Aussitôt dit, (pas) aussitôt fait: the story of our TEDxCollegeOfEuropeNatolin

How would you define choice? “It’s both the expression of freedom and inevitable loss”.

Is making a choice a question of subjectivity or objectivity? “It’s about ‘objectivising’ subjectivity”.

The best decision I’ve ever made: “To go abroad!”.

The hardest decision I’ve ever made: “To carry on, whatever it takes”.

These are just few words that my fellow colleagues at the College of Europe, Natolin, wrote when they were asked about “choices”. “Choice” was indeed the main topic of the very firstTEDxCollegeOfEuropeNatolin. This took place on 6 April 2016 under the title “(When) It’s Up to You!”. I had the privilege of organizing it as part of a team with 12 other amazing students together with the precious support of the Natolin Campus Administration.

Why “choice”? Well… it was a shared decision which resulted from one of the first seemingly never-ending night-time meetings of the team. Some of us were inspired in this by Vasili Arkhipov, an almost totally unknown Soviet naval officer, who nevertheless was able to literally save the world just with a simple choice. He was deputy-commander of a Soviet submarine armed with the nuclear weapon ‘B-59’ during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. He opposed his captain who was ready to launch the nuclear torpedo against a US aircraft carrier in response to a “practice”, erroneously perceived as an attack. Thus, he prevented the Third World War from happening and the world from being destroyed by nuclear weapons.

That is the reason why in the end we all agreed on the idea that choices are paramount in order to reach the objectives we set for ourselves. Choices are the most powerful tools we have in order to make a change. We face choices every day of our lives. The choices we make determine not only our future, but the future of our society, country, and ultimately, the world we live in. Choice is not only a tool, but a great responsibility. Hence, the name of our TEDx Event: “(When) It’s up to you!”.

This great adventure started at the beginning of the academic year in September. At that time the general idea was: “We should take advantage of all the opportunities the College of Europe offers to us. Let’s do something memorable and unforgettable, let’s do a TEDx event!”. Only a few months later, it became a quickly sold out event, with 7 magnificent speakers from all over the world and 100 attendees, with praise received from the Vice-Rector of the College Mrs. Ewa Ośniecka-Tamecka – who introduced the event! – and with an email from our dear Director of Communications Mr. Richard Washington saying “I am proud of what you have achieved. I hope you have learnt a lot. You have helped us learn a lot too”. And indeed we did learn a lot. I have been playing volleyball since I was a child, at university I had to do a lot of groups tasks, but this time more than ever before I really found out what it means to work together as a team: I understood how much easier things seem and are when you share tasks, and I realised how much sharing and comparing ideas can add significant value to the outcome.

To be honest, I would not say that the road was always easy…we felt extremely discouraged when we drafted our first estimate of costs (so high at first sight!), when we realised that finding people to sponsor us to offer something for free was much easier said than done, when we had small quarrels within our team, when we stayed awake until late at night for our interminable meetings, and when it looked it would take ages before we would receive replies from our potential speakers. But in the end here I am! To tell you how successful our TEDxCollegeOfEuropeNatolin was!

This was our amazing line-up: Kamil Adamczyk, co-founder and CEO of a brilliant start-up;  Marcel Zeelenberg, psychologist at Tilburg University, Yves Dejaeghere, researcher and lecturer at the University of Antwerp; Laurin Berresheim, winner of our student competition; Anna Wicha, country manager of Adecco Poland; Michael Bociurkiw, development and communications expert and international correspondent; Matthew Kaminski, Executive editor of Politico Europe.

I cannot properly express my gratitude for their commitment to our project and their hard and high-quality work throughout these last months. This led them to deliver ingenious, funny, inspiring, persuasive, informative, fascinating and courageous talks, followed by an interesting face-to-face exchange of ideas with all the attendees during an elegant networking dinner in the beautiful Natolin palace on our campus.

And now we can heave a sigh of relief…ah no, wait! There are still the speakers to be thanked, the videos to be uploaded on the TED website, the social media to be kept running. It is not over: it was just the beginning of something we all want to leave as a heritage to the students of the next promotion. We really hope that we have started a new tradition in Natolin and future students will take up our legacy. And what we want them to know is that it the end, all of the effort we put into it was really worth it. Now, it’s up to them!

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