A small act of anything goes a long way. This is one of the many lessons my volunteering exchange in Taiwan taught me. My project was a 6 weeks Global Volunteer in Taiwan that involved organising three different English camps for primary and junior school kids. It involved me working with over 10 other volunteers from over the world, along with AIESECers in Taiwan, in order to communicate to the local youth the importance of English and the outside world.
Anyways, let the story begin.
Since birth, I’ve never stayed in one place for more than three years for different reasons, always leaving my friends behind, but never because I wanted to. From a young age, I've always wished to settle down in one place and also questioned, from time to time, what value lies within interacting with people I knew I would never see again… Fortunately, by the time of my exchange, I had a solid group of friends from high school and a familiar network in university after my first year. I had forgotten the feeling of departure, and I wanted to keep it that way.
That is why during the first week of my AIESEC project when hosting the first camp, I kept my distance. I didn't want to develop bonds with people that I would later have to say bye to. And this was my mindset throughout the camp until I got my sugar cubes. For those who don’t know, sugar cubes were sticky notes with messages that everyone at camp wrote to each other to express gratitude and appreciation (it is also an AIESEC tradition!). I remember going through the small stack of sticky notes, thinking to myself that I was never going to see anyone in that conference again. But there was one particular message that said: “I want to be just like you when I grow up," and it gave me a huge sense of achievement.
In hindsight, it was the catalyst for my passion to empower others. At the time I wasn't aware of this change, and I just went on to prepare the next camp. But something about me was different - I was more proactive, I spoke up more, did more, and wanted to do more for the kids. I gave more, danced with more energy (AIESEC traditions include some strange dancing, looking back I lowkey loved it <3), and created more joyful moments for everyone around me. And the more I gave to people, the more they gave back. Watching the children do their last roll call surprised me with how much our enthusiasm had grown onto them.
One of the most memorable moments was one of my team members thanking me for everything I had taught her. It was oddly inspirational, having someone older than you saying that, but the entire experience at the second camp gave me more motivation to make the third camp the best one yet. I gave it even more, and sure enough, I received more. In terms of sugar cubes, that was the camp when I got two messages saying "Thank you for everything" and "I'm so happy today."
I grew more courageous throughout my exchange, and even though my exchange was changing me slowly, it's only in retrospect that I can pinpoint what it helped me realise. It was the fact that, in life, you will always have to leave, but it is your choice whether to leave with nothing or to leave with a change. You should cherish every moment to make an impact, and believe me, a small step won't make a big difference, but it could lead to one. This is what motivates me to take more action and do more nowadays.
I've made a change in Taiwan with my small steps and efforts, and the people there have changed me in return, leaving me with captured moments and captured hearts. It is these memories that others have given me, that I want to share with you. Because I want to leave a change in you with this story, just like how a sugar cube I got during an AIESEC exchange has left a change in me.
So.. what are you waiting for?