How Going Abroad Taught Me About Life – Everyday Leadership

Contributed by Janet Ong

Here are the stories from my exchange experience that surprised me in the end. This is my experience with AIESEC NCTU in Hsinchu City, Taiwan as part of the the project Connect the World from September to December 2013.

This cultural exchange program was designed for us exchange participants to make an impact on high school students by sharing things about and from our countries.

Surprisingly, this exchange program taught me a lot about life. I was approached by one of the teachers in one of the high schools I was teaching at. The teacher knew I intended to go to law school because of how I had introduced myself in her class. She wanted to ask me for more details on law school because she was very worried about her daughter, who was on the verge of giving up law school.

I told her that I wanted to specialize in criminal law and in the field of human rights because I wanted to be a court lawyer and be of service to people. She asked me how I already knew which specific field in law I wanted to pursue this early on. I simply told her that I always remind myself of why I wanted to be in this field to begin with. I remind myself that I am doing this not only for the sake of my career but also for the sake of the people who are in need of help and that I think being a court lawyer best fits this interest.

The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is the learning from an experience in life.

She asked me this question so that she could help her daughter who was about to graduate but was attempting to give up. Surprisingly, she really wanted advice from me. I told her to tell her daughter to remind herself why she chose law and to remind herself of the positive things that happened in law school despite the difficulty she was currently having. The teacher said that her daughter was worried about the bar exam. In response, I told her that everyone was scared of the bar exam and even I was afraid of it. I told her that working hard for a dream would achieve good results.

What was the surprise here? After saying those things to the teacher, I  saw myself as the daughter who was worried about law school. Then I reflected on those words I said to the teacher. It made me realize that I can manage as long as I believe in myself. Friends and even former professors have been telling me that I can manage, that I have good academic standing and a keen interest in the classes in my undergraduate course in psychology. I get positive feedback from my classes. What is there to be afraid of? I am afraid of failing, but who isn’t? I am afraid of falling, but who isn’t? Everyone is. It is a matter of facing your fears.

Everyone thinks, I lack the courage to face them; I do not believe in myself; I do not trust myself. If I believed in myself, I would have the capacity to say I can do it. Then I realized, am I not like her daughter too? Afraid? I gave advice that the teacher appreciated and believed that it would be of help to her daughter. I realized, I can do it. I can pursue my dreams despite the struggles; believe despite the hardships.

I got letters and messages from my students, teachers and friends telling me I am a funny and jolly person. They said I have this motivation and energy that influences other people. It has always been a surprise for me to see in the letters or even hear this feedback because I do not see myself like that. I believe that I gained more confidence and courage from this project than anyone could ever imagine. I remember the poster/ad of AIESEC DLSU saying, “Get lost and find yourself”. I am indeed discovering a lot about myself from feedback from other people.

I realized now that we need other people who are courageous enough to tell us about ourselves. Feedback from other people no matter how minor can help us realize what is really happening in our lives. This is why I have to say that I am very glad that I met the people I did, experienced the things I experienced. If not for those, I would not have found myself. I would not have discovered something more about myself. I would not have been the way I am right now. I may have had a tough rocky road along the way but everyone does, right?

I believe that things happen for a reason. Now, I believe that these things had to happen to open my eyes and see the reality. I am grateful for the good and bad. If not for the bad, how could I have appreciated the good so much? Right now, I just do not know the right words to express how much AIESEC, my fellow trainees, teachers, students and friends have helped shape my life for the better. It is quite sad for me to leave because this is the place where I learned a lot, not about academics, but about life itself. It is a place where I found good friends. However, I have to say goodbye, face the things that I have to face back home and continue on with my life. People come and go in our lives but it does not mean that they will be gone from our lives. The people I met will always be treasured dearly. Everyone may be far away from one another but distance is not a barrier to maintain the friendships that we have created.

The world has still a lot to offer. The world still has a lot of surprises. There is still a lot more to learn from. Just smile at the world, and it will surely smile back at you. But this experience is one of the best I have ever had. This is my second home—Taiwan. This has been my Wonderland.

I am happy that I was here. I am happy that I was able to convince students who did not participate to participate. I was able to convince students who did not smile, to smile. I was able to see how keen and eager the students were whenever I was presenting. I am happy that I was able to see how the students’ eyes brightened. I am happy that I was able to see and hear the students laugh, joke and even be loud for a good cause. These were the actual experiences I had with my last class: the most difficult but the best class I ever had.

My last class was supposed to be the most unresponsive and I was told that the class does not really answer questions. However, it was different when I was there. They were welcoming and happy. My last class is where I can say I was really able to Connect the World and fulfill the goals of the project. This was the class where I can say that I really was able to make a difference. These are irreplaceable moments in my life that can make me say and realize that, “Hey! I did make a change”. It may have just lasted for a day, an hour, a minute or even just a second, but the little things showed me that one person could really make a big difference.

