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My thoughts before traveling to Indonesia

I am Minni from Oulu Finland, and I just finished my freshman year at the University of Oulu. Since last fall, I have additionally been an active member of this organization called AIESEC and when I was offered an opportunity to go on a volunteer experience abroad this summer through the same organization, I decided to take the brave step to do so and apply for it.

The application process itself was very simple – I sent applications through the online portal to various destination countries and I was contacted quickly by them in order to arrange an interview. Although many of the projects I applied for were highly interesting, one of them had the highest stakes. In this particular project happening in the surroundings of Makassar city, we will be visiting and collaborating with the people of four various local tribes of the island of South Sulawesi. Our goal is to create a business plan in cooperation with them, by evaluating the economic potential of their local small-medium enterprises, and among the already culturally rich team of ours.

The project itself is yet to happen, but the departure is just around the corner. My feelings before leaving are contradictory – on the one hand, I can feel myself being the most thrilled I may have ever been in advance of a trip abroad but because it is not going to be an ordinary tourist vacation, I admit I am feeling a little terrified as well. Already in the interview, I was faced with the realistic expectation setting – I was inquired whether I would be fine with the fact that the local infrastructure will not include tap water and that showering should be handled by ”bucket- technique”. Of course for me as a European and for after most of the times having been taken this for granted, top of the line it raised feelings of worry in me – will I get accustomed to the local proceedings and will I be able to give up the position of privilege for the period of six weeks? However, later, after giving it a thought or two and after going through all the possible worst case scenarios, I concluded that this will probably act as one part that will make this experience extraordinary and will for sure widen my perspectives, for example about the different lifestyles there are elsewhere in the world.

Despite all, I uppermost have this supreme excitement in my mind. I love traveling the most of all, partially for its nature of the tendency to widen the world perspectives, and I enjoy when I get to admire pictures of places I have never visited before. Nonetheless, I have a feeling this one is going to be radically unlike the previous ones of mine – not only exclusively for the anticipation of becoming the grandest adventure of my lifetime yet, but also for the concrete contribution it will have for creating a better place out of this world, little by little.

Find your own project in Indonesia here.

Blogger: Minni

Does your destiny define you, or do you define your destiny?

Why is it so easy to fall in the tracks that society so heavily makes us feel pressured for? Are we supposed to be satisfied for the first career choice that we are forced to do at such a young age? With these questions I have struggled for many years now. For all my life, I have valued independency, and to be that, I also felt the need to learn some mechanical skills. After junior high school, I decided to apply to a vocational school, to study automation technology.  After graduating from there, I was already then thinking, that maybe I would rather work with people.

My first choices for university of applied sciences were forestry engineering and restaurant & service fields. However, I missed both invitation letters, because I had recently moved away from home. I ended up being in the entrance examination to become an automation engineer. I had made it my third option, just because it felt to be the necessary evil based on my previous education.  Even a thought about a gap year, was impossible because I had this strong need to feel good enough for the society.

After university, I still didn’t feel that I had found my thing. I decided to continue studying my Master’s degree. I continued in the same field again, which I had already so stubbornly studied for seven years. In my first year in university of technology, I found AIESEC. I signed up for every possible club and organization I could, but AIESEC was the one that I stayed in.

Only in half year, I have learned more about myself than during my whole life. It is pretty unbelievable, how much right atmosphere and self-reflection can make you so much more aware of yourself, and all the opportunities life has to offer. Through opportunities and chances AIESEC has given to me, I feel that I’m on a right path. I haven’t had this feeling for ages, if ever.

I also like my job as an electrical mechanic, but mainly because of the people I work with. However, in this job, I cannot be there for those, who I have something to offer. Trough AIESEC, I have learned to understand, what are the most meaningful values for me, and which I want to implement in my everyday life. Being responsible is one of those.

