From the first day of college, students at Tech are encouraged to leverage the multitude of options present for gaining an experience abroad. Whether for work, studies or pleasure, a great way to do this is through AIESEC, an on-campus organization that sends students abroad for volunteer and internship experiences to develop their leadership and cultural skills.
AIESEC is the world’s largest youth-run organization, with over 86,000 members.
“Even with all the on-campus events, I want people to see AIESEC as a professional leadership organization rather than a travel agency,” said AIESEC president Christina Lara.
Next weekend, Lara will travel over 3000 miles to Brazil to coordinate relationships with another chapter of AIESEC. In the past, she and other leaders in the club have travelled to a lengthy list of locations, including Panama, Singapore, the Netherlands, Romania and Turkey for conferences and national and international meetings. International coordination between local chapters is another important aspect of an AIESEC club.
“I joined because I wanted an international internship and I stayed because of all the great opportunities. AIESEC has a great network of people, for example I made a friend while I was in Japan and I was able to see them in China and Turkey. It definitely makes the world a smaller place,” said Lara.
AIESEC offers a strong networking opportunity for students to connect with each other, different schools and internationally-based companies. The two main types of experiences abroad that are unique to AIESEC are the Global Internship Program (GIP) and the Global Community Development Program (GCDP).
The GCDP is one of AIESEC’s alternatives to studying abroad. GCDP is shorter than other similar programs and usually lasts one summer. This program allows students to experience another country, not as a typical American tourist, but as an equal. Students are guaranteed food and lodging, or equivalent payment, so they can worry less about day-to-day living or expenses and more about experiencing all that international travel has to offer. “Development programs” are available for GCDP participants; programs include teaching English and working at disability centers.
GIP is AIESEC’s “most intense professional experience,” according to the AIESEC team. The GIP is the professional internship abroad which can last from ten weeks to eighteen months. GIP includes paid internship with are similar to other international internships. Unlike similar internships, though, AIESEC immerses students in an international experience where they learn how to work in a global company instead of working in a domestic company in another country. Students are also exposed to working with locals in the country and region in which they would be staying, which allows them to further immerse in their new, adopted culture.
AIESEC is unique from other clubs at Tech because of its large global presence. With chapters in over 113 countries, networking is widely available and key to a successful AIESEC experience. Strong communication between the student’s host chapter and local chapter allows the student to focus on building a comprehensive work and global experience without the worry of not having guidance along the way.
AIESEC can also be seen as a way to utilize and build language proficiency, because participating students will be immersed in a setting where English is not the primary language. Fluency in another language is not required to work internationally, but students are certainly able to improve their existing skills by exposing themselves to another culture, since immersion is proven to be the absolute best way to learn a language. Language proficiency is a wonderful skill to have in today’s competitive job market and gives freedom and confidence when faced with interacting with people of other cultures.
“This has been the best leadership experience of my life,” Lara said. “It’s like being the CEO of a company; even though it’s unpaid, it’s completely worth it because of the difference I get to make in the world.”