I get a lot of questions around my experience with AIESEC and my experience going abroad with them. There are so many different exchange and volunteer programs out there, so why AIESEC over the rest of them?
But first, what exactly is AIESEC?
AIESEC is the world’s largest student run organization found in 113 countries worldwide. It provides leadership opportunities for students while running a global internship program. Through this program, university students and recent graduates can find volunteer or work abroad opportunities for periods of 6 weeks to 18 months.
Here are my reasons why, I decided to go with AIESEC over anything else:
With university chapters in 113 countries worldwide, the world really is your oyster. Once you’re accepted into the program and can begin looking for work, there are so many possibilities for work and countries that you can go to.
A part of the internship process involves support from your home and host country AIESEC chapters. The AIESEC chapters are there to help you to get ready from assisting to get visa* before you go to helping you with accommodation once you arrive. It reduces a lot of the stress that commonly go hand in hand with moving to another country. I had someone meet me at the airport and help me get to my prearranged flat. Someone else took me to my first day of work, helped me set up my new phone number and opened a bank account with me. Simple things, but when you’re newly in a foreign country with a confusing language and strange procedures, any little bit of help from someone local is welcomed.
*This really depends on the country that you’re coming from and going to. Sometimes assistance can only go so far and it will depend on the particular case.
Beyond just helping you get settled, members of your host chapter often become your friends. When you arrive, you’re welcomed into the chapter and get to meet all the people who helped you get to your new country. They host parties, organize culture activities and take you around the city. During my university days, we took our interns for all sorts of activities and experiences around the city. In some cities, like Budapest, there is a thriving intern community so you’ll also meet people from all around the world who are also experiencing what it is like to live abroad – really great for support when you’re so far from home. Budapest had so many interns coming and going all the time, but I managed to find a solid group of friends who were going to be there for longer periods of time.
Often companies will have more than one AIESEC intern at a time in the office. Not only will you work with people in the host country, you also get to work with people from many other countries as well. An international workplace full of different languages and work habits is always an interesting experience. During my time in Budapest, I worked with people from New Zealand, India, Ireland, United Kingdom, US and of course, Hungary. You won’t believe the number of things I learned about New Zealand and the UK. I went all the way to Hungary to learn about the Maori, what a hob is (a stove top apparently) and how to make pikelets.
If Things Go Sour…
In the unlikely scenario that something happens to the company you were suppose to work for and the internship opportunity fell through once you arrived (or even have already started), it becomes AIESEC’s responsibility to help you find a replacement job. It gives you some security in knowing that you’re covered in case the worse does happen. Also, AIESEC becomes the mediator in any disputes between you and the employer. Often working abroad involves plenty of miscommunication and frustrations due to cultural differences and misunderstandings. AIESEC is there to help you through these issues and will work with you resolve problems.