Photo Courtesy of Suki Han

For many people living in this day and age, globalization is a fact of life they have grown up with. In this international society, the lives of individuals are affected now more than ever by the actions of people thousands of miles away

One international organization at Tech, AIESEC (formally known as l’Association internationale des étudiants en sciences économiques et commerciales), aims to provide students with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and give them a chance to take internships abroad.

AIESEC was formed in 1948 to rebuild Europe after the devastation of World War II. Member countries exchanged information about programs in economic and commercial sciences between its members.

AIESEC provides students with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and
take on internships abroad

Today, AIESEC has expanded out to almost every branch of study throughout the world with over 86,000 members, making it the world’s largest student-run organization. Local chapters are called “Local Committees,” emphasizing the organization’s global reach.

Tech’s AIESEC chapter, which was founded in 1987, helps students grow personally and professionally by maintaining a global student presence on campus and providing internships and work overseas.

Internships outside of the states give students an opportunity to expand their worldview, meet new people, and work in different environments. International involvement is more important now than ever, making internships abroad very valuable.

Recently, its members have gone to internships in Peru, China, Brazil and Egypt.

In addition to providing students a chance to experience another culture, working abroad gives them valuable networking opportunities.

Tech’s AIESEC chapter develops connections and provides internship opportunities with local Atlanta-based companies such as Coca-Cola, UPS, First Data and PGi.

The barrier when meeting other students is broken because you already have AIESEC in
common

The Tech chapter, totaling over 55 members, participates in professional and social events throughout the semester. For instance, AIESEC holds an annual “Global Village” event on Tech Walkway where Tech students are invited to try international food, clothes, presentations, games and crafts. AIESEC also provides information about international internships at the event. This year’s “Global Village” will be held on Friday, March 8.

AIESEC members also attend conferences to meet and network with people outside of Tech.

“The initial cultural barrier when meeting other students is broken because you already have AIESEC in common,” said Cristina Lara, Local Committee President of Tech’s AIESEC chapter. “You believe in the same value system, and you both understand your organization.”

Lara joined AIESEC in Spring 2011 as part of the outgoing exchange team, helping students find internships abroad. In May 2011, she studied abroad in China for a year, getting involved with alumni and other interns working abroad. She met students from numerous countries, including Austria, Tunisia, Germany and Australia.

As an exchange student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Lara was involved with the local committee and even attended an AIESEC conference in Japan. Over 300 people from 34 different countries —Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Belgium, Germany, U.S., Australia and New Zealand —were present.

“It’s really interesting to see what you have in common and what you don’t [with students around the world],” Lara said.
When it comes to understanding cultural differences, world travel can teach useful lessons in this area. Lara noted that in the U.S. business cards are handed out very casually, in contrast to the more formal practice in Japan where bows are exchanged before business cards are presented one at a time with both hands.

However, not all of the benefits of becoming an AIESEC member are strictly professional. Having this opportunity to meet students from all over the world and build lasting friendships across the continents is also an important aspect that the organization offers students.

In addition to the work experience that an internship abroad provides, AIESEC internships also give its members with valuable life experiences.

“When you join AIESEC and you see a map of the world, you don’t just see countries, you see faces,” Lara said. “You start building up a network and eventually you find that you’ve made friends from all over the world.”

Lara still stays in touch with and occasionally reunites with her international friends from countries like the Philippines, China and Romania.

“If students are still looking to be part of something greater, if they’re still trying to find something to be passionate about and they want to make a difference, I think that AIESEC can provide that for them,” Lara said.