Why shouldn’t I reach for a career, which I already put my free time on? As soon as I moved to Tampere, I started to search opportunities for volunteering. I’ve already worked for several tasks, for example recording audio magazines for hearing impaired, refugee activation team and helping to move people to another apartment. I usually also donate these monthly foundations for several organizations, like WWF, Amnesty, and the red cross, even if I never know for sure if it makes any sense. I just feel strongly connected to these kinds of organizations.

The biggest question, which has prevented me from doing a full turn in my career, is the time, that I’ve already spent to other things, social pressures, and fear of failure. What if I am not good with people, even if I liked it myself? What if I never find a job in the field that I am aiming for? Do I really need to ask these questions out loud? If I already have a possibility to work in a field, that I am only slightly interested in, what kind of possibilities does the field that I am truly passionate about offer? The field, that I would be ready to put my effort 110% instead of 74%?

Now, I have planned to apply for a more human centric field and to quit my studies in the university of technology. Because I am interested in globalization, I am going to take benefit out also from AIESEC volunteering projects abroad in my career planning. I am aiming to go volunteering in November, in project related to children or youth. Through that, I will have a better knowledge, what specific orientation would be suitable for me. Also, I have planned to do the study-related training through AIESEC if possible.

I don’t believe, that I could live with full peace of mind if I didn’t even try to reach my passion. The answer to the question; What if I am not good at it, is simple. I will borrow empower, this powerful word, that I heard in one of the AIESEC conferences.

It is possible, that I am not good working for people, yet.

Are you looking for short projects abroad that help you find out your passions? https://opportunities.aiesec.org/gvCheck this out.

Blogger: Tinja

Top culture shocks while volunteering in Uganda

From previously living in the U.S. and Europe, living in Uganda feels like I have been transported to another planet. I had wanted to visit Africa since learning in high school about the tedious daily tasks that define African life. My interest in water resources was sparked from my desire to alleviate the burden African women carry: fetching water for the entire family. While in college, I helped organize a campaign with the Ugandan Water Project to construct a rainwater collection system for a school in Uganda in order to lessen the burden of collecting water. During my Master’s, I found myself again in contact with a Ugandan organization, this time while working for the student organization AIESEC. My committee sent multiple students to volunteer in projects that taught small children or carried out Environmental campaigns. The students who participated in these exchanges loved their experiences, and regularly returned to Uganda, the pearl of Africa.

With graduation nearing, and the funding opportunities available to me as a student on the verge of expiring, I chose to complete an AIESEC volunteer internship as a final part of my studies. I felt I had a realistic understanding of what I would experience in Africa from preparing students for their exchanges and from working with Ugandan organizations striving to tackle some of their country’s largest challenges. However, my previous experiences did not prepare me for the culture shock I experienced upon my arrival.

1. I wasn’t prepared for the heat

The sun is strong, and there is no escaping it during the day. I have experienced hot- but there seems to be something even more intense about the sun in Africa and it is not only because I am not from here, even natives joke about having to take multiple showers just to “cool down the brain.”

2. The showers are cold

I knew this ahead of time. What I didn’t fully think through was the complete act of filling a bucket with cold water, then physically lifting it over my head to pour on myself. Each shower in Africa involves self-inflicting pain for a person who is accustomed to the comfort of warm showers. In no way does taking a cold shower compare to simply turning the shower nozzle to cold. Especially not with the ability to turn the temperature back to hot 30 seconds later.

3. Preparing all your own water is a major inconvenience

We use water for so many daily activities, therefore fetching, boiling, and storing water is a major time consuming and laborious daily activity. I now understand why locals become lazy to properly prepare their water and use it so sparingly it becomes unhygienic (7 in 10 people do not wash their hands after using the bathroom).

4. Working is difficult

By the time a person has completed their necessary daily chores and activities before starting work, the day is either almost over, or the heat is so severe you can’t think properly. If you can manage to overcome the heat and stay on schedule to begin working, the Internet will probably be too spotty and slow to access the site, emails, or documents you need anyway. Separating your work activities into ones that need the Internet and do not, then adjusting your schedule to find a café to complete the Internet needed activities becomes another daily chore.

