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Picture the scene. It's 1948, Post WW2 and the world is an uneasy, divided and broken state of affairs. Many homes have been damaged, many lives are destroyed, buildings have collapsed, and public relations are left in shreds. Trust in humankind has hit rock bottom, and the belief in a safer world is pretty much non existent.
But some students set to change all of that.
*Laying The Foundations*
Students in the countries of Europe (led mainly by France and Germany) began to question their current world, and the reasons for war. The explanation they came up with was a lack of understanding between races, genders, lifestyle and cultures. Their analysis was simple; the more we understand each other, the less we take offence, the more we can connect, the easier it is to communicate, and the less we find a need to engage in battle.
Engaged in the belief of their idea, the founding members of AIESEC started to build the organisation between the years of 1946-1948. Their clear identity later established at the Stockholm Congress of 1949. They defined their goal as 'to ascertain the peace and fulfilment of humankinds potential', and set about it through exchange.
*Building the steps*
The first exchange was done in 1949 where 89 students embarked on an exchange. Not only did this signify a belief in the system, but it also defined exchange as the core activity of the organisation.
From then on, more and more countries and students began to get interested in the idea of a better world. And soon, many of these places joined the network, bringing AIESEC to universities on all continents.
The success of the program was astonishing; for example, 2467 exchanges were achieved by the end of 1960. That number almost double to 4232 at the end of the next decade.
Other methods were also introduced to fortify their program. For example, seminars were first introduced as part of trainees' reception experiences, in a proposal from AIESEC in Germany in 1961. It was well received by other countries, and a general set of seminar topics to be addressed was proposed and accepted. They were mainly economic in nature, and for the first time AIESEC was addressing specific issues in its activities-stated clearly in a non-political way.
The 1970's saw two crucial pieces of legislation run through the works. First came the 1974 International Congress in Bordeaux, where an important motion was passed: the minimum length of an Exchange traineeship had to be 6 weeks. This was to ensure that the student had enough time to really understand the new country they found themselves in, and ultimately improve the quality of the Exchanges.
In 1976 an International Theme Programme was established that focused all international, regional, and local seminars on specific topics. This idea continued and grew through various stages.
After this the focus of the organization was on addressing global themes besides the traditional Exchange Program. Themes like International Trade, Management Education, Sustainable development, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Responsibility were discussed at local, national and global seminars. These turned into 'the learning networks' which attempted to tackle what they perceived as the main global issues.
*Gaining a real insight*
The late 90's sparked a discussion about the exchange element of the program, and so improvements in I.T allowed AIESEC to launch a system which would make the process faster and easier. Insight I was launched in 1997 and Insight II in 2001. As the focus of the organization was the Exchange program again, the number of exchanges started to grow.
*Heading to the future*
Looking for more relevance, nowadays AIESEC is the International platform for young people to discover and develop their potential. They take an innovative approach to develop young people, either through taking roles of responsibiltity, leadership, develop self-awareness and a personal vision, building networks, and developing capacity to drive change. This is achieved through an international platform of opportunities that provides over 5,000 leadership opportunities, 3,500 work abroad opportunities, 350 conferences, and virtual tools to build networks.
Although originally, AIESEC was a French acronym for "Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales"; today, they no longer use this acronym as the membership has grown to encompass a much wider range of disciplines than only economics and commerce.
AIESEC is a global, non-political, independent, not-for-profit organisation run by students and recent graduates of institutions of higher education. Its members are interested in world issues, leadership and management. AIESEC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, creed, religion, national, ethnic or social origin.
(please note: for the above part of the review, some information and data has been taken from the aiesec.net website)
*My Personal Experience*
Walking into Loughborough University only one year ago, and gaining an interest in the Blue Man Campaign was probably the wisest decision I have ever made. Following their rather unusual campaign, I found myself sitting in a small room being told of the value of joining AIESEC. Quoting previous members such as Colin Powell, or Jorge Sampaio (President of Portugal) - I really was engaged.
As in their mission statement is says that it is a universal organisiation based in over 90 countries, with the promise of an exchange opportunity, I thought hell yeah. I love to travel, and getting the experience of working in a foreign country would be so awesome to my CV. It also meant I could experience a new culture, and really do something challenging with my life.
Over the next few months, what I didn't know was that it would turn out to be so much more. I joined a group where I focused on raising traineeships from companies in the Loughborough area. Alternatively, I could have focused on sending students away. This basically meant I spent x amount of hours a week phoning companies, and getting them to see the benefit's of having an international trainee. For starters, they provide new perspective, they are all graduates so educated to the right level, they have market knowledge which will differ from the companies and are hard working, energetic and fun.
In my role, I learned business skills; through interactions with corporates (like Accenture, CadburySchweppes, PriceWaterhouseCoopers who sponsor the organisation) and through local businesses. I gained an expansive contact network; not only do I regular see members from acrosss the UK, but also in the international framework. And on a personal level, I made some of the best friends I could when I was probably the most unstable.
Also, I was trained by supporting corporates, and had the opportunity of travelling to unusual locations (from scotland to Malta!!) in order to attend conferences. Here I learned all about the organisation on a much deeper level, and understood exactly what I could get out of it. The conferences allowed for interaction between members, national committee, and national partners.
Every month corporates came in to give us skill sessions such as the value of communication, or how to work in a team. They provide a basic skill set which individuals will never learn on their course alone; and it allows members to build up a fantastic CV which'll set them apart in the global competitive job market. In fact, many sponsors often enquire if an individual was a member of AIESEC; e.g. PWC.
Aside from business skills, I also have learnt a lot about different religions and cultures. Personally I consider myself quite internationally minded; as not only do I come from a cultually rich background, but also I'm reading International Relations. Here I've gained an appreciation too for the environment, and for research and development in medicines among other things.
*Where To Now?*
This February I stood for elections and managed to get a Project Director role. This means that the Loughborough branch of AIESEC will be programmed around the project I select. I've chosen to run one joint with Bangladesh which focuses on gender inequality and entrepreneurship. The aim is to stress the importance of equality in all cultures and societies as well as educating ourselves about realities both in our countries and there own. I am also running a project with Cameroon and Malaysia to work on HIV/AIDS as they are suffering badly from this illness.
My team of 9 people (incl. me) will make sure both these projects run smoothly, as well as giving people the opportunity to travel abroad and broaden their horizons. We aim to completely envelope our motto of being the international platform for young people to realise their potential.
Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, China, Hungary, Iceland India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Macedonia, FYRO, Mainland China, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, The Netherlands, The Phillipines, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom. United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe
If you would like to get involved in whatever way you can or would simply like more information, please drop me a message in my guestbook and I'll be happy to respond. If you know a company that might be interested, please contact me for referals.