Upon entering university, you usually want to make the most out of your university experience. A big part of that experience is developing your personal skills and being exposed to different cultures. There are different organizations at Concordia that could help you do just that.
AIESEC is one of those organizations. It is a global student-run, non-profit organization aimed at developing leadership skills through international exchange and internship programs or local leadership programs.
“AIESEC provides a lot of opportunities for students to develop their leadership by getting them to do hands-on activities, so it’s not just by listening. We try to empower our members so they can actually have their own project and gain experience while doing it,” said Naomi Ko, AIESEC’s incoming VP of information and communication management.
In order to fully understand the AIESEC experience, there is no better way than to dive into a real story of a Concordia student. Meet Curtis Deschambault, who is currently holding a year-long AIESEC position in Austria.
Deschambault joined AIESEC upon entering Concordia in 2007 in order to indulge in the university experience and to travel around. After attending the AIESEC information session, he realized that the organization offered him both of those experiences and he eagerly jumped at the opportunity to take part. He started going to conferences which helped him learn more about the organization.
“It was a really good chance for me to expand on things that I have not really looked at in my life, like how to manage my skills, how to motivate people and how to implement real life projects,” said Deschambault. “It was a challenge at the beginning but I definitely grew quite a bit from it.”
Last December, Deschambault decided to apply to go to Austria in order to work for the AIESEC national team. His role is to coordinate their two internship programs on a national level and to expand AIESEC’s volunteer abroad program in Austria. In addition to that, he works on making partnerships between Austria and other AIESEC countries.
As for living in a foreign country, Deschambault found it to be a comfortable and easy transition. He says Austria is a privileged country, with a very good standard of living and minimal homelessness. The language barrier didn’t seem to affect him negatively either. The international language in AIESEC is English, which facilitated his communication with others. He describes people in Austria as supportive and understanding of his linguistic obstacles.
Deschambault is currently surrounded by seven nationalities in the AIESEC team in Austria, including Egyptian and Hungarian.
“It’s a diverse cultural experience for me, so it’s really interesting. I’m really enjoying it a lot and learning cultural leadership as well. I’m experiencing how different cultures interpret leadership,” said Deschambault.
The AIESEC experience, although enriching in many ways, does not come without a few challenges. Deschambault was recently in Kenya for an international leadership conference with about 600 delegates from AIESEC’s 110 member countries. He said that he found it was sometimes overwhelming to have to deal with so many different cultures in the same place. However, he did have the chance to talk with people from different countries about world and leadership issues.
One of the biggest advantages that AIESEC provided Deschambault was being able to travel across the world. So far, he has travelled to 12 countries, allowing him to visit four out of the seven continents. Deschambault says that he never imagined that he would be able to travel this much.
Given all of his experiences so far with AIESEC, Deschambault says his time with the program has been worth the minor challenges. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience. It was probably the best decision I made when I entered university.”
For more information, visit www.aiesec.ca/concordia.