AIESEC Toronto

Live the Experience

Month: March 2014

Michelle Pan’s Exchange to Czech Republic

My initial expectation of my exchange experience was that it would be fun, amazing, interesting and it WAS all that. I volunteered for AIESEC Praha’s Edison Project from April to June 2013. The project was in Czech Republic’s capital city Prague and it involves us, the exchange participants, to go to different schools each week and share our cultures. Because AIESEC is an international organization, this project allowed me to meet exchange participants from other parts of the world. I met individuals from Brazil, Thailand and Georgia just to name a few. Georgia was a country I never even heard of prior to my trip!

 

When I got off the plane, there was a person from AIESEC who greeted me. Her name was Pavla and she was a Czech AIESECer studying economics in university. She taught me some commons Czech phrases as we were taking the transit to the place they provided me to stay.

 

For my accommodation, I shared a flat with three other girls. We had a kitchen and laundry machine, things that make you feel at home and makes life easier because we can shop at grocery stores and cook at the flat . We also don’t have to search for laundromats or handwash our clothes. On weekdays, we travelled to schools via transit.

 

We were sent an orientation package prior to leaving the country about not only the Edison Project, but Czech itself. Two days before leaving Canada, I read from the package that they use the Czech Crown currency instead of the Euro! I also learned beforehand that not a lot of the older locals speak English. The younger generation learns it as a second language in school and they can speak decent conversational English by the time they are teenagers.

 

That being said, I had to adjust my presentation according to the age and English level of the classroom. It made me really happy when I realized just how interested they are in me and what I have to tell them about my country. The kindergartens openly give me hugs and the older kids asked me thoughtful questions about my presentation or me. In addition, I also enjoyed the free Czech lunches everyday we taught at school.

 

Things that stood out at me in Czech/Prague: the beautiful architecture and how beer is cheaper than water at restaurants! The biggest challenge for me was living away from home for so long and being independent. The experience really challenged my adaptive skills in that I had to work through language barriers, and learning how to be comfortable with living in a city/country/continent that I am not completely familiar with. What made it easy for me was the support AIESECers and the other EPs who know exactly what you are going through being in a foreign country. I think surrounding yourself with the right people is the best way to overcome any challenges. It’s also good that you learn when to ask the locals for help!

Medha’s Exchange Story

 AIESEC, being so complex, cannot be summed up in only a few words. Everyone that AIESEC has given me the privilege to interact with has an unique story to share. Each one has its own set of highs and lows, its own happy and sad bits. However, they all highlight one particular characteristic that has come to be associated with AIESEC, the ability to provide its members with a truly life changing experience. It unites us, even if it has given us a cult-like reputation! This article is a small glimpse into my experience with AIESEC.  I don’t think it’s such an amazing story, but it’s one that changed my life.

 I joined AIESEC in 2009 to go on exchange. As a university student in my first year, all I wanted was a cheap way to travel and see the world, if that came with a resume booster than I didn’t mind signing on the dotted line. What I found myself doing instead was completely different. I started as a recruitment/HR specialist for an expansion that our university was working on. Soon I found myself leading a team of dedicated individuals and enjoying myself in the process. I then became the Vice President of the HR department. The bigger title came with a lot more challenges and pressure, which has given me the ability to deal with anything in life. And finally my last position with AIESEC Toronto was the Local Committee President. That one-year really shaped my worldview, the way I perceive others, and myself. The role of a President is much like a leader who is also an entrepreneur – trying everyday to motivate individuals to create a positive impact in the world.

But that’s not all! My AIESEC journey also led me to Taiwan on a community development internship. My job description was to create learning plans for students and introduce them to Canadian culture. It was the best time I had in my life. I can never forget all the experiences I had, the people I met, the food I ate and sights I saw. As a young person what more can you ask for? I don’t know what heaven looks like, but my internship came pretty close to it. With colleagues that are now my friends for life and experiences that I can guarantee no other graduate from my class can boast to be a part of.

AIESEC has been the biggest and greatest surprise of my life. I never got what I expected, but I love the tangent it directed me on. Currently, I am in Mauritius working for AIESEC on the national level. After this, I don’t even know where I will be, but I know it will be somewhere spectacular, adventurous, exciting, and full of numerous new experiences that I am ready to explore!

 ‘Adventure seeker’, ‘Globetrotter’, ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Citizen of the World’- initially these were some words that came to my mind when I thought about AIESEC, but 3 years with this organization has given me some new words few of which are – ‘leadership’, ‘courage’, ‘lifelong memories’, ‘friends for life’, ‘personality makeover’, ‘mentors’ and ‘dance moves’. I accidentally stumbled upon AIESEC, but if you are lucky enough to be introduced to it, don’t even think twice and just do it! What awaits you will be something incredible I guarantee it!

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