5. Transportation in Uganda is unlike anything else I have ever experienced

Before catching on to the patterns of this organized chaos, I was utterly confused. Large vans are available along the road, and riders listen for their destination or direction being called by the conductors. Bodas are used for short trips, and available at stages, swarming together the way bees swarm their nest- coming and leaving all the time. Conductors and boda drivers are constantly trying to rush you in or on, and it is the job of the rider to remain calm and maintain their own pace. To be honest, transport is quite intimidating coming from Finland, where going anywhere was relaxed, according to a schedule, and required no communication.

For me, these were the biggest shocks upon arrival. Of course, living in a new country requires the proper adjustments and tweaks to your “normal” daily schedule. The best tip I can give for a smooth and successful transition into life in East Africa is to adapt to the lifestyle as best as you can. Instead of trying to force your normal daily habits into your new life, start from scratch and forget everything you used to do. Observe the locals and create a whole new schedule that works best for you. There are many perks to living in Uganda, including the fresh food, the beautiful landscape, and the chaotic-ness of life! Utilize your resources and find creative ways to make the most of your experience.

Want to start your own journey in Uganda? Get started here!

Blogger: Sarah

The original article can be found here.

Iran? No thank you!

Iran is probably not the first destination that comes to mind when planning a trip abroad. Knowing this full well I still decided to go on an AIESEC experience in Tehran for six weeks with the goal of experiencing something new and different, suffer from proper culture shock and break stereotypes, both my own and those of others. I did read beforehand how tourism is a growing industry in Iran as well about how friendly and welcoming the Iranian people are and how travelers are safe as long as they adapt to the local norms of dressing and behavior.

Despite all this (though I refused to admit this to anyone) I was quite nervous when my plane landed in Tehran and it was time to cover my hair with a veil and enter a new country. The images proliferated by the media of soldiers and the unstable Middle-east still haunted me.

After a month in Iran and having learned a lot about the culture and having combatted culture shock, I can tell you three things I have learned.

Hospitality

Family is an essential part of life in Iran and as a guest, you are an honorary member of the family. During my project, I have stayed in many different families and felt welcome in each one of them. Making sure your guest is feeling well and enjoying their star is a task honored deeply by the host. As a foreigner, it’s like you are every Iranian’s honorary guest and their unexpected friendliness surprises you on the daily. I have learned a lot from the way Iranians treat guests that I will be putting into practice myself to welcome my guests.

Diversity

Most Iranians are Persians who speak Farsi, but there are various Arab and Kurd minorities. Every province also has their own traditional costumes, cuisine and accents. The scenery changes from snow-topped mountains to rugged deserts to beaches and urban metropolises. There is no way to see and experience everything in only six weeks, so I am already planning my next trip. I already have many places to stay in Iran.

Contrasts

When speaking with locals I found that we had surprisingly much in common: young people watch the same TV shows and the kindergarteners have Angry Birds and Frozen backpacks. Many things are new, strange or even uncomfortable for Finnish people, whether it be eating while sitting on the floor or the strict rules regarding how girls and boys are to behave. The best thing to do is to wonder about these contrasts aloud and ask locals about the reasons behind them. I have put a lot of conscious energy into understanding local customs and thoughts while simultaneously sharing mine. I haven’t understood everything yet but a month is a short time and this process will surely continue once I’ve returned.

Aside from these three things was is full of delicious and filling food, endless cups of tea, beautiful colours and shapes, the hustle and bustle of big city life and bazaars as well as the idyllic life of the countryside. The countries rich and vibrant history contains many different narratives and is part of what makes this country so fascinating. Did I already mention how much visitors are appreciated in Iran?

I never once had to fear for my safety except for in traffic. However, you get used to the chaotic order in the streets and when crossing the road a local friend will always take you by the arm and guide you through the speeding cars.

