I completed the Global Citizen Program at Start Up Project in Rio de Janeiro through AIESEC. It was one of the best times of mylife. The project was very educational – both personally and professionally. My role was to host workshops for university students about marketing and technological product design. Even though I was the teacher, I learned a lot from preparing workshops to getting to know the students.
However, the project itself was only part of the experience. What made the whole internship shine were the AIESECers in Rio, as well as the trainees from all over the world. They are incredible people. Though we only shared six weeks together, for all of us, those six weeks will be one of those memories that never fade. When we did not work, we hung out together.
We traveled to different places, such as Sao Paulo and the Iguacu Waterfall. The local AIESECers were so friendly that they invited us to parties and took us all over Brazil to visit places and be our tour guides. What made the experience even more intriguing is the fact that I was in Rio. Rio is the best city I have ever visited, despite the fact that I have been to many countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Rio has everything. There are beaches, mountains, forests, lakes, crazy nightlife, great drinks, and so much more. Just name anything you can think of, and Rio has it. In essence, my AIESEC experience was one of the most memorable times of my life.
This past weekend, I, Susan Zhang, had the opportunity to attend OARC 2014. This is best known as the Ontario-Atlantic Regional Conference hosted by AIESEC Western. Now for those of you who don’t know, AIESEC conferences are famous for being jam-packed with dances (we call them roll calls), spirited cheers, and meeting new people. Each day is filled with endless activities and it’s rare to get enough sleep– if any at all. Pushing aside this exhaustion, every delegate was encouraged to head into the conference with a goal to challenge themselves, and carry it out with an insane amount of spirit.
While a large part of the conference centered on educating members about new AIESEC Canada initiatives, I enjoyed the tailored leadership and interpersonal development sessions the most. During one of the first events, each delegate was able to pick a social cause they were passionate about (ranging from voter apathy to gender inequality). They were then instructed to brainstorm the underlying issues and proposed solutions within the group. As a commerce student, I ended up joining a discussion about an all-too-familiar issue of obsessing over careers, and how it seems like students only have the motive of making big money. My favourite session however was an initiative called “Opportunity Fair,” where AIESEC members share their experiences and advice through a rotational discussion system. Each discussion leader chose to share a topic, such as conquering their fears, feeling unprepared for a role, or effectively managing a large team, while members would sit campfire-esque style and listen to their stories. This flexibility allowed us to gain so much insight on topics.
Ultimately, the conference is what you want to make it since we’d usually be too intimidated to pose and explore.
If you’re afraid of public speaking, challenge yourself to share in front of the delegation. Scared of social interaction? Make it a goal to introduce yourself to others as you dance awkwardly next to them. For me, I pushed myself to meet as many people as I can and learn some interesting/identifying facts about them. I’m sure all AIESECers have had the “step outside your comfort zone” mantra drilled into their heads, but it’s an entirely new experience to actually be able to apply it!
OARC wrapped up on Sunday night, and everyone took home sugar cube messages. In AIESEC York’s case, they took home an additional Spirit Oar for having the most spirit and sportsmanship during the conference. Thank you to everyone who took part in organizing and facilitating the conference, and all the delegates for being so encouraging and enthusiastic! They say that a conference is the moment that helps define and validate your entire reason for being in AIESEC, and after going to OARC, it’s easy to see why.