My Summer Around the World 2012 - The Beginning
Four years ago, at the start of my university career, I knew I wanted to do something big, something that set me apart, something which challenged me past my education. Therefore, I joined AIESEC in Saskatoon. Many hours, positions, and accomplishments later, I am extremely fortunate to be standing as a member of the national committee for AIESEC in Canada in Toronto, Ontario.
Having already lived in 4 different provinces beforehand, I knew my challenges would not come from simply moving to the big city, but would come from my international travels. My previous travels only consisted of going across Canada and the United States, therefore knowing that a component of my work was to go to various countries to develop partnerships originally seemed like a daunting task. On top of overseeing all sales and partnerships which are developed locally and nationally in 28 different committees, my role also includes managing all aspects of bringing in international interns from 110 countries to Canada from visa processing to integration. To ensure this success, it is critical to understand a wide range of cultures and the realities in these countries.
Being only 21, I know the experiences I will gain from this position over the following year are going to be a major pivotal point towards my future career path. That said, where else would this experience begin but in Athens, Greece. Immediately after being offered the position, I was informed that I would be sent to Athens for two weeks in order to begin training for my role. On top of this being my first international travel, Greece is currently facing many economic issues therefore going to this country and being able to experience it first hand is a moment I will never forget.
Luckily, being in AIESEC, I had a strong support network in Greece. From being picked up at the airport to having my own personal tour guides, my experience in Athens was amazing. The fast pace yet relaxed environment seemed like a mixture of the relatively relaxed feel of Saskatchewan with the fast pace of Toronto. This fit in perfectly Athens’ blend of old rustic architecture and new modern designs. Of course none of the buildings soared like the skyscrapers in Toronto as the buildings in Athens cannot be taller than the hill which the Acropolis was built on for the Goddess Athena.
Going back to my training, the majority of my time in Athens was spent attending AIESEC’s international conference which consisted of over 300 delegates from 55 different countries. Now imagine, within 24 hours of landing in a new country you are immersed with all of these remarkable individuals from all of these countries and cultures. In any other situation this would have been an overwhelming moment for culture shock, however having been heavily involved in AIESEC beforehand and working in conjunction with Nick Kokkastamapoulos from the Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies, culture shock was one of the best moments.
In fact, my biggest culture shock came during country meetings where all of the Canadian representatives met with the representatives of another country. These included countries from Brazil to Germany, Ukraine to India, and China to Norway. For those who know, doing business in some of these cultures can be a very interesting experience! These meetings played a large role as far as getting the opportunity to understand their AIESEC entities, but more importantly their culture and realities.
Going to Greece was only the first step of this upcoming year. A year which is going to be filled with surprises and opportunities I could not have dreamed of.
I look forward to seeing what comes up next and sharing my experiences with all of you!
Wishing you the best!