Young Leaders in “the Village of Thinkers”

Author: Ana Alibegova

Alpbach, or popularly known as “the village of thinkers” is located in Western Austria, in the Tyrol region. Each year, in August, leading figures and youth from many different countries come here to debate about the current situation in the EU and to analyze world politics as well. This year, the European Forum Alpbach will be held for the 65th time.

The first time I read about the European Forum Alpbach was on my faculty’s web site. “What a great idea” – I though at first place, but as I started to go trough the application, I realized it is going to be a long run. A complex application form, copies from the candidate certificates, a CV, standard letter of motivation, but it actually doesn’t sound so scary, if you can realize what the program is about and if you are really motivate to take part in it. The key question was to understand what exactly will happen in the so called “Village of Thinkers”. The short information that “Speakers and participants from all parts of the world, from science, economics and politics, experienced experts and students, come together in Alpbach to discuss the current issues and to formulate interdisciplinary solutions” was enough to motivate me to read carefully all the documents included. At the end, everything seemed clear to me: in Alpbach, we will have a seminar week, where I will choose to attend two seminars, then few symposiums will be organised and during the free time, various panel discussions, meetings and receptions will be offered to the participants. It sounded great and I applied for a scholarship.

2 buses, 2 trains and 1 taxi to get to the village hidden in the Alps

I sent the application on the very deadline. To be honest, I didn’t go to lectures that day, just to finish writing my motivation letter. Few weeks later – the results were here, and I was given a scholarship to participate. Can’t describe the happiness, when I realized I will have an opportunity to be at the same place with famous European politicians, starting with the president of the European Forum Alpbach, Erhard Busek, well-known scientists and youth from all around the world. But then – there was a problem. The key question was: “How to get there?”

Seeing the bus, train and plane connections seemed almost impossible for me to come on time for the welcome ceremony and in the same time to find some cheap travel method, because the travel costs had to be bored by the participants. So the solution was on the table: a bus to Walserberg near Salzburg, then a taxi from Walserberg to the Central Station in Salzburg, a train from Salzburg to Jenbach, a train from Jenbach to Brixlegg and finally a bus from Brixlegg to Alpbach. This is how the big minds define a motivated person?. Luckily, it was worth it! The beautiful village seemed like a fairytale, old style houses, flowers all around, men drinking beer and women wearing dirndl. “It must have been Tyrol!” I though. My unforgettable three weeks in Alpbach were about to start.

“Perception and decision” as a general topic

The very next day, a detailed plan for the courses was published. Among the 14 seminars, the ones I chose were: “European People? Perception and Formation of European Citizens“ and “Transatlantic relations“. No need to explain more, it is enough if I say that it was an unforgettable experience to listen the well known professors from the most eminent universities in the world, talking about the challenges of the European Community, analysing the US-Russia relations, criticising the conflict in Georgia and sharing opinions on the EU enlargement. The Balkans were always a priority on the agenda, either because of the great amount of scholarships given to the students from the South-eastern Europe or because the people themselves were temperament and always seek to exchange views about the current far from ideal economical and political situation of the Balkan region.

The “hot” debates ended up during the nights, when the participants at the European Forum Alpbach decided to relax in the local club, drinking some drinks and making funny choreographies with some of the youngsters.

The breath-taking Austria

Discussing about the whole idea of organising a forum that will gather numerous young people, scientists and experts in one place, a positive remark should be given to the free time organisation. The participants have enough time to explore the Tyrolean region, to eat scrambled eggs with ham, containing more than 10 eggs each, to choose from the endless list of beers in the local pubs, to enjoy in the spectacular view from the cable car or just do some climbing and enjoy the Alps. Definitely, four things are a must: a day trip to Innsbruck, a walk along the Achensee, a visit of the Swarovski crystals museum in Wattens and a trip to Salzburg. One should not forget to step by to the near villages: Brixlegg, Inner-Alpbach, Reith im Alpbach, Jenbach, do some shopping in Woergl or visit the old fortress in Kufstein, near the German border. The choice is yours; however do not forget to enjoy the small things, such as the green grass, huge mountains, breeze and the lovely sunshine that makes you feel as time had stopped.

Mihajlo (25) from Macedonia talks about his experience in Alpbach, 2009:

Being  in  Alpbach,  as  an  attendant  of  the  European  Forum  Alpbach  was  my  greatest  experience. This  small,   but   wonderful  village  in  the  Tyrol,  will  stay  in  my  memory  whole  life-long. The  pictures  of  Alpbach  at  the  official  web-site  are  very , very  beautiful, and are calling  to  come  there. During  those  sixteen  days in  the  mountains, I  had  plenty  of  time  to  learn  more and to  learn  something  new. Talking  about  the  biggest  political  events  from the  last  year, it is worth to mention that we  had the honour  to meet (maybe not directly, but to be near) a lot of  famous  politicians  from  all  over  the  world  such as Ban  Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General  of the United Nations.

Concerning the seminars, I  chose  to  attend  the  seminar  “Confidence – Building In  The Context Of  Security And Ethnic Conflict” and as a young doctor I chose the  seminar “Trust and Confidence in Medicine”. However, not only the lectures matter, apart from them, we had a lot time to meet new people. One of the greatest advantages of the Forum is the process of creating connections between people from all over the world. I even met a girl from Taiwan there?.  I have only good words for the Alpbach Initiative Groups and for all those beautiful events that they planed for us. I enjoyed a lot in the Speakers’ Night and a reason plus to do so, was because a friend of mine from Macedonia won the first place. I must also say that I enjoyed all of the parties organized by the Standing Committee.

Taking part in the European Forum Alpbach will change your life, mostly because you will start to think in a different way and as a result – to act in a different way as well. Once you go there, you will definitely want to go back there. – Mihajlo concludes.

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