Active students – better society

Author: Ana Alibegova

On the International Students’ Day, Forum Oratores and AEGEE-Skopje, two student organizations, made their first joint project – a Project Management workshop. This was what inspired me to have a little chat with Elena Avramovska,President of AEGEE – Skopje and Miroslav Draganov – President of Forum Oratores.

1 pm, Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus” in Skopje. Around twenty people sit in the small amphitheatre 1 and wait for the “big” opening. This “big opening” has nothing to do with big openings of new buildings and shopping centers, but this opening is big – meaning important, because it is the first more serious cooperation between the student organizations AEGEE – Skopje and Forum Orators. Moreover, the Project Management workshop has a meaning of its own, because the ideas about being an active student, participating in a global network of youth organizations and making a better society, will be spread among 20 new participants. Through the numerous projects they organize the students organizations in Macedonia try to open the minds of young people and transform them in a strong group of people, with a critical view of the world, seeking for alternative solutions and open to new challenges. AEGEE and Forum Oratores are among the most active student organizations in Macedonia, the first one working also on an international level as part from the European AEGEE and the second one – Forum Oratores mostly working on a regional level, nowadays expanding its activity on a national level and planning to join some European or global organization networks that promote public speaking and the development of elocutionary skills.

The most important experience in the CV

Elena Avramovska is president of the student organization AEGEE – Skopje. AEGEE – Skopje is a local branch of the AEGEE network, formed in 1993 in Skopje. AEGEE Network is present at 256 Universities in 40 European countries and it includes 17 000 members, facts that make it one of the biggest interdisciplinary organizations in Europe. The association’s main aims are: promoting the idea of unified Europe without prejudices; striving for creating an open and tolerant society of today and tomorrow; fostering democracy, human rights, tolerance, cross-boarder cooperation, mobility and European dimension in education. But do Macedonian students truly recognise these values and become active in organisations sharing similar aims to the ones AEGEE has?

“Unfortunately, not many students in Macedonia are active. We can’t even make a comparison between the number of active students here and in some other European country. I can use the Netherlands as an example here. Every student there is a member of some student association. They can’t even find a job if they don’t have such experience in their CVs”, Elena explains.

Miroslav Draganov, President of Forum Oratores, thinks that students in Macedonia are partially active. The organisation he represents – Forum Oratores promotes public speaking, critical thinking, freedom of speech and human rights. Their aim is to form active citizens that will participate in the decision-making processes. Miroslav says that there are two types of students: “One part of the students are quite active, they see that there is a diversity of non-governmental organisations with different aims and objectives and they find the most suitable one for them. On the other hand, there are students who are completely inactive, and there is nothing in between. By taking part in student organisations, young people can get a lot of practical knowledge as part of their non-formal education, which can help them a lot, even more than only learning things from books. This is the way to make your CV better, you can meet new friends, learn what team work is and participate in different projects.”

Both professional and personal experience

The membership in a student organisation can be not only a great professional, but also an important personal experience. You can learn a lot about organising events, fundraising projects, leading a team and so on, but most importantly you can discover a lot of new things about you and your strengths and skills.

“I realized that learning is an endless process of creativity. There are no interesting and boring subjects, there are only interesting and boring ways of learning. I’ve learned how to adapt myself to various situations, to different people, as well how to work in a multicultural environment. And of course, one other thing that means a lot to me, are the friendships that I made all over Europe”, Elena explains.

Miroslav says that thanks to Forum Oratores a lot of opportunities have opened up in terms of activities and initiatives. The things he learned at Forum Oratores helped him to even win a European prize – first place on the Speakers’ Night at the European Forum Alpbach in Austria.

“I learned how to contribute to the work, how to work in a team and how to be a good leader. Moreover, the membership in Forum Oratores helped me develop as a person; I learned how to be responsible and how to cope with different kinds of people. Now I have a broader view of the world, I met a lot of great friends and what’s more, people look at me in a different way, knowing that I am active and successful in what I do”, Miroslav claims.

The questions of student motivation and cooperation between organizations

Not all the students are young enthusiasts like Elena and Miroslav. Most of the students prefer to sit and complain about the disadvantages of the educational system, about the European Credit Transfer System or make remarks about the university’s bureaucracy. I asked Elena to give me her opinion in terms of the ways we need in order to motivate young people?

“Oh, that’s really hard question to give answer to. I often ask myself the same thing. Very often I hear my friends saying that they would like to be more active, but they are not, only because they have too many faculty-related obligations. I believe that student organizations in Macedonia should cooperate more intensively in order to organize various beneficial activities. And of course, the more we invest in ourselves, the more we can get.”

Miroslav shares Elena’s opinion. He also stresses that cooperation between youth organizations is needed and supports initiatives such as the Project Management Workshop organized by AEGEE and Forum Oratores.

“Student organizations should be partners, not rivals, they should exchange information and organize joint events, where you will have participants of all the organizations involved, and in this way can have a double effect”, Miroslav explains.

In conclusion, student organisations will continue promoting the values of non-formal education among the student population. Both Elena and Miroslav believe that young people will recognise the benefit of being an active student. Until then, they will do their best to foster cooperation and experience sharing among the student organisations and will continue with their dedicated work in AEGEE and Forum Oratores.

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