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What it’s Like to be Part of the Largest Youth Run Organisation in the World

124+ countries and territories. 84,000+ members worldwide. 40,000 exchange experiences. 1,000+ conferences per year.

Looking at these stats and thinking back to when I first joined AIESEC at my own university, I had no idea that I was joining something so much bigger than myself. What I thought would be “just another uni club” turned out to be an organisation present in over 124 different countries and territories. Aside from being overwhelmed, I guess it was pretty cool to be able to say that I was a part of the largest youth run organisation in the world.

Of course, it wasn’t all talk and in the 1.5 years I was involved with AIESEC in Melbourne University, I was exposed to a myriad of different experiences. Experiences which shaped and coloured my university life.

My time in AIESEC was full of unexpected but rewarding moments and to have to summarise the best parts of my experience into one article wouldn’t do them justice.

Nevertheless, here are 5 cool things I experienced in AIESEC that made my time memorable.

1. Exchange

Exchange is what we facilitate at AIESEC. After a semester in AIESEC and witnessing the impact of volunteer and internship exchanges, I decided to embark on my own adventure and as cliche as it sounds, my volunteer exchange to Vietnam was one of the best experiences of my entire life. Despite the saying “ you only get out what you put in”, I felt like I gained so much more than I gave to the community in Hanoi. Spending 2 months abroad and living independently taught me so much about myself but also the culture and complexities of a country I knew little about beforehand. Did I mention food in Vietnam is so delicious and cheap? mmm

You can read more about my exchange here.

2.  Conferences

Being in such an international organisation means you have local conferences, national conferences and even international conferences. Each conference has a different purpose but are all nothing short of intense, purposeful and fun.

I have attended conferences both in Australia, Vietnam and China and whilst it has taken a slight toll on my bank account, I wouldn’t have had it any other way! Being at a conference with so many like minded individuals striving for a better world was both inspiring and empowering. 

For me, I think the best part is being able to have conversations and meaningful chats with people all around Australia (or the world) who you might not have even met in the first place! Conferences are a safe space where we all learn and grow together through the diverse range of sessions jam packed into a few days. It’s difficult to explain so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!

3. International Friends

In order to effectively facilitate cross cultural exchanges, we have to work closely with other countries to ensure everything runs smoothly. Therefore conferences, exchange or even just being part of AIESEC places you in a network of thousands of other youth around the world. These international connections become your collaborators, your support network and even your lifelong friends. It’s nice to know I’ll have a home in all these different countries.

4.  The Little Quirks

Like any organisation, AIESEC has many quirks that make us unique and fun! Ranging from a long list of acronyms to clicking instead of clapping, it is no doubt, a little overwhelming at first. However, once you adjust and start embracing the all the things that make AIESEC unique, you’ll be breaking out in ‘roll call’ dances in no time!

5. The Daily Conversations and Challenges

At the end of the day, it’s tough juggling uni, AIESEC, a social life, part time work and whatever else you have on your plate. It’s not easy pitching to strangers, it’s not easy running a meeting and it’s not easy presenting in front of an entire committee. But it is these daily challenges and conversations you have with others who are going through the same experience that make it all worthwhile.

 AIESEC really tests you and changes you if you’re willing to put in the effort. When it does get hard, there are always people around who are willing to hear your rants and provide you with the advice you need to carry on.

In the 1.5 years I have spent in AIESEC, I have been provided with a wealth of experiences I chose to take up and make the most of. It’s crazy to think I have done so much within such a short period time but I am so glad I decided to take the plunge to join AIESEC back in my first year of uni.

This is what it was like for me to be part of the largest youth run organisation in the world. What will it be like for you?

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AIESEC in Australia is currently recruiting. Find out more details at: aiesecaustralia.org/movement

Isabelle Gao

You could call Isabelle a bit of an “adrenaline junkie”... crazy about epic roller coasters and insane bungee jumps. While that is true, she is a current University of Melbourne student, toughing out a 4 year course in Commerce and Japanese. There is nothing Isabelle would enjoy more than simply reading a good book while drinking a nice matcha latte.