I grew up in a relatively low-key neighbourhood in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. My graduating class in 2016 had 26 students. That’s less than most subjects in some schools! I attended the open days of all the local Universities, bright-eyed and excited to start the next stage of my life.
I believed that Uni would bring unforgettable memories, practical learnings and a whole new social circle that would accompany me to adulthood.
My first few weeks of University were overwhelming. Compounding this was that most of my friends went to different schools, and my first Semester was quite a lonely experience. I became acquainted with a very boring routine: lessons, gym, work, home. The few friends I made in class lived quite far away and were often busy on weekends, and my two younger brothers were still in High School. I was caught in an unpleasant in-between: too old and too bored of home to be content staying there, but too afraid and clueless to make the most of my limited time at Uni.
One day, I was corralled by a girl who had flyers and a neat-looking stall. In all honesty, I agreed to sit down because she sounded Filipino (a rare, and familiar, sound at USYD) and going overseas was something that sounded like it’d provide some excitement. She explained I could be doing marketing and sales work for non-profits, it’d be a great cause, and most importantly, I could put it on my CV.
With those magic words, I was sold. I paid $950 to go on exchange with AIESEC.
Once recruitment forms came out, I thought it’d be fun – I envisioned myself in an airport’s control tower, monitoring the progress of several hapless exchange participants all over the world. Turn right and head all the way down for leadership.
As it turns out, it was nothing like that. In fact, AIESEC surpassed my wildest dreams!
I was immediately put in a team with three other international students, led by another international student. It was confronting, frustrating and so very rewarding to be in that environment.
I was challenged every single day to empathise with people whose experiences I could hardly relate to, to extend compassion towards my teammates who had every reason to feel like a fish out of water compared to me. I still consider my team leader a mentor, leader and hopefully lifelong friend.
My immediate team was not the only people in my first semester with AIESEC was confined to. The Executive Board, the three other teams in my department (selling Global Volunteer), the cool and collect Global Talent squad, and everyone else doing the exact same thing as me but in UNSW, UTS, ANU and MQ all fuelled my growing love for the organisation. I had never seen so many young people united under a shared purpose, who are willing to put in hard hours to something as that seemed as far out of reach as “Peace and Fulfilment of Humankind’s Potential”. I realised that I’d surrounded my once lonely self with a lovely group of people all fighting for the same thing. My university life was filled with purpose every day seemed so much fun.
Fast forward three semesters, and I am about to begin my year as the President of AIESEC in the University of Sydney. I have made lifelong friends, learned things that can’t be taught in a classroom, and travelled the world with AIESEC. Most importantly, I can do work that genuinely makes a difference – I can contribute to the world in a meaningful manner.
So, dear reader, why not give it a go? Worst comes to worst, you decide AIESEC isn’t for you, and you leave. No harm done.
Best-case scenario? Meet new people, develop your skills, and make a difference. It starts with you!