After having personally experiencing an Aiesec project in Vietnam last Summer (in 2015), curiosity prompted me to find out more about Aisiec as an organisation, rather than just as a university society. Therefore my interview with the new Vice President of Aiesec Southampton : Josie Garmory, should give me some more information.
How did you find out about Aiesec?
I searched for Aiesec randomly on the internet, I just came across the site.
Where and when did you go abroad, and for how long?
I was based in Ankara (in central Turkey) for six weeks from June to August 2013.
Could you please briefly describe your project abroad?
Aiesec is an organization that tackles global issues, so my trip was just a small part of this. My project “Teenagers, Myself, My World” had several aims which included; introducing British culture to Turkish teenagers as well as a major focus on improving their leadership skills, time management and soft skills. As all of these qualities are really valued in the current job market, it was a worthwhile experience for the teenagers at the summer camp.
What were the best aspects of your experience in Turkey?
Well there were many different good aspects I think. These included: meeting new people from different cultures for the first time in a completely new environment. The experience of all these different cultures at once was incredible. But it was also great to know that I could successfully travel abroad independently.
Now, What were the hardest aspects of your experience would you say?
The hardest aspect for me was definitely the culture shock. In particular, experiencing just how badly organized these Turkish organisations were. As a heads up for anyone going to Turkey, don’t be expecting many things to run exactly to time. But I think overall the hardest part was having to adjust to such a contrast, with a new set of people in an environment unlike anything I had been to before.
You were 19 at the time, did you think at that age that you were ready to travel to Turkey?
Yes. I think this was the right age for me to travel because I had already gained some valuable life experiences from being at university for a year which prepared me for my travels.
Did you get any free time in Turkey, and if so what did you enjoy doing?
Yes, I got a lot of chances to travel Turkey whilst there. There were many opportunities to explore cities that were part of the project, as we had some free time over the weekend. Some of my favourite places that we went to included: Troy, Cappadocia and Istanbul; which in my opinion is a truly amazing city.
Do you think that travelling at the end of your first year was the right time to go?
This is definitely a good time to go since you don’t need to think about internships and career moves like you have to in the latter years of university.
What motivated you to go abroad: Was it to help your career or to just make a difference? And did this change at all whilst you were out there?
I just wanted to do something useful and do something a bit different rather than just following in the footsteps of other people who just go travelling to see a new place. I was not aware of how helpful volunteering could be until I actually got out there. Through doing Aiesec I realized the real scope of volunteering and it has even made me consider following this line of work as a possible career.
Did your experience change how you viewed strangers from different cultures?
Yes definitely. This experience was really eye opening, it gave me a chance to learn more about other cultures than I had ever done before. It was also important to help me become more accepting of different cultures as well.
Please tell me about your current role in Aiesec?
At the moment, I am Vice President of the Global Volunteer Program. This means that my main responsibility is to ensure that participants go abroad. Although the role is really challenging it is also enjoyable and because of my personal trip abroad, I am even more passionate about working for Aiesec in order to ensure that other people get the same amazing opportunities as I did.
Do you think that you would follow a career that would be similar to your current role at Aiesec ?
Yes I am really interested in this line of work which is why I am going to take an internship with Aiesec the year after I graduate. This will either be in China or Brazil, I am not quite sure yet. My dream would be to do a masters in International Development which would subsequently allow me to work in the third sector.
Finally would you recommend Aiesec to anyone, and if so why?
With all my heart I would. If you are looking to volunteer abroad to make an impact in the world and have a desire to be more open and understanding of different cultures; then Aiesec is the right program for you. There are not many student programs that will allow you to develop and aid communities in need of assistance and travel at the same time. This is a really rewarding program to be a part of and joining Aiesec can truly open up a whole new world to you.