Iran isn’t the easiest country to travel in, but it certainly isn’t as hard to travel in as you would assume. My AIESEC project helped me get to know the country; having a ready network to rely on lets you participate in the daily life of locals and helps you meet many kinds of people who will challenge your world view and ideas bout Iran. I also challenged myself through participating in the volunteer project

My experience has shown me that Iran is a beautiful and essential place to visit. If you don’t believe me come and see for yourself!

Do you want to start your experience abroad? Just jump here!

Blogger: Eeva

Why AIESEC and The United Nations Are Working Together

As young people, we have the incredible opportunity to shape the future and influence a world we want this year. To get there, we must understand what’s already happening that will shape our future. 2015 is an important year. Why? 2015 is a year where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be adopted by the United Nations, governments of the world, and act as a set of commitments that will define the next 15 years of global development.

Youth is a major priority for the United Nations. We need to realize that unless we take it in our hands nothing will change. It is on us to push leaders across governments to businesses to include young people in the decision-making process and to participate in creating a society that meets the needs of young people — 1.8 billion of us.

UN Youth Envoy

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said recently, “My Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, says that young people drive change, but they are not in the driver’s seat. I agree – and I call for giving them the “licence” to steer our future.”

The history behind young people as a priority is guided by the World Program for Action for Youth (WPAY), a landmark agreement that was adopted by the United nations General Assembly in 1995 to provide a policy framework and practical guidelines for national actions and international support to improve the situation of young people worldwide. It covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.

To make this a success and push for further investments in youth and the implementation of WPAY, requires young people to actively participate in the decision-making and advocacy to help make the goals a reality.

This is where you, I, AIESEC and young people come into the picture.

In May, AIESEC is partnering with the Office of the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth to bring your voices into the conversation for the #YouthNow campaign month of advocacy. #YouthNow is a global digital and in-person campaign launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to elevate conversations around investment in youth development. We firmly believe that young people need to be at the center of the global development process. That means including your opinions in the discussion through initiatives like the global YouthSpeak Survey that seek to understand what the challenges young people face across the education to employment journey, raising awareness on the youth opinion, and how the SDG’s fit into your everyday life and shape the world around you. Every voice and every opinion counts.

YouthSpeak Selfies

Engaging young people with world issues is at the core of what we do, and at the beginning of the year 2014 we wanted to ensure that young people are informed and aware of what happens in decision-making spaces like the United Nations — aligning  what we do with what the world needs.

We believe that it is our role as young people to take some of these issues and lead the change we want to see — that’s why we want to hear from you and engage with you for the #YouthNow campaign.

It’s been 20 years since the WPAY was launched. The #YouthNow Campaign aims to leverage social engagement coinciding with the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly marking the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on May 29, 2015 to reinforce and raise awareness of the importance of youth engagement in these issues, and to advocate for additional investments made by Member States for youth development.

YouthSpeak aims to enable young people to speak their opinions directly on issues that are affecting young people today. We are proud to partner with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth to take your voices and those of youth around the world to the United Nations and to Member States for #YouthNow.

We see a very clear link between both movements–therefore we decided to use the YouthSpeak platform to make #YouthNow be heard.

 

Previously published on AIESEC international’s blog in May 2015 as “Why AIESEC and The United Nations Are Working Together”.  Fill the survey and let your voice be heard on youthspeak.aiesec.org.

AIESEC Participates at UN ECOSOC Forum on Youth

This generation of young people – the largest the world has ever seen – has a historic opportunity to end poverty, combat climate change, create jobs and fight injustice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a Youth Forum at UN Headquarters in New York this morning as he called on the participants to get involved in shaping a future sustainable development agenda.

Today, there are 1.8 billion young people, representing one quarter of the world’s population. Many struggle to find work, and are often hit hardest in conflict. The Secretary-General says that it is time now to see this huge cohort as a force of change that harbours the ingenuity and creativity to help solve the world’s most daunting challenges.

