A friend and fellow AIESEC alumni recently commented that she can remember what kind of person I was before I joined AIESEC and who I became afterwards, and they are two completely different people.
I started out as a shy student at Simon Fraser University, so was eager to meet friends and get involved in some extra-curricular activities. I thought AIESEC was a little business networking club, so I joined with an expectation fitting that description. My assumption was proven so obviously wrong once I witnessed the “big picture” of AIESEC at my first conference. My eyes were open to the potential it held for building something and meeting people not just in my own city or country but all over the world. I was overwhelmed by all the opportunities in AIESEC and the enthusiasm and dedication of its members.
I decided to step up and challenge myself, so after participating in the Communications team, I became Vice President of Outgoing Exchange and a Member of the National Conference Organizing Committee – all in the same year! Before this, I never thought I would be capable in leadership positions and comfortable speaking in front of large audiences. AIESEC nudged me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to make mistakes as I tried new things. The kid in me that first joined AIESEC was being shaped into a professional. By working on teams, I learned to look at problems a different way, to effectively balance opinions and perspectives towards consensus and to develop creative solutions.
While I did not go abroad on an internship, I had an “opposite internship” on the Congress Committee of International Congress 2002. While the confidence, skills and experience I had gained to this point prepared me for the intensity of the work involved, I was taken aback by the incredible friendships I made. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, working tirelessly with a team of over forty people from all over the world who have become my built-in tour guide anywhere my travel plans may take me. The success of the Congress was proof of what can happen when a team shares a common vision. The experience also taught me that while people may have differences, at the core we are not so different after all.
I now run my own graphic design and marketing company and as a responsible business person, I get involved with my community by volunteering with different organizations, in particular the Lions Club. In truth, I think I have looked for ways to replicate what AIESEC brought to my life – a taste for leadership, opportunities to step “outside of the box” and meaningful interactions with new and different people. For the tentative and quiet student I started out as, I’ve come a long way. I think my friend is right.
If you would like to tell your AIESEC story, please email Cassandra, VP Communications for AIESEC Canada at email@example.com