[AEGEE-Bergamo shares an edit of the article published on The AEGEEan Online Magazine]
There are so many key moments that happened to me and I could share with you about the experience that lead to what I lived some weeks ago. Some of these moments include the one when I received a phone call from a friend of mine telling me that AEGEE is a must in terms of experiences that help develop young people or even the moment when, with a deep breath and a lot of courage, I signed up for my first AEGEE event: Improve your skills – AEGEE Bergamo’s NYE event.
How many things do we secretly dream of? We always know that we can do actions to ensure more than our daily comfort, but, oftentimes, we forget about our passion for travelling and we live in our daily routine, we follow our schedule and we do not dare going beyond the limits of our soul. One day we will all be old, we will look in the mirror and see that every wrinkle is a dream that was never fulfilled, a year that passed by without doing what we felt we had to, what defines us, what we once dreamed of doing.
My decision to apply for AEGEE focused on my desire to go out of the comfort zone that has enveloped me for a few years, out of the vicious cycle defined by the limits imposed by my university and the volunteering activities I participated in, but which restricted me and kept me within the borders of my country. Like many young people in Romania, I believed that in order to be professionally successful, all I had to do was study, but I forgot that all professional achievements do not mean anything as long as there is no fulfillment when it comes to the things that your soul desires. AEGEE was the experience that made me remember that there is no place in this world I would not want to visit with the people here.
Bergamo is a ravishing beauty. I believe many people view Italy through the prism of the most iconic touristic attractions of the country, while ignoring the beauty of the small towns that hide away and impress through their simplicity, order, good taste, warm people who blend in this fairytale environment, all of which, together with the people I had the opportunity to travel with, have made this trip unforgettable.
The event started out in the best possible way: an awesome party where I managed to talk to at least half of the participants. I did not believe my memory would manage to store all the names of those I talked to by the end of the event. This is why I took it upon myself to learn more about the people not through their names or their countries of origin, but through the things that bring us together and the things we have in common. I remember a game I played outside, before going in to the party, which required all the participants to spell out their name and I came to regret the fact that my name, Ana, is so short, and that I do not hold the world’s record for the longest name in the world. The evening ended with a sleeping session in our sleeping bags which were placed in the gym, something that made me want to repeat the experience. This may be the reason why, when I returned home in Romania, the first thing I did was taking out my sleeping bag and put it on the bed. Of course, this could also be thanks to a pattern that was ingrained in my memory during the experience.
My expectations regarding Bergamo came true the following day when I visited the city and came in contact with our guide’s humorous side, which kept us entertained throughout the day. The first major cultural difference hit me the following day, when we went out for a coffee with the Italian organisers and participants. Romanians ordered Americano, obviously, something that confused Italians who only drink espresso – a type of coffee that Romanians define, after several Italian lessons, “too piccolo” [small, ed.]. I am a food lover, which is why I could not miss the opportunity to go visit the place where stracciatella ice cream was first invented. The road from Bergamo to Temu was very useful and productive, as I managed to take Italian language lessons for three hours while reading through the news feed of all the Italian participants, thus learning all kinds of words which I only hope I could be able to form sentences with. The evening concluded with a big AEGEE style party, obviously. I discovered that AEGEE is made up of complex people, all of whom together create a sum of cultures and places that they visited.
The next two days were spent skiing. The organisers dedicated their time and energy to teach us and to practice the saying that defined this event: Improve your skills, something that made me realize that this word, ‘skills’, did not refer only to skiing, but to a lot more things that we managed to improve without realising. When it comes to me, I believe the purpose of the event was to go back home in a better version of yourself than the one you were prior to the event, at least regarding skiing. However, I am certain that I came back with much more than this: I came back with a luggage full of friends from the entire Europe.
European Glitter Night was the evening when Martina and Roby, the organisers of this event, won our entire admiration because they agreed to “sacrifice themselves” to taste all the traditional drinks and foods. I could even say that this helped me set a new AEGEE-like goal for future events. I was astonished to see that most of the participants were familiar with the traditional Romanian drink named palinca. I also found out that this was the drink with the highest alcohol concentration out of all the ones that were present that evening. In other words, if anything bad happened that evening, you can blame it on the palinca.
In the same evening, NYE also took place. This was the first NYE away from home, but not the first one away from my friends, because I felt like I was in the right place, surrounded by the right people, as well as the first NYE which I had the opportunity to celebrate three times, based on each time zone. This celebration based on each time zone reinvigorated this event, because people’s joy was also our joy.
During the last day (and also the first day without the wake-up call – which I never believed I would miss, but once I got home, I started hating my phone’s alarm clock because it was too mainstream and I began missing AEGEE), we went visiting the mountains with the so-called “ciaspolata” – a type of ski, small in size, but which make the climb easier. For three hours, I felt the need to take a picture every minute, something that drew the attention of the other participants who gave me the nickname “the Romanian girl who is more Chinese than Romanian”.
We ate pizza, but here I once again drew all the attention because of the way I chose to eat the pizza: with ketchup, same as the majority of the Romanians. This was my last experience of this kind and in order to prove myself, I decided to start an anti-ketchup campaign for my friends as a sign of respect for all my Italian friends. During the course of the same evening, I came to regret that Bombardino is not a traditional Romanian drink, which is why after I got home, I tried preparing it myself, but of course, the Romanian Bombardino did not have the same taste as the Italian one. Not because I did not know how to prepare it, but because you need some people with you in order to enjoy certain things.
Now, at the end of my message, I do not know if I should talk to those who never tried the AEGEE experience with the purpose of convincing them to try it or whether I should thank the people who deserve this because of the experience they set me up for, while allowing the others to see the motivation behind all the thanks I give: to the organisers – because every small detail made a huge difference, for all their patience and joyousness – and to my colleagues – because they turned this experience into a unique one, because each and every one of them managed to teach me something. Thank you for making me smile all the time during the event!
Thank you, AEGEE!
Written by Ana Mardare, AEGEE-Bucuresti