AE Local Chapters - an integral part of the entire Alumni Europae structure. Alexander Zammit, our AE Chapter Coordinator, offers his interesting insights.
One of the beauties of being a European School Alumnus is that, even from a very young age, you develop a vast network of friends from all over the world, many of whom you remain in contact with even 10, 20 or 30 years after you leave the school. Another interesting but rather strange phenomenon is that many European School (ES) alumni forge immediate bonds when meeting each other for the first time quite simply from being an alumnus of the ES. The reason for this could either be an unspoken connection that somehow crosses social, linguistic and national boundaries whilst another could be due to having shared such a unique experience during your formative years despite not necessarily going to the same school or even living in the same country. Furthermore, there is an element of sheer frustration when having to explain, for the umpteenth time, the somewhat complicated experience and the intricacies of what the European Baccalaureate constitutes, especially when making new friends and talking to new colleagues.
As a non-profit organization, Alumni Europae ASBL will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2021, having already successfully achieved its role of uniting and reuniting former European School students, parents, teachers and staff from both the social and professional perspectives. This has also allowed for a wide array of new opportunities in all facets of life but predominantly when it comes to rekindling old acquaintances and friendships. Since the early days of the internet to the merging of Alumni Europae with its predecessor, EURESCO, the association has evolved (from what was sometimes unfairly regarded as an elitist club which solely caters for the children of technocrats) to a community-based networking forum which organises events and reunions and whose main purpose has always been to support the European ideals and values of which the schools were founded upon.
A major catalyst for this evolution has come as a result of the significant expansion of the networking capabilities in the past few years along with the continued motivation of its most active contributing members, all of whom work on a voluntary-basis, and assisted significantly by the rapidly-increasing growth of the online world and the improved willingness for intergenerational cooperation, which is noticeably evident by the increasing number of both the most recent school graduates as well as the earlier generations of alumni.
Alumni Europae has progressively adapted to the digital evolution which predominantly characterizes the modern world and so too has the internal workings and structure of the association. Amongst these changes was the introduction of ‘Local Chapters’ whereby alumni, known as ‘Chapter Leads’, serve an Ambassadorial role for the association by kindly volunteering to provide their services in the running of vital networking ‘contact points’ for various AE-themed meetups throughout Europe. The formation of these Local Chapters reflects the association’s values and goals from a more localised point of view via a more grassroots approach. By representing the association on a local level, the chapters are not only able to promote the values of Alumni Europae and the European schools but strive to reunite ES alumni, identify former students and encourage them to sign up to the AE family as well as by providing a supporting hand in their academic and professional careers.
As of October 2020, there are 9 active AE Local Chapters all of which serve an integral part of the entire Alumni Europae structure by acting as the connecting entities between the association’s Executive Board and the association’s members, with each representative being appointed by the Board. The current Chapter Leads include Carlo Giudice (Brussels), Philip Jung (Frankfurt), Maria-Louiza Laopodi (Greece), Joana Malheiro (Paris), Laura Alcaide (Madrid), Jean Gasc (London), Thomas Fairhurst (Netherlands), Oscar Onn (Stockholm) and Henning Aschmutat (Dublin).
In accordance with the goals of the association, these representatives are free to decide on the date, concept and planning of their respective events. Once an event is conceived by the local chapters and supported by the Executive Board, the information is broadcasted to the members via the newsletter, website and social media. The scope of these Chapter events varies in nature depending on the Chapter lead’s choice of location and activity (ranging from gatherings at a restaurant, a café/bar, the beach, the park, bowling alley etc) although they all successfully achieve their goal of either re-establishing old connections or helping to create new friendships. Whilst these events are indeed aimed (and tend to be more interesting) to former students, it is important to note that they are all-inclusive and have served as vital social and/or networking platforms to the friends and/or partners of alumni who also usually attend.
The Local Chapters are currently represented within the Executive Board by myself, the Local Chapter coordinator, and I am tasked to facilitate the exchange of information between them and the association’s Executive Board. Chapter leads can also be members of the Executive board (as is the case with Carlo Giudice and Thomas Fairhurst) and can take up any of its functions, with the exception of the Local Chapter coordinator.
Besides the devastating impact on global health and the economy, the Coronavirus pandemic has unfortunately struck a major blow to the cultural sphere and the organisation of events. As we continue to cope and adapt to the lockdown, teleworking has become the norm for many occupations with the importance of online communication being further brought into the spotlight. This was no different at Alumni Europae as all Chapter events were of course brought to a halt yet we saw a significant increase in online traffic and overall cooperation on the AE Website across the AE Social Media platforms. Likewise, the Stockholm and Dublin Chapters were set up during this difficult period and there is even talk of future events to be held online as well as new Local Chapters being set up in Varese, Munich, Zurich and even beyond the European Continent.
Even in these strange times, Alumni Europae continually seeks to expand its family and help our cause by asking members to reconnect and spread the word. As such, you can already play your part by simply attending future events or you could go a step further by setting up your own Local Chapter in your country or specified city of residence. If you are interested in doing so, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to show the ropes and explain how this can be done! In the meantime, try to look out for upcoming AE events and we will be sure to keep you posted! Above all, stay safe!
AE Chapter Coordinator
Executive Member of the Board
AE Alumnus EES Brussels I (Uccle) 2006