From the 4th to the 18th of August AEGEE-Bamberg, AEGEE-Erfurt and AEGEE-Dresden jointly organized the Travelling Summer University ‘SUits off; BEERcome A Change maker!’. Summer Universities are exchange projects that last two weeks and bring young Europeans together to foster intercultural understanding. Annually around two to three thousand young people embark on these adventures all over the continent to immerse themselves in foreign cultures, learn and educate themselves in various fields from Civic Education to Self-Development and to experience a common European identity. Above that, this year the Summer University project had its thirtieth anniversary since foundation in 1988!
AEGEE-Dresden celebrated this in a simple but meaningful way: by participating in the European-wide project for the second time since the local chapter’s revival four years ago with partners from Bamberg and Erfurt. Together, we invited twenty one students and young professionals to Germany to experience local culture, learn about German history and, more specifically, educate themselves in civic activism.
The first part of the Summer University (SU) took place in Bamberg, where participants received a bavarianly warm welcome. After briefly getting to know each other in ice-breaking activities, the days were filled with workshops and visits devoted to the main themes of the project: history, civic activism and education. Nevertheless, between workshops given by representatives of the Pulse of Europe movement, a visit to Nürnberg and the Reichsparteitagsgelände, a Civic City Rallye and many more activities, participants had enough time to get to know local culture – a typical Franconian Dinner and White Sausage Breakfast made sure of that.
The next stop was set for Erfurt where a big emphasis was put on history and on-site experiences. Local organizers took participants through the catacombs of the city, guided them to Weimar to visit the Buchenwald concentration camp and gave a workshop about Luther at the Wartburg in Eisenach. By now the group of young people from countries such as Russia, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and many more had already formed a very close bond. Nevertheless, there were still four days to be spent.
The first activities organized by AEGEE-Dresden took place on the way from Erfurt to Dresden, where participants were halted for a stop in Leipzig. With Leipzig being one of the most vibrant places of present Eastern Germany we wanted to take advantage of showing them yet another culturally enriched city. Upon arrival the group was brought to the sociocultural center ‘Die VILLA’ and was shown the diverse nature of activities being offered by local volunteers and changemakers. The center generally focuses on youth work by offering media education, music and dance workshops and a broad range of further opportunities. Afterwards, participants had the chance to explore the city on a guided tour before leaving for the final destination: Dresden.
Arriving in Dresden late that night, the group was happy to receive a warm welcome dinner at the accommodation, a campsite in Wostra. Having rested for a night, the program continued the next morning with a visit to the Münchener Platz memorial site. There, the group of young Europeans were first given a tour around the former court and prison complex, which is mainly being used as a university building today. Furthermore, participants learned about the historical significance of the site by studying former court cases against adversaries of the Nazi and GDR regimes. After the latter workshop participants then had the chance to explore the beautiful city of Dresden. On a city rallye all major sights such as the Frauenkirche, the Zwinger or the Goldener Reiter were visited, before ending the day with a joint barbeque.
The next day was full of activities as well. Early in the morning the group gathered at the university and learned about the local PEGIDA phenomenon and reflected on migration and immigration in their respective home countries. The afternoon was spent at the Military History Museum, where participants were not only lead through the exhibition but also had the chance to discuss the role of military in society with a Jungoffizier of the Bundeswehr. In the evening, time was given to explore the atmosphere of the Neustadt.
By now, thirteen nights and many busy days had passed. The group had learned from and grown very fond of each other. Thus, to have a nice last day before departure participants were taken to a hiking trip through the Saxon Switzerland to experience yet another famously known site. After having enjoyed beautiful views and having exhibited some physical exercise a small closing ceremony was held under open air at the camping site. Afterwards, participants enjoyed the evening among festivities of the city festival.
Finally, on the 18th of August, the Summer University slowly came to an end. After two full weeks of activities, workshops, visits and a big amount of joy participants left over the course of the day. Despite challenging, engaging and sometimes exhausting days all participants left content and with numerous impactful memories. We were very happy to have received each and one of them and hope to have left a long lasting mark. A mark which will contribute to them taking an active role in society, to have learnt about the past and to have contributed to their ability to reflect and think critically.