Unlike most birds, penguins are marine animals unable to fly. They generally rely on food from the ocean in order to survive. They spend almost half of their lives diving underwater to fetch for their needs. To travel on land, penguins waddle (jump with both feet) or slide on their bellies in order to move fast while saving as much energy as possible. What most people don’t know about these aquatic creatures is that they have a unique strategy to survive in harsh, freezing conditions, where the temperature can go as low as -50°C. They huddle together in a circle to maintain their body heat and they switch places so that everyone gets some heat from the centre of the circle.
You might wonder why I am talking about this. Well, just like these marine species, ESN sections cannot live on their own. They need to interact, participate in local, national, and international events. However, instead of huddling as the penguins do, they cooperate.
Each section does not only need new members to grow bigger, it also needs cooperation, inspiration, and mobility. All three can be enclosed in what ESNers call “Section Meetings”, “Section Cooperation (SeCo)” or even an “inter-section friendship”. SeCo are a part of the NEC’s project and they represent partnerships between at least two ESN sections aiming at strengthening their links and bringing the participants together in one city. They enable the participants to enjoy and benefit from trainings, exchange bright ideas in a very friendly and informal way, and of course travel somewhere new. Which is exactly what a section needs not only to survive but also to thrive.
We chose three ESNers from the network to tell about their experiences and opinions concerning the section meetings. Let’s have a closer look at how these partnerships work in reality and what they do actually mean to the participants.
Elysabeth Yven tells the story about their last French-German Section Meeting in the Ballon d’Alsace with more than 60 participants:
“This year, from the 23rd to the 26th of March, ESN Belfort-Montébliard hosted the 5th French-German Section Meeting in collaboration with the French-German Cooperation Committee. The participants arrived at Belfort, joined the city-tour and later the karaoke night. We all learned something during that night: organising an ice-breaker game is useless when you see how fast people get close to each other by singing some classics, such as Céline Dion or Nena! Music has a real power. In our cabin, we didn’t have any internet, which gave us an opportunity to reconnect with nature and to meet new people. To celebrate our last night together, we had a French-German dinner. And if sharing “Gürke” for Germans or “camembert” for French isn’t the most important symbol of cooperation and friendship between our both countries during this weekend, then we don’t know what is… We finished this unbelievable weekend with a last picnic.
We left with heads full of beautiful memories and hearts filled with new friends! Even if we were exhausted, we left with only one wish: to come back next year!”
Lucie Vachova and Veronika Horáková from the Czech Republic tell the story behind their section meetings now and in the past and the challenges that such partnerships may face:
“My section ISC MU Brno used to have cooperations with ESN Utrecht in the past. We visited each other twice a year, sadly only the board members met and shared some best practices. One meeting usually took place in the Czech Republic and one in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this cooperation does not exist anymore. I think section cooperations are great and can add a lot to the sections, however, it also takes a lot of effort to keep the spirit alive and do it effectively. Since 2011, three Brno sections (ISC MU, ISC VUT, and ISC MENDELU) decided to have a cooperation as ESN Brno United, the first meeting was organised in 2012. We hold at least three meetings per semester now, at each university. It is great because we discuss a lot of things from both the national and international levels.”
Finally, Robert Banet talks about how he first introduced the idea for a section cooperation between Austria, Poland, and Hungary during CEP Graz 2012:
“My section ESN AGH Cracow has a cooperation with ESN Uni Wien and ESN BME Budapest. Since May 2013, we meet every semester in one of these three cities to socialise, exchange best practices, and do some workshops. The whole idea started back in late 2012. I heard from my friend and president of some other ESN section from Cracow how cool their section cooperation was. Then I went to Graz for CEP, my first international event. I was completely new at ESN but wanted to do something cool that I could bring to the section. Together with Lukas Opperman (currently in NEC), we discussed the idea and we wanted to involve the three sections. We managed to bring two of them together, however it wasn’t until 2013 that the third section joined us”. Today they are five sections: ESN BME, ESN AGH, ESN Boku, ESN BFI Wien, and ESN Uni Wien.
The last section meeting, organised by ESN BME in March 2017, took place in Budapest, where the participants enjoyed several social activities such as city-tour, pub-crawl, and dinners together. The plenaries included a variety of workshops including those from both Eduk8 and ComCom. The weekend ended with a feedback session where suggestions for future section meetings were proposed and participants expressed how excited they felt for the next reunion.
“This cooperation seems alive even between the meetings, they have a group on Facebook and do some cool stuff.”
SeCos are definitely something awesome to share and experience. It is a different way and approach to boosting ESN values and bringing the network closer. It is about international friendships and mobility. It is about sharing the best practices and improving the sections’ spirits. It is also about finding a new dose of inspiration and uplifting the members’ motivation, energy, and interconnectedness.
Do you organise section meetings? Share your best and latest SeCo experiences with us and make it even more inspirational on the international level.
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