A Case Study Trip offers a great opportunity for a relatively small group of students (ideally up to 15) with different national and academic backgrounds to acquire in-depth information and hands-on experience of a specific region in Europe. Such a trip is not only looking around and feeling good, but getting more information by analysis and interesting meetings, and spreading it to fellow students and interested institutions all over Europe. Therefore, besides travelling, a CST also produces a Final Report to make results of the research known to the interested public. We constantly develop and improve the concept of the Case Study Trip. A major improvement, tested by the CST Moldavia 1997, turned out to be the participants' writing of essays on a certain topic connected with the specific region before the trip, also as a way of selecting really interested participants.

The CST already has its history within AEGEE. The father of the "Case Study Trip" is probably Pavel Cernoch from Prague, a former president of AEGEE-Europe. His original "idee fixe" to go to a less known place and experience it thoroughly with other students eventually developed into the first CST 1993. It had the working title "Perceptions of Democracy in Albania" and brought 12 students from different European countries together with Albanian students, who were trying to develop more democracy in their former hard-line communist country. The CST was a big success, the participants discovered a country from within, which is still not very welcoming to modern travelling and tourism. The success of the first CST stimulated the organisers to approach a more controversial region of Europe: Macedonia. It was planned for summer 1994, but had to be cancelled, as the differences between the organisers from Skopje and Thessaloniki could not be easily overcome at that time. Fortunately a travelling summer university managed to pick up that topic later on.

In 1995, the East-West Working Group (EWWG) of AEGEE-Europe, with David Stulik from AEGEE-Warszawa as main co-ordinator, organised a CST to Ukraine. I was one of the participants. The fact that the CST participants were able to visit the Black Sea Fleet as the first foreigners ever may serve as one fascinating impression for many from that trip. After this CST Ukraine 1995, I had the idea to organise a CST to Moldavia in 1997. In the meantime, there had also been a CST Former Yugoslavia 1996, organised by Erwin de Bruin of AEGEE-Enschede and the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) of AEGEE-Europe. A CST Baltic States 1997, an idea going back already to 1993 when the EWWG tried to organize a similar event on the Baltic Region, had to be cancelled, due to organisational problems just like it was some years ago. Future projects for 1998 are a CST Cyprus, by EWWG and HRWG of AEGEE-Europe, and a CST Transylvania by the EWWG.


My first contact with Moldavia was in 1995, when I saw a Summer University organised by an AEGEE-contact in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldavia, in the Summer University booklet of AEGEE-Europe. I had been in Romania about ten times since 1992 until then, and had also learned to speak Romanian, and seen most of the different parts of the country. I had known about this "second Romanian state", of course, and found it somehow interesting and peculiar. Of course I had wanted to go there, but back in 1995 I still would have needed an invitation from a person in Moldavia for obtaining a visa, or I would have had to pay for an expensive hotel to get a voucher. Also, many Romanians had told me how dangerous (they thought) it would be. Most of them had never been there, but still, you hear strange things, they were supposed to be all Russians, very peculiar, and so on.

So, in summer 1995, I felt there was an opportunity to visit this strange country that people had, if at all, barely heard of. After I had even "fundraised" some money from grandma ("Oh, you go to Bessarabia (she had not known what "Moldavia" should have been), grandpa had been there in the war, sure I will give you money for the flight!"), but then the organisers had to postpone the Summer University, and I could not go anymore, which I had found very disappointing.

Then in September 1995, I took part in the CST Ukraine. I was so excited by this trip, and convinced that the CST concept was a very good one, that I decided to try to organise a CST to Moldavia.


The only problem for organising a CST to Moldavia was that we had almost no AEGEE people in this region. In winter 1996, I tried to find out what I could do to create an AEGEE network, both in the Romanian part and the independent Republic of Moldavia. I found out that there had used to be an AEGEE antenna in Iasi, Romania, and decided to go there in March 1996, to meet with some people of this practically dead local. I went there on endlessly slow trains in the cold winter (my first time in Romanian trains) and met some very nice people, one of whom, Octavian Tanase, became the president of the new AEGEE-Iasi later. During my stay in Iasi I also met two people from Chisinau, who had been sent by the co-ordinator of the AEGEE-contact that existed there at that time. Everyone I met was somewhat amazed by the fact that a Westerner, who had learned to speak Romanian, had dared to visit the end of the world in freezing winter.

In May 1996, I was able to visit Romania and Moldavia together with two other people, Gerhard Kreß from AEGEE-Mainz/Wiesbaden and at that time Vice President of AEGEE-Europe, and Monika Meinke from AEGEE-Passau, and my "legendary" car, a good old Ford Escort. We made an AEGEE promotion tour through seven Romanian and one Moldavian university towns, also Iasi and Chisinau. Finally, the Moldavian government had made it possible for German citizens to receive a Moldavian visa at the border without an invitation. So things had been facilitated quite a bit. We met enthusiastic people in Iasi. The first time in the Republic of Moldavia was quite thrilling, not at all more dangerous than Romania, and we even managed to visit Bender in Transnistria for about half an hour. In Chisinau we met some interested people of the AEGEE contact, but most of them were still very "Soviet", meaning that it was hard to really create some enthusiasm in them. We were not quite sure, whether AEGEE would really have a prosperous future in Chisinau.

Nonetheless, we achieved to create active locals both in Iasi and Chisinau during 1996 and until spring 1997, and the little optimism we had had back in May had been rewarded, despite a heap of problems that had had to be tackled.

In these months I also had to look for people to support me with the co-ordination of the CST. We decided to also involve AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca, the oldest antenna in Romania (since 1991), into the CST. Furthermore, I also found Erika Senkowsky, who became my essay co-ordinator. One new element in the CST concept was that the potential participants had to write an essay on Moldavia.

I went to Iasi and Chisinau again in August 1996, and crossed Transnistria again on the way to Ukraine. In autumn 1996, we fixed the date for the CST Moldavia. We did not change it a single time afterwards, although there were discussions. In late December 1996, I repeated the freezing winter experience and went all the way to Chisinau by car, to visit Octavian in Iasi, who then joined me through the snow chaos to Chisinau, to see Radu and Mihai and discuss the draught programme, which the organising antennae stuck to pretty much then. During a meeting in Cluj-Napoca in May 1997, we finally fixed all the programme. In summer 1997, we stayed in touch via email somehow, with small technical problems. But the personal trust we had created by meeting several times enabled us to carry on with everything quite independently, so we did not worry when we did not hear from each other for a month.

In spring 1997, the marketing phase of the CST Moldavia had started. We did an extensive email PR campaign and distributed leaflets and folders at various AEGEE events. During that time I studied in Budapest, and could use an excellent computer equipment and email and Internet connection at the University of Economics in Budapest. Ralph Böhlke, who studied at the same university, gave me a helping hand every once in a while, and continues to do so with the final results brochure. We received all in all about 50 applications, or at least emails from interested people, and Erika assigned about 25 essay topics.

Finally, in August 1997, we had received 13 essays. We accepted 19 participants, because we had had 20 places, and also opened the CST to latecomers. Finally 11 people came to Cluj-Napoca on September 11th, 1997, and Nicoleta from Iasi joined the CST also to Chisinau. Of the accepted participants, all except of one either came or sent us a message that they would not be able to take part. The close contact with the potential participants over several months proved to be a very good tool to create enough discipline among the people, which is often lacking in AEGEE. The group of participants turned out to be very motivated, constructive and courageous people, and we had an incredible time in Moldavia.

What happened during the two weeks in Moldavia will be told by the participants.


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