BY MARKUS SCHÖNHERR, THE MAIN CO-ORDINATOR
PASSAU, OCTOBER 1997.
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
and the Human Rights Working Group
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
and at that time Vice President of AEGEE-Europe, and Monika Meinke
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
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
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.
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