This is the teaching experience.
This is the experience of life.
This is the AIESEC experience.
Thank you very much.

After the exchange experience, where am I now? I had the courage to take up law school and continue my AIESEC journey. I am currently a first year student of law and a member of the Finance and Legal Affairs Department of AIESEC DLSU. What am I grateful for? I am grateful that AIESEC shaped my life and happy that I was able to contribute to AIESEC’s vision of “Peace and Fulfillment of Humankind’s potential”

Here’s a tribute for my AIESEC experience:

“The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is a life experience. It is about finding who you are and learning more about yourself throughout the journey. I began to open up locked chests that I didn’t know existed within me. Moreover, I’ve realized how life is so wonderful and it never fails to give you those little things that make you smile.
It’s also about never giving up and never losing hope.

It was also in this exchange program that I found what I am passionate and dedicated about — and AIESEC is one of those things. AIESEC taught me how to stand up for myself and be a leader — a leader who will be able to make a wonderful and positive impact in my country and also in the world.

Lastly, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to be part of AIESEC. I will forever and always be thankful for AIESEC.”

“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.

5 Reasons to Hire an International Intern

With a giant talent pool that transcends borders across the globe, AIESEC is one of the leading non-profits helping several other organizations, firms and workplaces hire international talent. At a glance, it might appear as if an optimized local recruitment is just enough –  but there are more than a few convincing reasons why you should hire an international student at your workplace.

1. Diversity

The science of staffing mandates the need for a multicultural work environment. Such a surrounding enables employees to understand international market trends as well as new cultures. Multiculturalism brings diversity – of sex, race, gender, nationality – but most importantly of mind.

Uwe Doerken, Former CEO, DHL Worldwide Express remarks, “I am convinced that AIESEC is our most direct link to tomorrow’s business leaders. These training opportunities will become a stepping stone for bright, ‘can-do’ people to join DHL and learn, advance and one day lead.” 124 countries and territories contribute to our enormous talent pool. AIESEC is the easiest way to access a group so vast, skilled and regarded.

2. Innovation

Global interns tend to think out of the box. This can be owed to the simple fact that they are ever ready to grab new challenges given to them, since they are already out of their comfort zones.  Apart from enhancing creativity, they widen their perspectives as well those of their coworkers, leading to new ideas and a lively work spirit.

3. Growth

With a diverse workforce, different ideas and approaches can seem in opposition. Therefore, with more ideas in the room, employees undergo co-development. This is because cultures have an ever-lasting impact on how people generally think and come to decision. An open-mind to accept how others think gets to play a great role in paving way for organizational growth.

4. Flexibility

While hiring international interns, there is an advantage in the flexibility of extending the duration of work, depending on the combined interests of the company and the intern. Eligibilities can be easily negotiable and hassle-free arrangements can hence be made. Using organisations such as AIESEC allows you to reach a global talent pool that are available outside of the graduation cycle of your domestic universities.

Alicija Taraskevic who is the Branch Manager, LTC Forwarding Company, Lithuania says, “We signed a contract on Thursday, the intern from Belgium was in the office on Monday. That was very fast.”

5. Access to Gen Y

A culturally assorted as well as young work community assures good energy at work and curiosity. This curiosity can lead to a promising pursuit of learning as well as stimulate learning through new experiences. This makes them great sources of fresh ideas!

 

AIESEC provides thousands of companies with the chance to hire international talent each year for a variety of different job descriptions and flexible time periods. If you are looking to source a smart and savvy intern for your company, please visit www.aiesec.org

The Unique Benefits of Volunteering Abroad

Lately there have been countless discussions about the benefits of volunteering and about the benefits of traveling. But what happens when you put the two of them together? What happens when you don’t only travel but you dive into a new culture? When you have to work with volunteers from 10 or 20 different countries?

Well, this kind of experience doesn’t offer you just a random range of benefits but it changes you fundamentally. It challenges you and it makes you strive to be at your best.

So what exactly makes these volunteering abroad experiences so unique?

While volunteering, you will face events that will challenge your mindset

An internship abroad will give you the chance to travel to new places, make new friends, make new memories and learn new skills. But it also challenges you; it teaches you first hand what intercultural communication really is; it will challenge your mindset and it will help you become more open minded and more culturally aware.

“I’ve worked on the project with people from Ukraine, Russia, Bahrain, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Argentina, Germany and USA. I now feel that student exchange programs are crucial in getting to know so many different nationalities at once. It’s never too late to learn new things. The awesome experience has just taught me that life is not all about yourself, it’s about you in a society and how you adapt to it.”  – Jaya, on her internship in Ukraine

Volunteering abroad changes you because it gives you the chance to change others

The volunteering internships that AIESEC is providing are focused on solving particular issues in society, such as: cultural education, environment, cultural understanding or career development. This means that in most cases interns work with children or with students, and they have a chance to impact their life either directly in the short-term, or long-term, providing them with the skills and knowledge to be more successful.

