2017: Here’s Four.

As the new year begins, so does a page unfold to a new chapter marking 365 pages of you and what you can do to make the best -and worst- out of this millennial age.

New-Year-Goals

  1. Typically, travel.

Be it for a week, six, or 40. Do it.

The notion of traveling abroad brings forth numerous layers to be discovered. Ibn Battuta, a medieval Moroccan traveler and scholar, said that travel leaves you speechless, and then turns you into a storyteller.

As millennials of the 21st century, the world is slowly becoming ours as a whole, where the boundaries and limitations of citizenship no longer stops us from exploring what’s beyond our territorial comfort zone.

Embark on a journey that combines adventure with volunteerism that contributes to the UN’s 2030 agenda of sustainable development, you become what we call in AIESEC, a Global Volunteer.

 

  1. Read more

I know, I know, it’s a typical suggestion often appealing to a few of us especially with the rise of the digital age, where stories go viral or are rather more interesting if they were in video form.

Knowing that millennials live in an an age where they compete to innovate, develop and grow and thus seeking purpose and meaning behind their work, reading comes as their fuel.

So for 2017, read more.

Reading books that range from classic novels, fiction and non-fiction, to political and cultural essays and management magazines, you’ll give yourself a boost in the following categories: self-discovery and self-assessment, memory improvement, smarter decisions, and most importantly less stress.

My personal recommendation:

- The Next 100 Years by George Friedman,

- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

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  1. Participate: Your society, your government, your life.

One of the guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is participation as a fundamental right. Today, movements to empower youth are bigger than ever, especially as the united nations is exerting major effort that includes the Not Too Young to Run campaign, launched by the office of UN Youth Envoy and the UNDP.

In AIESEC, we believe that we must engage young people and decision makers through cross-sector collaboration. Our youth movement is united for positive change. Through the YouthSpeak survey collecting over 160,000 responses, we are able to convert energy into action. We continuously invite youth to voice their opinion and have their voices heard, create an empowered society for positive impact, and  develop leadership through the development of their communities.

  1. Stay informed

Recent events ranging from the U.S. Elections, Brexit, attacks in Berlin and Istanbul, and the situation in Syria and Yemen amongst so many more atrocities our world faces today has brought forth an unfortunate phantom called ‘fake-news’.

As youth, driven change-makers, citizens of humanity, and most importantly the future of this earth, we have a responsibility to seek and challenge information to better understand the world that we will face every single day.

So choose your channel be it following social media feeds, downloading news apps that send you regular notifications, watching the news on TV or reading your daily local newspaper.

Journalist Rachel Shabi wrote [for Al-Jazeera] that propaganda is a part of war but that the media had been broken, unable to usefully analyze, report or inform.

Why is this important? My personal input is that, to develop leaders that are solution oriented and identify as world citizens, an important step is to stay informed. Because being interested in world issues and showing resilience in the face of challenges requires knowledge that is well-rounded and media that is well-consumed.

 

13 Ways to Focus on Yourself in 2014

It’s always very easy to get caught up with the many things and responsibilities you have to cater to. We are so hard bent on getting lost in the complexities that everything seems like such a hurdle. It causes stress on you and the people around you, straining relationships and testing tempers.

It’s not too late to set a resolution, so we’d like to remind you of a few simple things to be more effective and efficient in your everyday life. A new year is a chance to start again, a chance to change and improve, a chance to be better. Let’s make the best of it!

1. You’re Responsible For You.

Everyone has bad days. Everyone has things that don’t go their way. It’s okay to be upset. But don’t let that hold you back or keep you from getting back up. We all get knocked down so that we can stand up again.  Challenges are always going to punch you in the face, so fight back! No one is going to do it for you.

2. Listen To Your Gut

Life is a maze. We reach crossroads. We may not have the answers. It is natural to seek advice and guidance. But always remember, each person has a different opinion and a different perspective. Each experience is different. That feeing in the pit of your stomach that won’t go away? Listen to it. Sometimes it’s okay to trust your instinct. You’d be surprised at how accurate it can turn out to be

3. Listening Is Just As Important

Communication is a two-way street. If you want to be heard then you need to be able to extend the same courtesy to another. Being able to hear and listen are two different things. Everyone is just as important as you are. Everyone wants to be heard and understood. Be the kind of person that lets people know their voice is valued.

