When a JA Alumna or Alumnus has a good idea, be it for a product, a service or in their everyday lives, they’re certainly much more likely to pursue with this idea thinking “well, if this is not yet existing, let’s make it existing”. The many start ups of Alumni around the globe are proof for this way of thinking and also happened when Antonia Höppel left Austria to study abroad. She started missing the Alumni vibes up north in Scotland, though she knew the programme is being run there, too.
Getting in touch with Kristjan Liive from JA Alumni Estonia and Lucy McOuat from the YE office in Glasgow led to the presentation of JA Alumni Scotland by her and our president Sarah at the national finals of the YE company programme in Glasgow!
First of all, congratulations to all of you to the achievement! Some typical question ahead of it: How are you feeling, regarding the official launch of JA Alumni Scotland?
Antonia: "We are really happy we were able to make it happen and especially excited when we realized we had roundabout 25 signups at the day of the event. I got contacted already, people seem to really want to be part of it so the response in general is super satisfying!"
Lucy: "I’m glad we went for it and hopefully we could be a role model for other nations thinking about founding a JA Alumni network!"
2. Lucy, your first appearance in the network happened at the last NCM in Vienna - what did the event do to your efforts to establish a Scottish Alumni network?
L: "In my opinion, it’s hard to understand the vibe of those Alumni events when you only hear about it. But I definitely was amazed by all of this energy and the mentality was even better than I expected it. Before, I just kind of didn’t get the point but now I’m convinced of the network’s purposes!"
3. Antonia, you and Kristjan are from Austria and Estonia, studying in Scotland but not even in the same city. How come you guys got connected on this topic with each other and with Lucy in the end?
A: "After I moved to Scotland and wasn’t able to locate any JA Alumni activity, I reached out to YE Scotland’s CEO Geoff Leask, who was so “into this idea” from the first moment. Additionally, I contacted Sarah to let her know about the idea and put trust into our always helping facebook group. Funnily enough, that’s how Kristjan and I got connected in the end and the amazing European Board helped us a lot shaping our ideas."
L: "We got to know each other during the meetings with Mark of YE Scotland as I am working in their office, too. Everytime we met it felt like something just falls into the right place! In general, I was lucky to find the job at YE, which I loved from the very beginning, though I never attended the programme itself, unfortunately."
How is the feedback by students so far? Did they come up to you before and wish for an Alumni network? Could you spread the spark?
L: "It’s really good, with all the European support and an official launch, they’re so keen to finally get involved!"
A: "The big challenge will be getting in touch with the participants from the past, too."
Why did you not just found a UK wide Alumni network?
L: "The company programme is being carried out differently throughout the UK’s countries so it would be much more difficult to collect people from all over the islands and YE Scotland is acting independently from YE UK. So for the moment, starting with JA Alumni Scotland feels just right to start with and most of the feedback is happening here."
A: "I agree, we would be happy to go bigger in the future but for the moment we’d like to focus on Scotland as a country."
How does the organizational structure look at the moment? How's the connection to YE Scotland?
A: "Funnily enough, JA Alumni Scotland is run at the moment by two expats but this also proves how spreading the “Alumni virus” can be and what an international variety we own."
For now, Kristjan is the international coordinator, I am working as national coordinator and together we’re looking for members to join the board. We get so much help from the YE office up here and working closely with them, especially with Lucy. First of all, we want to get hold of how the programme works in Scotland and then get some strategies ready to move further.
L: "It’s a new situation for all people involved but we do have great things to share and the network would give us a platform to spread. I’m happy to help as much as I can and as people seem to be so into it, I can’t wait to work on ideas how to foster the network in the future."
Speaking of “To foster the network” - what is your most important short- and long term goal?
L: "On the long run, we want to provide a network for members to share their passion and help them developing their leadership by frequently engaging them in events."
A: "Make it sustainable, as Kristjan and I are going to leave the country eventually. Taking the next few months into focus, we want to make people want to sign up and make them curious about what's going on so that our first meeting, which we would like to have in September after the conference, is going to be a success. A handful Scottish Alumni are also joining the big crowd in Tallinn!"
Interview by Laura Reiling, Content Manager at JA Alumni Europe