Student Life

AIESEC at Concordia

Volunteering abroad is only a few steps away

If volunteering abroad is something you’re interested in, AIESEC (pronounced eye-sek) is an organization to look into. A non-profit international youth-led organization offering global internships, AIESEC aims to take young adults out of their comfort zones and into a world where their help can make a difference.

On Friday, Nov. 23, AIESEC held a conference at the John Molson School of Business where volunteers, who now work with the organization, spoke about their experiences abroad.

AIESEC has three main sectors for its internship programs: Global Talent, Global Entrepreneur, and Global Volunteer. All three revolve around an exchange system where young adults from different parts of the world travel to share their talents, entrepreneurial skills, and volunteer. The projects they organize are based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the UN, as well as the #Envision2030 17 goals for persons with disabilities.

“I wanted to go somewhere completely different from what I knew,” said Stéphan-Thomas Trembley, who went to Indonesia last summer. He worked with consultants on a project aimed to help the economic growth and development aspect of the SDGs. “I think about it all the time, and I wish I could live it again. It’s inspired me to want to travel more, talk to people, and get to know their side of the story,” Trembley said.

Harnessing leadership and communication skills is only part of what is gained from going abroad. Students also learn about different cultures, different day-to-day routines, and even find similarities where they thought would be none. One of the things Trembley found most inspiring is that “people are the same.”

From beginning to end, AIESEC ensures their trips are safe. The Outgoing Global Exchange sector’s purpose is helping students with their exchange process—from airport pickups, to transportation, to accommodation, everything is planned carefully. Volunteers stay with assigned host-families while they’re overseas, and these families are often also volunteers. Depending on the project the student chooses, the time varies from six weeks to three months.

“I went to Romania to develop leadership skills and ended up meeting wonderful people and really creating a network of people all over the world that made this experience the best it could ever be,” said Ève Provencher-Dagenais, Local Branch Manager of AIESEC Canada. “I promised myself I’d go back to Romania, and I also want to go to a different country to learn a new culture.”

According to its website, AIESEC is the largest youth-run organization and is present in 126 countries with over 80,000 members.

“I’m originally from Sri Lanka, and over there AIESEC is a big movement,” said AIESEC Concordia Outgoing Global Exchange Vice President Sathsala Perera. “I was really inspired by what they do with youth development.”

The application process is done online using a step-by-step guide. First, you need to create a profile. According to Perera, the reason for this is that the organization is highly selective of their applicants in order to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved. The plane ticket is covered by applicants themselves, and there is a fee of $570 that goes towards the individual’s accommodations, food and basic care while they’re abroad.

“I joined AIESEC for empowerment,” said Perez. “I stayed with AIESEC because I saw this as a platform. A lot of people at Concordia don’t know about it, but it’s an important organization. Come and use us, use the resources we have here.”

Feature graphic by Ana Bilokin


The two-dimensional representations of real life

How social media is a necessity today, and why that might not be beneficial

In sixth grade, I made a deal with the devil. In the middle of the night, I created a Facebook account against my parents’s wishes and, like most of my friends, lied about my age. Within a few years, I amassed more than 2,000 “friends.” Bizarrely enough, many of my friends in the social media world were acquaintances at best. In my opinion, social media transports its users into an alternate world in which friends are not friends, and a false sense of connectedness often leads to emotional distress.

A few years later, I made another deal and created an Instagram account—this time, I did not have to lie about my age. Slowly, I learned the platform’s complex code of conduct: when to post, how to write a creative caption and, of course, the importance of maintaining a ratio of more followers than following.

Later came Snapchat. Travel became a chore for me. If I didn’t post about my location, how could I prove to my friends where I had been? As if by some invisible deity, the pressure to post began to feel forced and, in hindsight, took away from my ability to truly engage with the places I traveled to.

Of course, social media is not entirely evil. It allows family and friends separated by distance to stay connected. However, the connection these platforms promise is not true interaction. Posts on social media are two-dimensional representations of real life. Social media gives the user a fleeting sensation of connectedness, but these moments are illusions that leave the user feeling more disconnected than before.

Beyond its influence on our emotions, social media wields a disturbing amount of power. According to Newsweek, Facebook is the parent company of Whatsapp and Instagram. Its increasing monopoly on how we connect ought to concern us all. I am part of one of the last generations to experience a world that connected without technology. Younger generations are going to grow up with technology companies documenting them from the cradle to the grave. Consider the facts—as of 2018, according to Forbes, Facebook has over 2.2 billion active users. That’s larger than the population of any country. According to Pew Research, Facebook is the primary news source for 67 per cent of Americans. Additionally, these social platforms offer their services for free, often misleading the user into forgetting that their information is now being exploited by corporations, without any sort of compensation.

Companies collect information about our posts, likes, and friends to create complex algorithms that categorize user information, demographic, dates, political beliefs, and even who we are attracted to. This is the hidden cost of social media; we are literally selling pieces of our personality in exchange for fleeting moments of connectedness.

I regret using social media. In my last year of high school, I deleted all of my social media, but like an addict, I am back again. Ironically, I had to resurrect my Facebook to participate in a Concordia club. The world is changing into one where living without social media comes with consequences that impact our friendships, employment opportunities, knowledge of popular culture and invitations to social events.

Mark Zuckerberg—ranked among the annual Forbes most powerful list eight times––has changed the way we learn, shortened our attention spans, and radically transformed political discourse. Elections around the world have been impacted by social media platforms; Twitter played a role during a series of revolutions known as the Arab Spring, where people were able to communicate en mass throughout the revolutions. Today, social media platforms are changing history, and users are giving their personal information away for free. If they can do that today, shouldn’t we be afraid of what they may do tomorrow?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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