4. Be An Encourager

Remember the last time you wanted to try something and felt insecure about going ahead with it? Every other person in the world feels that way. Insecurity is a part of our life but the right words go a long way in easing that insecurity. Being someone who pushes people forward goes a long way. You may have just played a part in giving someone the courage to go after their dream.

5. All Bark And No Bite!

Nobody likes a person who just talks and talks and does nothing. Actions always speak louder than words. Be known as someone who gets things done, who’s word is as good as the job being done. Always remember that ‘Well done’ is better that ‘ Well said’.

6. When In Doubt, Just Ask.

You’re not expected to know everything. Every day is a learning experience. Some may know more than you. There is no shame in asking because you don’t know. It shows your willingness to learn and better yourself.

7. Learn To Laugh At Yourself.

Okay, so you spilled a glass of water on yourself in front of a bunch of people. So what? They’re laughing at you? Laugh with them. It’d be pretty funny to see someone else with a soaked shirt right? Sure, it might be a little embarrassing, but that is where great stories come from. Besides, being laughed at can’t embarrass you if you’re laughing along with them too!

8. Politeness And Kindness Go A Long Way.

The world is moving at such a fast rate, that we forget to acknowledge the people we see. Take a moment to wish someone a good morning. Smile. Mum said don’t talk to strangers, she never said don’t smile. You could just make someone’s day. Kindness goes a long way too. No one’s asking you to go out of your way to help everyone, but if there is something you can do for someone, do it with a smile. Who knows when you might need them to give you a hand?

9. Give Something New A Try.

‘Get out of your comfort zone!’. I’m more than sure that you’ve heard this plenty of times! And that is because it’s true! This world is huge and offers more things than you could dream of! Take full advantage of that! You’re not going to gain anything by sticking to the same boring old routine day in and day out right? Talk to a stranger on the bus, try a new dish, colour your hair! Countless new things to try! Who knows, you may find something you’d like to make a part of your life!

10. Don’t Retaliate In Anger

Anger is such a powerful emotion. The urge to strike back and inflict the same hurt you feel is enormous when you’re upset. Many a times we say or do things in the heat of the moment and almost always end up regretting it. Simple tip: When you’re mad and you question whether you want to say or do something, DON’T do it. You’re guaranteed to regret it. You can be as mad as you like but keep calm and wait till you’re feeling less agitated and then take up whatever issue you may have. Give yourself that time and space. It’s okay to want that and communicate the same to the people around you.

11. Always Keep The Bigger Picture In Mind.

Life is too short to hold on to trivial matters. In a few years what seemed like a big deal today will be nothing more than a passing thought. Don’t let a petty matter affect your work, health or relationship with people. It is just.not.worth.it. Holding a grudge takes up too much effort and time. Focus that energy somewhere more productive. There is more to come, more for you, more for the people around you. Remember that.

12. You’re Your Priority Too!

The relationship you have with you is as important as the relationship you have with anyone else, maybe even more important. Because you have to live with you every single day for the rest of your life. Take time off to spend with just you. Catch up on a movie , read a book or treat yourself to a spa day. Ensuring you are happy and at peace with you is the only way you will be able to focus on growing in your other relationships.

13. Every Little Thing Counts!

Every day has something new to offer, there will always be something new to learn. You just need to look for it. It can be anything, from learning a new word to a piece of advice.  No action, no matter how small, is insignificant. So appreciate and look at what you can gain out of an everyday experience. A few years from now, when you look back, you’ll see that it was all the little things that made the biggest difference in creating your picture.

 

AIESEC provides over 100,000 young people with the chance to improve their skills each year. If you are looking to volunteer with AIESEC, check out our website at www.aiesec.org

The Power of Understanding Different Cultures

AIESEC believes in developing socially conscious leaders of today who are passionate about the world and solving its issues, to leave behind a positive impact. We envision “Peace and fulfilment of humankind potential”, but how do we achieve this “peace” that we envision?

