This is a question I get a lot.
“Why are we all here?” is another one.
In the last few days, I have been asking myself this question. Maybe it is because I was elected Team Leader and I am choosing the people who will be part of my next team – and this is a very special occasion when one has no option but revisit the organization’s purpose. Maybe it is because this is just one of the one million questions about AIESEC that my family always ask me and I could never find a satisfactory answer. Or, after all, it is just something I like to think about when I’m in one of those reflexive days.
The true is that some of us, AIESECers, feel quite well in this organization and we can repeat the speech countless times, (“AIESEC is a global non-political organization located in more than 125 countries and territories…”). However, when it is time to explain WHY, why does it make us feel so complete? Why does it taste like home? Why can we find meaning in something that our parents feel a bit odd to understand?
I have been in AIESEC for more than 3 years now and every day I find out a new reason to be here. Anyway, trying to sum up all the reasons of being in AIESEC to write this article, I came up with a 5-item list that I’m going to present to you right now and maybe (hopefully!) you will feel identified – if you already are an AIESECer – or, at least, curious – if you are not.
1. Find out what makes you feel passionate
If you have ever been in love, you know the feeling: a heartbeat you can’t control, everything seems beautiful, a lot of energy coming out from your pores. Passion means having a strong sense of connection with someone or something, an endless source of motivation and will. Everything is possible and you are confident you can overcome any challenges. Ok, ok, not all of us find our soul mate in AIESEC. Nevertheless, what we sure do is to discover what makes us feel passionate about life.
To work in different teams, doing the most diverse activities and interacting with people with backgrounds that we are not familiar with are some of the tools that AIESEC provides that can be very useful to find out what are our likes and dislikes. One day you may be responsible for a marketing strategy, until a brand new position in human resources is available and you decide to take a shot – and, before all of that, you were organizing an event! There’s no need to be an expert – in fact, AIESEC was made to be a platform where young students and graduates can feel the taste of success and failure, and understand themselves better based on that.
I myself studied Journalism, but in AIESEC I have worked in all kinds of projects, since running exchange operations until making a budget, and today I can easily say what are the things that really accelerate my pulse and push me to go further. Trying new things and seeing the results of your efforts result in self-knowledge and this kind of understanding is really welcomed in this phase of our lives, when we are in our twenties and we should decide our future even though we have no clue about our present. If you are looking for a place to figure out your path in life, AIESEC can help you with that.
Not everybody is super sociable, but we are humans and we are supposed to like being around people. The good thing about AIESEC is that you will meet many people and, some of them you wouldn’t have the chance to know in other circumstances. I mean, it’s not just the amazing increase in the number of friends you have in Facebook, a weird and funny thing that happens to anyone who joins AIESEC: one day you are just living your normal and boring online life, the next day after you post a picture with your AIESEC mates (picking up a trainee or hanging out after a meeting), several friends request will pop up and, in most cases, you have never met the people who wants to be friends with you. But, hey! They work in AIESEC somewhere and, somehow, it makes you feel connected.
What I’m really talking about is to be working and realizing projects with boys and girls from different universities, cities and even continents. It’s such a rich environment, where you can get to meet people who talk with different accents, but that are connected by the same interests and desires of changing the world. We are all young and we all have ideas to share. Sometimes, when I talk to my international girlfriends in whats app (an Indian, a Chinese, a Greek, an Argentinean – all the crazy ladies that were part of my exchange in, guess where? Egypt!), I feel so lucky to have had the chance to meet them and to see the world from their perspectives, some of them so different from mine and so much interesting exactly because of that.
3. Discover the world
AIESEC is about exchange and the changes that result from it. You can chose: change of mind, of people, of jobs. Actually, the first meaning of change that will pop up in an AIESECer’s mind is the change of landscape. Present in over 125 countries and territories (here it is the speech again!), what we do is to send abroad young volunteers and professionals to live impactful experiences where they should learn, teach and, most of all, discover the world that is hidden in every corner. AIESEC is about travelling, but it is not a regular vacation trip. It is a journey of discoveries, where the exchange participant will live as a native, use their means of transportation, eat their food, walk on their streets and see them in a state of total immersion. Their culture will become your culture and you will leave part of your country with them and import part of their home to yours.
Since I joined AIESEC, I have been in four countries and I could tell you how special they are to me in every single way. People, places, adventures, good memories that shaped me, made me who I am and I’m pretty sure that I like a lot more this version of me right now, a nice little mess full of parts of the places I ‘ve been and people I’ve loved, than the girl I was before.
4. Learn (new languages, new skills, new ideas)
You may not do an exchange or you may not lead a team (although these things are highly recommended), but one thing you will be doing for sure in AIESEC is to learn. Every day, every occasion, every responsibility you decide to assume, you will be learning. From a new language to a software to edit videos, from to prepare a foreign dish to a team management theory, from an app to manage better your time to an exotic dance. You got the point, right? Reunite thousands of young people, full of hormones and ideas, and give them a challenge to overcome. The result is an intense learning environment, where one is teaching what he knows in exchange of learning other people’s specialties. And before you ask, no, you don’t have to join a two-hour class or to sign up to one of those tutorial videos websites. You just need to be open to share, to be present, and to learn as you go, trying and giving your best. Set an objective, define the way to reach it and work hard – the necessity to learn will show up during the way and you will have to adapt yourself or give up in the process. FYI: giving up is not something we accept easily in AIESEC.
5. Lead yourself, lead the change
The last item of this list is actually a resume of the other things I put here. A resume? Better yet: it is a consequence. In AIESEC we believe that leaders are the fundamental solution for the worlds’ problems. I bet you will agree with me: imagine being able to know your strengths and weaknesses, having clear idea of the things you want to be and the things you don’t want to do. More than that, you feel responsible for the world, the issues in our society bug you and there’s this internal rush to do something, to take an active part in the transformation world needs.
However, you know that changing requires effort and that’s why you decide to connect yourself with people that have the same will as you do. Together, you can fill each other’s’ gaps and combine your talents to achieve something bigger. Using your qualities along with others to make a contribution, looking for the resolution of a problem, engaging others to feel responsible for the world as well. This is a leader for AIESEC. This is the kind of person we want to give to the world and that’s why we do what we do. That’s why it is worth to join AIESEC, a place where more than 40 thousand young people all over the world work in different projects and areas, each one walking towards this unique goal of giving more and more leaders who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world. You know what? A leader I know once said that the crazy ones are the ones who really change it. And I totally agree.
What about you? If you do too, maybe this is the place you belong 🙂