Let me tell you a story about my first week in AIESEC. It's open day. I'm stalling. I have no clue what I'm doing. I am greener than a freshly ground stick of wasabi.
Hordes of people are coming up to me: "what's this AIESEC exchange stuff all about?"
"Well you get to go overseas, do some volunteering and travel at the same time, it's a really great time", I reply, trying to hide the fact that I was only taught to say this a few days ago.
I finally get a break when my Team Leader's (alleged) high school friend, Maggie, comes by. She's heard the word AIESEC a lot, but doesn't really know what we do (allegedly). I give a quick explanation, hopefully it's good enough. She (allegedly) is very enlightened and goes off to enjoy Open Day. (as you might guess, she wasn’t. I was being cat fished the whole time)
The entire day is hectic, overwhelming and tiring. Once stalling ends, I have a team meeting! What a load of commitment... I’m really questioning whether I want to stay.
Meeting ends. Team Leader gets a text.
The President of AIESEC in Australia, magnitudes above me in the organisational hierarchy, wants to see me.
Huh? Holy shit. What did I do wrong? How badly did I stall? Why does the big boss of the nation girt by sea want to see me, a freshly planted bean sprout member.
We meet at a nearby café. I get more confused every step I take. Sitting in the corner is (surprise!) Maggie. No, she wasn't my Team Leader's high school friend. She leads the national team of an international organisation. With her decisions she moves hundreds of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars. She is the president of AIESEC in Australia and she’s only 22.
A few years ago, she was just an unemployed uni bum who gamed more than she slept or studied combined. Now, she’s the equivalent of a national manager of a transnational corporation. She has a measured air about her that commands respect. Her words are heavy with the weight of experience and skill. She lives with her team to sleep, eat and breathe AIESEC for a whole year, analysing data coming from the many different Australian universities, communicating with the international team and leading the direction of the nation. It’s amazing what such a young person can do.
Membership in AIESEC gives you a chance to get involved, develop your self-confidence and contribute to doing something that actually matters. There are higher and greater roles like Maggie’s (and it doesn’t end there). I’ve realised that the goal of AIESEC is to develop everybody: not just the people we send on exchange but the people in AIESEC, facilitating that exchange. The members, the team leaders, the executive board, the men and women of the national, and international team, who together form an incredible network of youth. Very different people united by a singular purpose.
There are so many incredible opportunities available to young people, and exclusively young people. I’ve met so many people who’ve used AIESEC as the platform to rapidly forward themselves in their career as well as their personal development, making lifelong friends in the midst of it all. It’s way easier, and more meaningful, than living the corporate promotion ladder for decades on end.
I was once told that you only leave AIESEC when you have nothing to learn from it. Well, for me I believe I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg.Soon, I’ll be going off on my own exchange to see what the hype is about. After that, I’ll be part of a super hectic year as part of the executive board in USYD. Wherever you are, whatever you do, I hope you’ll want to be part of this journey, before it’s too late. Be part of a leadership movement. Meet new people, develop your skills, make a difference.
A member of AIESEC