After a week of being “on exchange,” it still feels surreal. I guess this is how I’m really supposed to feel after spending almost my entire college life doing work that revolves around exchange. Three years after joining AIESEC for its international aspect (goes well with my desire to travel, I thought), I am finally here in the beautiful British Columbia doing my four-month internship on event management.
Getting where I am now is not exactly the most smooth-sailing. Let me begin at the very beginning – joining AIESEC.
I first joined AIESEC when I was a freshman. I say “first,” because I wasn’t accepted after my final interview — I guess it was because of lack of commitment. I decided to apply again for AIESEC the following term, this time exerting more effort.
You see, the application process for AIESEC UP Diliman (my local committee) is quite different from most LC’s, at least during my time. (Wow, how old that makes me feel, and I’m only 21!) In UP, the application process is composed of an orientation, an initial interview, “an internship month,” and a final interview, all happening in a span of one term. Yes, you need to devote an entire term just to get into the organization.
Which is why I made sure to do better the second time around. A third attempt at it would have been too much for my ego! Thank God I got in. After (practically) a year of applying for AIESEC, I was officially a member of AIESEC under the Incoming Exchange Department. We call it ICX for short.
For most of my AIESEC career I was (officially) part of ICX, although I was mostly active in Projects, which is not a Department but a Support Team. (One thing about AIESEC is that you need to familiarize yourself with so many technicalities.) I was involved in projects like the Go Green Campaign, Philippine Study Tour, and AIESEC Global Business Seminar (AGBS) – projects that are aimed at strengthening the AIESEC brand in terms of its social relevance, global network, and professionalism, respectively.
Juggling these projects and school allowed me to develop my management (which I like to call “professional cramming”), social (because I can be awkward at times, trust me), and, of course, leadership skills. It is through my experience in Projects that I understood what it truly meant to “explore and develop the youth’s potential.”
My career shift in AIESEC took place during my final year in the university. The outgoing Executive Board has decided to set up a new department within the LC – the Communications Department. As a Business major with a Marketing concentration, I saw it as an opportunity for me to apply and experience firsthand all that I learn in class. Eventually, I became the Local Committee Vice President for Communications.
Some might think it’s simple, but really, it is very, very far from simple. Being part of the Executive Board is no joke, knowing that 300-something people are relying on you to make the right decisions. Leading a team of 30-something people is no joke, knowing that my term’s accomplishments will be the foundation of years to come. Working on communications strategies is no joke, knowing that your decisions can greatly affect all the other departments.
What I learned back as an applicant, I had to learn again. Being in AIESEC is no a joke. We mean serious business.
The old AIESEC experience diagram failed to illustrate an important part of an AIESECer’s life – the crossroads between AIESEC and the future. As my LCVP term ended, I asked myself: What is life after AIESEC? Or wait, no, I think what I really asked myself was: When is life after AIESEC? When is H4TF for me?
Graduating AIESECers have so many opportunities to choose from. You can either further your Leadership Role in the Member Committee, or choose from among thousands of available international internships through the Global Internship Program. Otherwise, you can choose to end it right there, find a real job, and continue to fulfill AIESEC’s vision outside the organization.
I chose to go on exchange.
X. Part I.
Going on exchange is composed of three main parts – pre-internship, internship, and post-internship. Pre-internship primarily includes the application process (or, for members, just the Review Board Interview), matching, visa processing, and getting settled in another country.
I will skip my RBI because that’s boring stuff.
Matching, however, is far from boring. It takes time, effort, and a thick face. You would think that it is easy to get an internship through a program that offers thousands, but really, it isn’t, especially for Management Trainees. The supply of Management Internships is quite low compared to its demand, which is why I consider myself über lucky for getting matched to a TN that is…
☑ Short-term. A 4-month MT internship is a rare gem!
☑ Located in my #1 country of choice (Oh, Canada!), and #1 CITY of choice (Vancouver!)
☑ Based on Project Management
It took me about two months to get matched. In January, I sent my résumé to tons of TN managers. For my current TN, I had my interview in February and my forms officially matched on the first week March.
AIESEC UPD and SFU have been very accommodating and helpful in my visa processing. Mine was expedited (no more delivery time!) because AIESEC Canada has contacts in Canadian embassies all over the world.
Getting settled down was also easy for me since I arrived Canada a month before my internship started. It allowed me to explore Vancouver, make friends with AIESECers here, and even take part in selecting the members of my team. It’s true what people say about Vancouverites, that they are the nicest, most warm people on Earth, making it easy for anyone to adapt to the Canadian culture.
X. Part II.
Years after my first encounter with AIESEC, I am now an Exchange Participant as Fairs Coordinator for SFU Career Services. My job is mainly to organize the “BIG Fair” for Simon Fraser University, the school where my LC is based. My job includes marketing to potential exhibitors, promoting the event to students, and handling event logistics. I work with a team composed of Career Services staff and AIESEC volunteers. I work four hours a week, Monday to Thursday, from 9:00AM to 4:30PM. Not a bad setup, isn’t it?
I am one week into my job and already loving it. While most of what I have done so far is learning the ropes, it has been very easy because everyone else makes it so (my training plan followed the “slowly, but surely” principle). The Career Services staff is friendly, patient, and very accommodating. The overall ambiance of the workplace is warm and homey. I find it a really great place to work for, and I cannot be any more thankful for being given this opportunity.
Getting where I am now is not exactly the most smooth-sailing, but it is one of the most fruitful. In my application process, I was taught what AIESEC is, and ultimately learned how to respect it as an organization. In my earlier roles, I became aware of the countless possibilities that AIESEC can bring to society, which I was able to eventually explore through leadership role as LCVP for Communications. These lessons, while seemingly limited to AIESEC, are, in fact, not. Professionalism, social responsibility, and an entrepreneurial outlook are important life lessons could help anybody in furthering his or her career, in a positive way.
Now, I am an Exchanger, unaware of what the next four months will be like, but very ready and inspired for what is to come. Thank you, AIESEC, for giving me and youth all over the world this amazing opportunity to know more about ourselves and the world. 🙂
I end with a conversation I recently had with a non-AIESECer friend. She says, “It’s the best life decision you have made.” “Going on exchange?” “No, joining AIESEC.”