The biggest and the first ever section of ESN Lithuania has just celebrated their 10th anniversary. 10 years of helping exchange students, organizing already 3 NPs and raising many past and present members of the National Board. Every stage of this growth would not be possible without a leader behind. So today for a talk we invite Darija Kupstaitė – the president of the oldest section in Lithuania, ESN Vilnius University. 

Hello, Darija! On Friday you just had 10th birthday of the section, how did it go?

Hello! Actually, it is hard to evaluate the whole event at the moment, we need some time to think and discuss about it. However, it was something big. We are very lucky being with ESN VU at this magical time. In general, everything went just the way we wanted (only the cake was a little bit too big). We talked about what ESN VU has achieved during 10 years period and we shared the greatest moments with our closest people around. Of course, we were surprised by the amount of presents we got, our buddy section even created a video! On behalf of ESN VU – thank you ALL for being with us.

How would you evaluate your section at the moment? What are your strongest areas? What are you specifically proud of what your section does?

The section is waking up from a long winter sleep I could say. Sometimes it is very hard but we have lots of plans and we have a goal. We will not stop until we have done everything we can. That makes me feel that ESN VU is a strong section. It is not about the areas or actions we are strong in, it is about the people. People whose are motivated and have strong values. These people are our members and they are the ones I am mostly proud of!

How big is your section by members and how are the tasks shared within the team?

In total, we have more than 100 members. We have more than 80 mentors and more than 50 ESN’ers. Some of them have both names: mentor+ESN’er. Every semester we are getting bigger and bigger, more and more students want to join us. It might be a little bit difficult to understand how we are sharing our tasks, I should draw a table of the whole ESN VU structure. Basically, the board has the biggest responsibilities. We have different coordinators on the board who are responsible for their field (leisure, PR, travels and ect.). We also have Senior Mentors and some particular projects coordinators who are not on the board but also have huge responsibilities. For example, we have Erasmus in Schools, Enjoy Learning Languages, Multilingual projects coordinators. Even though we have our own responsibilities, we are helping each other and working as a team.

Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself, like, what is your ESN story?

I found out about ESN once my friend became a mentor. It was two years ago, in 2012 winter. After few months of communicating with exchange students I decided to become a mentor. I did not even realize that I can do more than take care of exchange students and actually I was not interested in anything else. During the first month of my mentorship, one of mentors asked for help, she was ill and I had to be an ambassador of Responsible Party instead of her for one time. However, I liked the project so much that I stayed there for the whole year. And that is how my ESN story started. I got to know “older” ESN’ers, some of them saw a potential in me and encouraged me to apply for a position on the board. I became a coordinator of leisure activities. Couple of months passed and I was elected as a vice president. It was in winter of 2013, so after one year of the first touch of ESN I was a vice president of ESN VU and a coordinator of leisure activities. Some more months passed and I became a president of the oldest section in Lithuania. I started my second year in ESN as a president of ESN VU and it still continues.

And maybe you can reveal your top 3 ESN experiences?

That is a very good question! It is very hard to mark out only 3 experiences... Well, I could list three experiences which thought me the most. The first one was definitely being one of the OC in organizing Bling Bling party last year. I was a newbie in ESN and already was chosen to organize the biggest event of the semester. It was really challenging as we knew nothing about such kind of even. The  second one was CEP 2013. I thought I know what is travelling abroad with a group of people and how to handle difficult situations... It turned out that I knew nothing about that. The third huge experience was (and still is) becoming a president. I was used to be a leader of a team, however being a president is not only being a leader of a small team. President has to lead the whole organization, president is responsible for everything what is happening in the section and no matter how bad the day might be, president is the one who has to smile all the time.

How do you evaluate your career in the organization? Are there are any plans for your further ESN path? 

Climbing the stairs of ESN career was so quick that sometimes I cannot even understand if it is really me who is doing all those things. One moment I was a scared student who was not sure if she will be chosen as a mentor and the other moment I am a president of the biggest section in Lithuania. It is really amazing and very challenging. I do not have any particular plans for ESN after my cadency in ESN VU ends. Maybe I will only be Alumni of ESN VU or maybe I will apply for the position in the National board… Who knows? What I know for sure is that I will do everything I can to finish my presidency successfully.

Anything else you would like to share with the network (likes, comments, thanks)?

ESN changes lives. It changed my life completely. I only wish to all the readers to feel the change that ESN brings!

Thank you very much Darija for your time and thoughts!