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Friday, 14 June 2013 16:09

The things we do for Europe

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Remember the "Agora" that took place about a month ago in Mannheim? Let us show you some of the fun, interesting and diverse topics which were covered during the event – from healthy eating habits to fighting xenophobia, from entrepreneurship and start-ups to nationalism in school books, the Agora covered a diverse range of subjects through workshops and actions. Have a look at some of them below.

Sports, racism and xenophobia

On the first day of the Agora, the organisers hosted a football game against racism and xenophobia in order to draw attention to worrisome statistics proving high levels of both in today's Europe. A team of AEGEE members played against a local team from Mannheim – quite poorly at the start but coming up to a winning finish. Staying with the topic of xenophobia, on the second day the participants were invited to a workshop on homophobia in sports – with the participation of Adam Wilde from the all-inclusive rugby team Berlin Bruisers, who accept heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual members. A small group of 12 people discussed their own experiences with LGBT issues and specifically a topic that affects the LGBT community greatly: bullying in schools. In this context, the Berlin Bruisers are preparing a series of workshops which they want to conduct in schools in order to help children affected by this type of bullying: in these workshops the children are encouraged to speak up and change their reality and to look for and find solutions. An especially important aspect of the workshops is how a sports team can help to improve the situation – by supporting team-mates, accepting differences and increasing self-esteem. Tolerance and respect is surely something many of us still need to work on.

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Photo: Health4Youth
Health4Youth project logo

Can healthy food and young people combine?

Although an essential element in our daily lives, food is not something young people concern themselves with too much – especially when it comes to choosing between healthy and unhealthy food. What would you rather do: buy groceries, cook and eat after two hours, or grab a quick döner from your local kebab shop? A new project of AEGEE, called Heath4Youth, hosted a workshop during the Agora with the aim find out how people perceive the topics of health and healthy lifestyle: interesting disagreements came to the fore when discussing how healthy it is to play on the computer or to watch TV as well as how much meat one should eat (if any). What followed was a true/false quiz regarding commonly-known health "facts" (e.g. whether eating a banana slows down digestion) where the wrong answers were "rewarded" with some physical exercises such as a couple of push-ups. An interesting project overall. I'm looking forward to more news from their side and for now, I'll have an apple to start the day. 

Mental borders in all shapes and sizes

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Photo: Visa Freedom Working Group, AEGEE
Workshop session on borders

We live in a Europe where many borders between countries have been abolished within entities such as the European Union and the Schengen Area. But how far have we advanced when it comes to crossing mental borders and the challenges we face when we meet different cultures? Guest speaker Kimberli Jo Lewis, an American who has been living in Germany and the Czech Republic for a long time, designed her workshop "Mind borders" around the idea of how hard and how easy it can be at the same time to become integrated into a foreign culture and how you can survive in a "strange" country. For an American coming to Europe there are surely things that take getting used to, such as going for a walk with no clear aim or direction or the very strange reason for which all shops are closed during weekends (as in the US people tend to go shopping especially during these days). I can tell you that I share the same sentiment, even coming from a not-so-far away Eastern European country. Having a beer for breakfast or learning to read the "German" time – just a couple more things you need to get used to so that you can feel at home anywhere in Germany. 

A short visit or relocation, both have their fair share of complications and different psychological effects, albeit one more than the other. There are many such stories everywhere you look in Europe, you will find a group of expats with their personal stories, involving different combinations of luck and frustration. How to deal with the latter? As Kimberli suggests: try simply turning on your music player as loud as you want and listen to the music you've always loved.

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Photo: Innovation Booster
Ideas for pop-up shops

Doing business under pressure

A former member of AEGEE founded a company together with three friends, under the name "Innovation Booster", more than a year ago. They are currently based in Amsterdam. This company, which offers its services for product development and system innovation, promotes a particular business model: they support people and companies who want to transform ideas into actions and plans into reality. Following this philosophy they have prepared a set of workshops and training programmes which they usually hold for clients and partners – such as the workshop "Business Model Pressure Cooker" that took place in Mannheim.

The workshop encourages exploring new and innovative ideas to different problems, bigger or smaller, ranging from solving the problem of water contamination (in Indonesia for example) to new ideas for more convenient and enjoyable travelling – all designed in a way to make your mind tick and get you thinking outside the box. Although not the main point of the workshops themselves, some of the solutions which the participants designed were quite ingenious:

  • Developing an online platform for the matching and sharing of goods as a solution for those with limited budgets in order to make one-time-use goods more useful.
  • Creating an online match-making website that finds a fit for you according to your preference regarding pets.
  • Convenient travelling: setting up fitness facilities at stations and in trains. Travellers will feel fit and healthy.
  • Pop-up restaurant: hire a cook who will prepare a special (romantic) dinner or cooking course in any available and unused shop space (gone out of business due to the crisis).

You can sign me up for a mind stretching exercise such as this any day! 

Is Europe on the right track?

At the end of last year, six young Europeans travelled the continent to find out the answers to question "What does your Europe look like in 2020?". This journey was part of a project called "Europe on Track", which E&M covered in Sixth Sense some months ago. The very successful project was recently awarded the Charlemagne Youth Prize 2013 for the best European youth project of the last year. Congratulations from the E&M team (winners of the same prize in 2011). If you are curious to know more about what they found on their journey you can start by watch the video below!  

Y Vote 2014 or European Parliament Elections here we come!

Taking shape during the Agora was also the biggest project of AEGEE-Europe, which will focus on the European Elections of 2014: Y Vote 2014 - It’s up to YOUth, reaching out to first-time voters and students for the European parliament elections of 2014, aiming to inform and encourage them to participate. A small discussion about the involvement of young people in EP elections followed by new ideas on how to motivate them took place during the two-hour workshop. The Y Vote 2014 team has promised us many interesting plans for the next year. Eagerly looking forward to that, we ask ourselves the familiar question: "What has Europe ever done for us?" And we enjoy the short video below as an example of a deep reflection. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 09:41

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