When did you join ESN? Why? What was your motivation?
Before I started college, I found out about the Erasmus programme and I really wanted to do a part of my studies abroad. During the first week at my university, I found the student organisation ESN and I visited their office. I met a friend there, who explained that I’m too young for the Erasmus programme because at the AGH University of Science and Technology, there is a rule that a student must pass the first year of studies to be able to go for Erasmus. Considering the fact that I started studying a week before that, it was impossible. For the next few months I continued studies but I felt that something was missing all the time. This is why I came back to that office and I found that friend who I talked to before. I told him that I feel bored in my life and I would like to join the ESN. We talked for a very long time about what ESN is and how it works. After that I was informed that soon there will be a meeting I should attend. I thought he meant the recruitment process meeting but it turned out to be a meeting of the whole section. I didn’t understand a thing the members of the meeting were talking about, apart of one question - can someone pick a French Erasmus student up from the airport? I volunteered for that task and it was the start of my activity in ESN, which lasts till this day.
Breakthrough moment in your Newbie career?
It’s difficult to tell. When I was a Newbie - because there was no recruitment process or training camp back then - I attended two section meetings, after which there were Christmas holidays. Following that I picked up an Erasmus student from the airport. That was the breakthrough moment (from nothing to something) which lead to more interesting events.
General breakthrough moment in ESN?
I think that on a local level, it was becoming the president of ESN AGH. On national level, I believe it would be becoming the president of ESN Poland.
What functions did you have in ESN?
I started from being a mentor, then a local HR manager, and then president of our section. After that I had a 5-months-long break, because I went for a students exchange to Singapore. During that exchange I was able to join the InterCom committee. I was also a National Coordinator of ESNcard project and a member of PR committee. In 2013, I joined the ComCom, where I was the Corporate Identity Team Coordinator. During summer, I went for Eduk8 T4T in Cluj-Napoca and a year later for Eduk8 T4T Trento, so I am an Eduk8er. I estimate the number of platforms during which I got to organise trainings to be around 50. In 2014, I became a coordinator of ESNcard project on the international level and a president of ESN Poland on the national level. After finishing my adventure with the national board, I was asked to join the Education Officers Support Group in ICE. In recent years, I was a member of chairing teams of different platforms four times. Recently I joined the Audit Committee of ESN Poland.
What are you most proud of in your ESN career?
The one thing I thought was impossible and which indeed happened, was reaching an agreement with a hotel during the organisation of Silesia Dream Event. I called a lady from a hotel and kindly asked if by any chance we do not need to pay them the money (around 10 000 PLN) since the event didn’t take place.
She just said: Ok, no problem.
Did you have any doubts? What? When? Why? How did you deal with them?
Of course there were moments of doubt. First of all the criticism, which I could not understand and the resignation of the members of the board. One of them resigned for a short period of time and the second one resigned for good. Moments of doubt go away after some time, but what definitely helped me was the support of good people. You can find a lot of them in ESN.
How would you rate the development of our association over the time you are its member?
In some aspects there is a huge progress and in some there is a regress. If we consider  trainings we can see a huge development. During my first National Platform in Łódź in 2011, there was a fantastic HR training. Back then there was no UPGRADE, but there were Newbies and I believe that choosing UPGRADE was a great decision. 5 years ago there was no Eduk8 in ESN International. So we can notice a great change in this field.
On the other hand, the area in which we need to improve is the contact with partners. We need fresh blood, new companies, because if there are any, they are short-termed. Additionally alarming is the fact that some sections themselves have partnerships like the ones of ESN Poland.
How do you assess your development and development of your competences?
Due to the fact that most ESN people do not remember how I started, I have to admit that I have changed unrecognisably. For example, I was the chairman of a chairing team this  year at the NP in Warsaw, in which 150 people took part and I felt like I was standing in front of a mirror at home. When I was freshman, after several months of activity, I was asked to give a presentation at the Welcome Dinner, an event for Erasmus students, for a similar number of people. As I was studying English, the language was never a problem. Back then I refused by explaining I had extremely important activities that I could not miss at the time, and now I would not have the slightest problem with it. I developed the skills of presentation, communication, and something hard to describe, but so-called ‘getting a grip’ of life. In ESN we gain a lot of experience in solving difficult life situations, which ordinary students do not have.

Do you find ESN experience useful in your work life or private life?
Yes and yes. I have finished my studies but I do not work in the profession. On the recruitment interview in the company where I am currently working, I applied for a fairly average internship offer. After the first interview, I was invited to a more prestigious internship program. Then I went through three stages, eliminating all the other candidates. The only question about studies was whether or not I finished it. There were no substantive questions about bachelor or master thesis topics. I was asked about my skills, ESN directly, as well as questions about crisis situations where I presented solutions and behaviours developed in ESN. During this interview I was constantly coming back to ESN. And as for private life, my girlfriend is from ESN.

What has ESN changed in your life?
ESN has changed me totally.  Besides the soft skills I mentioned, it changed me visually. I used to wear Nike shoes, torn jeans, colourful hoodies and had an afro on my head. Now, if someone sees me in a hoodie or trainers, it's just in the hostel during a platform

What was your biggest ESN failure, what didn’t you manage to achieve, even though you wanted to?
I always wanted to place a partner logo on the ESNcard.  Since the time when I was the coordinator, the National Board has changed three times and recently we returned to this topic. We are working on changing ESNcard's distribution format and I think that if we manage to do this, it will be a first step towards it, but still a long way to go.

Where do you think you would be if it wasn’t for ESN?
Hard to say. Probably not at AGH University of Science and Technology, because if it was not for ESN, I would have changed the university. If I have changed the university I would not be an engineer. I would study something related to my current work, but I would pick the student path, more theoretical than the practical path of ESN. Maybe I would be in another student organisation or I would be working for a long time already, but I certainly would not be who I am now.

Were you prepared enough, when you were taking over your first position? Did you know what you were about to experience?
Generally speaking, I think I was prepared. You know, you can never be prepared 100%. I certainly was not the person who decided at the last moment. When it comes to volunteering for the National Board, I've known about this for a long time and decided that if nothing in my life would change significantly, I would be a candidate for President of National Board in the elections of 2014/2015. Everything went according to a plan, for a few months I was working on developing my skills and projects, then I volunteered as a candidate for the President of ESN Poland.

What would you call the nicest memory from your term?
The little successes that were most visible for me when I was abroad. I had the feeling that we were a strong country and that everybody envied our atmosphere. The content of our platforms was often at a higher level than the international ones, and our problems in comparison with other countries turned out to be not so serious.
Karolina Sikorska
Language support: Paulina Traczyk, Joanna Sławecka, Zofia Post