Today we have the pleassure to introduce Gunnar Erth, one of the most iconic members in AEGEE. He joined AEGEE in 1995, attended almost 150 events, including 30 Agoras, and organised more than 20 events. He created the Golden Times, an amazing magazine about AEGEE people and events, and, as Gunnar says, ”it has actually more fans than the AEGEEan magazine!!!”
(Here you have the link to the facebook page of the Golden Times: https://www.facebook.com/aegeegoldentimes/?fref=ts )
So, let’s start, the objective of this interview is to get to know better Gunnar, and also his opinions about AEGEE.
Marcos:Which one is the top 3 of events that you have been in?
Gunnar: It’s hard to choose, since I went to roundabout 150 altogether. So I will choose an Agora, a Summer University and a European School. My favourite Agora was Agora Maastricht in April 1998: with 1150 participants it was the biggest Agora ever; I was Network Commissioner back then and therefore enjoyed very much meeting all my antennae. Moreover, my two best friends at that time were delegates too and we were sitting together in one of the back rows for three days, making jokes all the time. That was incredible fun! It was also a very dramatic Agora with the CD resigning, that was a true soap opera! One of the most spectacular things of that Agora was also the swimming pool party in a pool next to the gym – one of the best parties AEGEE ever saw!
M-And the other two events?
Gunnar: The best SU I attended was the TSU Via Egnatia in 1996, it was also my first SU. AEGEE-Skopje, AEGEE-Thessaloniki and AEGEE-Istanbul created this three-week long SU, with great lectures and workshops about the culture, history and conflicts these countries had with each other; we also saw great places, enjoyed an incredible hospitality, ate great food and had awesome parties. It was just perfect. The third event was a European School 1, a week-long training, for which I had the honour to be ES Manager. It was the ES1 in Stana de Vale, in a Romanian mountain home of the university of Oradea. We had the perfect staff, great participants, made an amazing programme – we had so much fun! It was also hard work to arrange lectures and case work for the participants from 9 am till 7 pm, followed by awesome staff meetings and parties till the early morning. We hardly slept for a week, but everyone enjoyed it. It was so successful that nearly the identical trainers team organised another ES1 in Pécs six months later.
M- How do you compare the AEGEE of the past which the present one? What do you miss in AEGEE now that it used to have?
Gunnar: AEGEE has changed a lot over the years. 15 years ago we had much more projects and thematic events, which made people travel a lot more. In Spain people also visit each others’ events also today, which is great. Now imagine the whole network doing it, because nearly every weekend there is at least one thematic congress somewhere in Europe! People also discussed more issues, mainly on the mailing list. What is better today: we didn’t have Facebook or other social media; people know each other much better on this private level nowadays.
M-What are your biggest achievements?
Gunnar: My favourite year was the year in the NetCom; I really felt I could make a difference, helping and motivating people. Also my involvement in the AEGEE Academy was fun: I managed five ES1, two PRES, one Project School and was trainer at several other of similar trainings. I don’t really know whether there is someone who organised more European trainings. The third achievement was being chief editor of the Key to Europe for five years, including making the 20 th Anniversary Book In 2005.
M-Which persons have been more important to AEGEE?
Gunnar: Oh, there are so many. Next to the AEGEE founder Franck Biancheri I would like to mention two: Georg van der Gablentz gave AEGEE unity and a new vision after difficult years in 1990; he opened AEGEE up to the East and made it a truly European network. And Bernhard Müller, the father of Network Commission and AEGEE Academy. I am surprised that he is not honorary member.
M-How did Golden Times born?
Gunnar: In January 2011 I was coordinator of Les Anciens when I got the idea to create an online magazine for this AEGEE alumni association. It was called Golden Oldie. Since I wanted to create a bridge between AEGEE and Les Anciens, the Golden Oldie also featured articles about AEGEE. It became an instant success among AEGEE readers, so the content about AEGEE constantly grew. Some AEGEE members saw it and copied the idea – they created the AEGEEan magazine in autumn 2011. Three months later some oldies demanded that the Golden Oldie should just focus on Les Anciens matters. At the same time the alumni members were not really willing to contribute. So I duplicated the magazine, left the Golden Oldie to the Les Anciens board and created the Golden Times. Nobody in Les Anciens continued with the Golden Oldie, so it died – and I am still doing the Golden Times, which has actually more fans than the AEGEEan magazine…
M-What AEGEE means to you?
Gunnar: AEGEE is family. Nearly all of my friends are or were in AEGEE, so it’s become completely intertwined with my life. Moreover, AEGEE is a perfect utopia for me: a place where Europeans live together in harmony, without mental or physical borders. It’s simply beautiful.
M- After all this years, I’m pretty sure that you have hundreds of anecdotes and funny stories to tell us, could you tell us one?
Gunnar: Too many indeed! My first big hitchhiking experience was going from Budapest to an Agora in Amsterdam. One girl cancelled in the last minute, so we ended up being three people, which was very difficult. Once a van with some alternative-style people took us and we desperately tried to explain them that we wanted to go to a serious event in Amsterdam. They were just laughing and said: “We know these serious events in Amsterdam!” Soon after our ways parted and they let us out on the motorway. The three of us had a lot of bags, so we grabbed our things and left. Two cars and a few hundred kilometres further on one of us said: “Come on, who of you owns this white bag I am carrying? Take it yourself!” We just looked at each other: “This is not ours.” It turned out that by mistake we took a bag full of food and CDs of the guys in the van…
Good bye and thank you so much for answering the questions and for keep working in the most famous and beloved AEGEEan magazine, the Golden Times.