inspiration all these months, and with everyone who was kind to us and enthusiastic about this work!
Natalia Klimenko, AEGEE-Moskva