“Oh no, we don’t do that childish flag-stealing business,” I was assured by Nico from AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca at the train station on Monday afternoon. A few minutes later, our flag was stolen for the second time; the first time being at the “Education for the Present, Democracy for the Future” conference, for which we will receive our punishment at Agora Enschede. A few hours later, we were invited to complete a challenge involving Romania’s typical drinks, Palinka and Țuică, to win our flag back. That is what happens when you have two AEGEE-babies on the team… Thank god we have Paweł from AEGEE-Poznan.
Europe on Track is a project from AEGEE, the European Students’ Forum. In AEGEE there is a flag-stealing game, in order to encourage people to take more care of their locals’ flags: When a flag is left to its own devices, one is allowed to steal it, and pose a punishment to the owners so that they can win it back.
On Monday morning at 6am, Team Red took a 8-hour train from Budapest to our first stop, Cluj-Napoca, a vibrant student city and the ‘Silicon Valley of Romania’. We were picked up by Marina, the president of AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca and Nico, an Erasmus student from AEGEE-Dresden. We made our way to the AEGEE office (up a big hill) for the weekly meeting. This week was different, and we watched a screening of The Art of Possible, a documentary made by AEGEEans that shows how AEGEE changes people’s lives, featuring our dear colleague from Team Blue, Jorge.
On Tuesday, we held our first workshop with 14 attendants from 5 countries. We took on the somewhat impossible task of defining Civic Education (after all the focus of EoT4), we did the Pizza (or Pie) Chart activity to show the gap between how much people care about certain aspects of society (public health, gender equality, environment, etc.) and how much people actually act upon these interests. Since the gap is huge, we tried to come up with examples of competencies (skill, attitude, knowledge) to close this gap. We spoke about the interconnectedness of these aspects of society (if one section improves, it will positively affect the others), about the role of social media in social mobilization and the danger of filter bubbles, about how people should be aware of their basic rights (e.g. the Romanian police cannot do random searches for drugs), and about the power of arts and culture in conveying a message.
We ended the day at the magical Teahouse Samsara with our lovely hosts Bianca and Alexandra (Mama Bear) and spent the following day in Cluj to interview young people (and a giant German bunny) on the street about their experience with Civic Education. The common thread was the importance of going abroad, as it transformed people’s perspective on Life – yes, with a capital L. Because that is what CE is about: gaining the competencies required for Life so you can be an active, aware and critical citizen.
Currently, we are in the train to Iasi, where we will take a bus to Chisinau in Moldova, with Mama Bear’s survival toolkit full of food (thank you, Alexandra!) and a beautiful 6am sunrise.
Thank you to AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca for hosting us, and see you somewhere in Europe!
Written by Eleanor Denneman, Photos by Paweł Lenarczyk