When I first came to university, I was excited to find out what I was going to do for the rest of my life because I thought school had all the answers for me. However I quickly became disillusioned with school. I knew I still wanted to change myself and find what drives me. I didn’t see a chance to make a change when I was always in the same environment. I had only been to a small corner of the world, and to challenge myself meant that I needed to change my perspective. AIESEC was the perfect fit for me; I was provided with the platform to challenge myself and experience something life-changing.
Going on exchange to Mauritius this summer changed not only myself but also my perspective of the world. I was accustomed to living in multicultural cities like Vancouver and Toronto, and seeing people from various backgrounds was natural to me. Growing up as a Canadian, I took for granted the freedom I had to learn from people of different cultures. While I was abroad I became acutely aware that I had a natural curiosity for learning about other cultures was rooted in my Canadian identity, and now I am forever thankful for it.
Living in major cities instilled in me a constant need to rush; in Mauritius I learned that there was more to life than just pushing myself to the limit. Something as simple as taking public transit became enjoyable again: going to work meant riding the bus and enjoying scenery that I would only be allowed to see for this short period of time. I still remember the first time I decided to do something out of my daily routine off work: I drank out of a coconut and kept the shell as a testament of my new lifestyle (I had to throw it out because my roommates thought I was being weird).
Our project was to develop and implement a six week business plan to improve the organizational strategies of a Mauritian NGO. The main goal of our project was to organize a community fair to help fundraise and increase community activity, but the best part of the project was the daily work. Our group of thirteen took turns every week volunteering at the daycare to interact with the children or help sort the donation inventory. For the first time in forever I was excited to wake up at 6AM in the morning to go to work. I tried to go to the daycare everyday because I actually enjoyed the experience of working with the locals and making the children laugh.
My goal was to make an impact by giving it my all in every task I did, no matter how small. I wanted to make a difference in at least one person’s life. Going on this journey with this mindset gave me lifelong friends. My favourite memories after going on exchange are all filled with the interactions I had with the children, my team, and my roommates who I still talk to today. I found my answers through exchange in regards to my identity, purpose, and drive. I couldn’t have understood why I have my values if I didn’t challenge them first. Finally I understood that anyone can make an impact, as long as we continuously seek these opportunities and put all your passion into whatever you plan to do. We can’t change the world without changing ourselves first, and I am happy to have taken my first step by going abroad.