Raluca was a volunteer in Poland. She says that: “this experience is about stepping out your comfort zone; about being crazy and letting go of what others think about you; about leaving a mark on some people’s lives. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do this. To be that person that changes lives. But one day, during the last moments we had in one of the schools, the teachers came to us and told us: “You don’t know what an impact you had on these kids. You changed their lives.”

But we must admit there is one downside of volunteering abroad: it’s addictive.

Mihaela, who volunteered this autumn in Ghana, says that “now I’m even hungrier for adrenaline and adventure so I can’t wait to see what the future will bring regarding any new internship.”

 

AIESEC provides over 26,000 young people with the chance to go abroad each year. If you are looking to go on an internship or volunteer experience abroad, please go to opportunities.aiesec.org and check out all our available opportunities. 

The Power of Understanding Different Cultures

AIESEC believes in developing socially conscious leaders of today who are passionate about the world and solving its issues, to leave behind a positive impact. We envision “Peace and fulfilment of humankind potential”, but how do we achieve this “peace” that we envision?

Simple. We send young people on exchange experiences.

Here is only one of the 26,000 stories we create every year!

La’ala and Tünde – A friendship forged through an exchange of cultures

La’ala is an Exchange Participant who recently went on exchange to China; she believed teaching kids in rural areas would bring about a new perspective and meaning to life. What she didn’t know was that the people she would meet while on exchange would leave behind an even greater impression on her than the kids.

Tünde is an Austrian Exchange Participant whom La’ala met and taught classes with during her internship.

La'ala and Tunde - 2 different cultures on exchange

Now, La’ala and Tünde come from completely different backgrounds – one is a Muslim; the other is a Christian. What lies in the beauty of this friendship is that these two exchange participants managed to find a connection in spite of their “differences.” La’ala said, “the topic of God came up and we just got lost in it, sharing similar perspectives and agreeing that religion is just a way of life”.

This friendship developed through exchange is just an example of how we are truly one as humankind. It’s not about anything else other than being connected – to recognize that we have differences- in culture, religion, and more – but also to find similarities through those differences.

The answers to the problems the world faces today are simple; they do not revolve around complex chemical weapons and war plans to solve issues and achieve peace. It simply lies in the love and friendship we make with another to fulfil our potential as human beings.

This experience has prompted La’ala to come back to Bahrain and take on a career of being a schoolteacher through which she aims to pass upon her learnings that she received while on exchange to her students. The exchange experience has also inspired Tünde to deliver a sermon at her local church, sharing her experience in hopes of inspiring her community to develop more awareness about other cultures.

Have you had a similar exchange of cultures? Where did you experience something like this?

 

If you are looking to go on an internship that will provide you with a different cultural experience, please go to opportunities.aiesec.org and check out all our available internships or read about other cultural experiences at culture-shock.me

AIESEC showcased for quality internships at the EU Parliament

AIESEC present at the discussion on Quality Internships at the EU Parliament

What is a good-quality internship? Should internships be unpaid? How can an intern’s contribution be valued within the company where they work?

These were some of the questions raised during the panel discussion that took place at the EU Parliament in the heart of Brussels. Hosted by the European Youth Forum and Microsoft Europe, the event aimed to share views on the topic of quality internships with European employers, European institutions and interns themselves.

With a vast amount of internships in Europe lacking learning content, payment and any quality criteria that could enable a young person to benefit professionally from their first experience in the world of work, AIESEC came as an example to follow and a strong ally of existing partners.

Sylvie Laffarge, Director at Microsoft praised the hassle saved by recruiting interns through AIESEC regarding visa issues and working permits. She coined the cooperation as “priceless”.

Also speaking at the event was an AIESEC intern, now working at JA-YE Europe and originally from AIESEC Romania: Diana Draganescu who spoke about the confidence needed as a young graduate to enter the labour market. She emphasized the need to start supporting more consistent organisations such as AIESEC to facilitate the process of young people getting internships around the world.

This was followed by several comments from the audience, mostly from youth currently interning at the EU institutions – who complained about the lack of clear rules and regulations regarding interns.

The EU is currently working on a Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships and hopes to get it signed and approved in the near future.

In the meantime, AIESEC showcased its good-case practices successfully and aims to set itself as a reliable provider of high quality interns and internships.

 

AIESEC present at round table - Jide Okusanya (MC Belgium), Dina Ismail (MC Belgium), Rachel Whitehead (AI), Laurence Dumont (global coordinator), Bettina Guirkinger (GST), Rafael Rarvalho (MC Belgium)

AIESEC present at round table – Jide Okusanya (MC Belgium), Dina Ismail (MC Belgium), Rachel Whitehead (AIESEC International), Laurence Dumont (Global Coordinator for Alcatel-Lucent), Bettina Guirkinger (Global News Team), Rafael Rarvalho (MC Belgium)