Ever since I have heard of AIESEC as a freshman, I wanted to go on exchange. You can even say that the thought of exchange made me fall in love with AIESEC, especially OGX. And I said to myself, if I became an AIESECer, I must experience our “product” first-hand so that I can successfully promote it to our prospect EPs. I wanted to make sure that I will make the most out of my experience as a member of AIESEC.
I served under OGX’s subdepartment, Servicing, for one whole year. I was the Events team leader during the first semester; then I became the Assistant Vice President for Servicing. Being under servicing, I would be in charge of organizing farewell and welcome dinners, holding Ambassador’s Day, making EP kits and talking to our dear EPs via email regarding their exchange experience. But then I realized, I kept on preparing these things for our exchange participants when I myself have not gone on exchange! So my conclusion: I MUST GO ON EXCHANGE.
“Expect the unexpected in China”
I matched myself to an internship entitled Empower Your Dream 2011 under Shanghai Jiao Tong University and I left for Shanghai on April. Originally, I was tasked to go to schools and talk about social entrepreneurship among high school students, but due to unforeseen events that I had to deal with, I had my internship changed.
Instead, I worked for Marinedream Foundation, a non-governmental organization that promoted environmental awareness among the Chinese people. Unlike the other AIESEC EPs who were under the Action!Blue program (where they were tasked to teach about environmental awareness among high school students in Shanghai), I worked directly under the Director for Greater China.
Besides making marketing proposals and thinking of campaigns on how to promote environmental awareness, I was also able to further develop my Mandarin speaking skills by helping in translating documents from English to Chinese! And other than the usual office work, I also participated in a beach clean-up in Shanghai where over 300 people helped out and over 10000 pieces of garbage were collected.
What made my exchange experience very interesting is the people that I have met and interacted with throughout my 6 week stay. When I moved into an international youth hostel, I became roommates with a French AIESECer (she’s from ICX), two Uruguayans who were traveling around the world, Russians and a Korean.
During my stay, I decided to meet the people who I have met online via Matching Manias. I had LC (Local Committee) visits to AIESEC Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) and AIESEC Renmin University of China (RUC) and their members accommodated me and toured me around their campus. Despite not being the EP of their LC, I was welcomed and treated like their very own. They made me realize how wonderful AIESEC’s global network is. No matter where you are, no matter where you’re from, AIESECers would love to meet and accommodate fellow AIESECers.
My LC had two more exchange participants, a German and a Polish, and I lived with them for more or less three weeks until I moved into a youth hostel. I was also able to meet AIESEC SISU’s EPs – German, Malaysian, Brazilian, Indian, Canadian, Italian, Dutch and Filipino. When you think that’s already the end of the list, think again. I was introduced by the Malaysian to her Singaporean friends currently in Shanghai for non-AIESEC internships. You see, what amazed me was the fact that these people were the ones whom I bonded and traveled with in China.
The Bucket List
After working for the entire week for Marinedream, I would spend my weekends with my new found friends. I was able to travel to Suzhou and Beijing riding trains for 2 hours and 13 hours respectively. The beautiful gardens of Suzhou, the ruins of the old Summer Palace and Beihai Park are some of the places I went to. I ate Xiao Long Bao from Nanxiang (the birthplace of that delicious delicacy), Peking duck, Bao Zi (what we call as Siopao), Shengjian (Fried Siopao with hot soup exploding with every bite) and even Hangzhou cuisine. I was able to experience the beauty of China from a backpacker’s perspective and I would have never had the chance to do so if I didn’t go on exchange. It was my first time to be away from home, my first time to live in a foreign land alone and my first time to live independently.
The experience I had in China would never be possible if it weren’t for my AIESEC exchange. I can say that because of this unique experience, I was able to think critically and independently. I now knew how to deal with the worst and how to be optimistic towards everything I face.
AIESEC has indeed changed me. The impact AIESEC has done in my life makes it hard for me to imagine what my life would have been without AIESEC. Now, it’s my turn to share what AIESEC has in store for everyone.
Erika Kathleen Uy went on a Development Traineeship in Shanghai for Marinedream during the summer of 2011. She is currently studying in the College of Business Administration of UP Diliman. An active OGX member, she believes that going on exchange will further enhance the experience of every AIESECer. Erika dreams of traveling around the world and is considering on going on exchange again after graduation.