The event started with a keynote address urging an uptick in investment for children around the world, children’s activist and 2007 International Children’s Peace Prize Winner, Thandiwe Chama, called on delegates to be “on the right side of history” and place “our rights, the rights of children and youth, at the heart of the SDG agenda.”

“There’s no doubt that young people are facing multiple challenges to meet their potential but they are not giving up,” emphasized Youth Envoy Mr. Alhendawi.

“Everywhere I go, I see how the youth want to be connected to the United Nations; they will not miss any opportunity to volunteer and to advocate. They will participate at the Model UN just to simulate what’s happening in the rooms with delegates. Today we are not simulating. This is the United Nations in action.”

As the UN representative on all things relating to young people, Mr. Alhendawi said that a “sense of ownership” is critical to the success of the future sustainable development agenda. The 1.8 billion young people worldwide are ready to “carry their share” of the post-2015 development.

AIESEC representatives Karolina Piotrowska and Tala Mansi are present at the forum to voice our opinions in the role of Youth in light of the upcoming launch of the UN SDG’s.

AIESEC Karolina Piotrowska

Karolina Piotrowska representing the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations

AIESEC United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum

Tala Mansi from AIESEC speaking about Youth at the forum

Tala Mansi spoke on the panel voicing “the importance of youth development, bridging the gap between employment and education, and creating individual commitment and awareness of SDG’s from the bottom up.”

The engagement of young people is key to ensuring the successes of the SDG’s as young people will be the ones implementing these large global initiatives. AIESEC has engaged tens of thousands of young people in voicing up their opinions via the YouthSpeak survey where it captures their opinions on the challenges they face in reaching their fullest potential.

We further encourage young people to take ownership of the issues they care about and not sit still waiting for change to come. As we firmly believe that the world needs new leaders and our generation are the ones who need to step up, have courage and stand up for what matters to us.

The world needs your leadership and it’s your time to step up and take responsibility. When was the last time you spoke up about issues that mattered to you?

You can learn more about the ECOSOC Youth forum here.

The Skills of 2020 and Changing Leadership

The societies we live in today are vastly different from what they were twenty, or even ten, years ago. The pace of the world is increasing exponentially, due to technology and its effects on the daily life of human beings. The most prevalent of these effects is no doubt the capacity for global connection.

TIME Magazine recently published an article with an infographic detailing the projected ten most important work skills required for the workplace in the year 2020 — which alarmingly, is only a little over five years away. Five years might feel a long way away for now, but in today’s fast-paced society, time flies.

Success lies in preparation, and so we must ask ourselves, what does this mean for today’s skills training and how we can keep up for 2020?

What may set the individual or leader apart is the ability to adapt and innovate, a keenness for learning, and zero tolerance for complacency.

There are a number of things expected to change by 2020, including increased longevity (longer life spans), the heightened role that technology and computation will play in our personal and professional lives, and intensified globalization. Simply put, the world is finding ways to do things better and to get more out of it. If we are optimistic, we can expect to live in an “improved” society by 2020.

For leaders, however, it is important to realize that this improvement begins right now at this moment, not five years later. When the skills of 2020 demands people to own a wider sense of social intelligence, computational thinking, cross cultural competency. In addition, it requires leaders to be capable of new media literacy, virtual collaboration, and transdisciplinary work — the learning curve begins now.

Those we deem worthy of leadership are those who are “one step ahead”, and who are “leading the way”. They are the ones who are willing to take risks and able to adapt to change, and in doing so, become role models for those who wish to follow.

Leaders in today’s world must have a solid knowledge of both the past and a future, and secure understanding of where they themselves fit in between or bridge the gap. The world is expanding, and people need to grow along with it — as the world becomes better, so must we.

Here at AIESEC, we also wanted to identify some of the top skills young people were wanting to develop today, and our YouthSpeak survey with 25,000 millennial respondents showed that leadership / team management, new languages, critical thinking and problem solving skills were still the most in-demand to help them get ahead over the next few years.

The skills you need today versus in the future are rapidly changing. Are you prepared for the skills of 2020?

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