Simple. We send young people on exchange experiences.

Here is only one of the 26,000 stories we create every year!

La’ala and Tünde – A friendship forged through an exchange of cultures

La’ala is an Exchange Participant who recently went on exchange to China; she believed teaching kids in rural areas would bring about a new perspective and meaning to life. What she didn’t know was that the people she would meet while on exchange would leave behind an even greater impression on her than the kids.

Tünde is an Austrian Exchange Participant whom La’ala met and taught classes with during her internship.

La'ala and Tunde - 2 different cultures on exchange

Now, La’ala and Tünde come from completely different backgrounds – one is a Muslim; the other is a Christian. What lies in the beauty of this friendship is that these two exchange participants managed to find a connection in spite of their “differences.” La’ala said, “the topic of God came up and we just got lost in it, sharing similar perspectives and agreeing that religion is just a way of life”.

This friendship developed through exchange is just an example of how we are truly one as humankind. It’s not about anything else other than being connected – to recognize that we have differences- in culture, religion, and more – but also to find similarities through those differences.

The answers to the problems the world faces today are simple; they do not revolve around complex chemical weapons and war plans to solve issues and achieve peace. It simply lies in the love and friendship we make with another to fulfil our potential as human beings.

This experience has prompted La’ala to come back to Bahrain and take on a career of being a schoolteacher through which she aims to pass upon her learnings that she received while on exchange to her students. The exchange experience has also inspired Tünde to deliver a sermon at her local church, sharing her experience in hopes of inspiring her community to develop more awareness about other cultures.

Have you had a similar exchange of cultures? Where did you experience something like this?

 

If you are looking to go on an internship that will provide you with a different cultural experience, please go to opportunities.aiesec.org and check out all our available internships or read about other cultural experiences at culture-shock.me

AIESEC showcased for quality internships at the EU Parliament

AIESEC present at the discussion on Quality Internships at the EU Parliament

What is a good-quality internship? Should internships be unpaid? How can an intern’s contribution be valued within the company where they work?

These were some of the questions raised during the panel discussion that took place at the EU Parliament in the heart of Brussels. Hosted by the European Youth Forum and Microsoft Europe, the event aimed to share views on the topic of quality internships with European employers, European institutions and interns themselves.

With a vast amount of internships in Europe lacking learning content, payment and any quality criteria that could enable a young person to benefit professionally from their first experience in the world of work, AIESEC came as an example to follow and a strong ally of existing partners.

Sylvie Laffarge, Director at Microsoft praised the hassle saved by recruiting interns through AIESEC regarding visa issues and working permits. She coined the cooperation as “priceless”.

Also speaking at the event was an AIESEC intern, now working at JA-YE Europe and originally from AIESEC Romania: Diana Draganescu who spoke about the confidence needed as a young graduate to enter the labour market. She emphasized the need to start supporting more consistent organisations such as AIESEC to facilitate the process of young people getting internships around the world.

This was followed by several comments from the audience, mostly from youth currently interning at the EU institutions – who complained about the lack of clear rules and regulations regarding interns.

The EU is currently working on a Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships and hopes to get it signed and approved in the near future.

In the meantime, AIESEC showcased its good-case practices successfully and aims to set itself as a reliable provider of high quality interns and internships.

 

AIESEC present at round table - Jide Okusanya (MC Belgium), Dina Ismail (MC Belgium), Rachel Whitehead (AI), Laurence Dumont (global coordinator), Bettina Guirkinger (GST), Rafael Rarvalho (MC Belgium)

AIESEC present at round table – Jide Okusanya (MC Belgium), Dina Ismail (MC Belgium), Rachel Whitehead (AIESEC International), Laurence Dumont (Global Coordinator for Alcatel-Lucent), Bettina Guirkinger (Global News Team), Rafael Rarvalho (MC Belgium)

 

19 Leadership Lessons Learned through a Youth-led Organisation

Christina Buiza, a student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, spent four years in AIESEC- taking roles in the corporate-facing side of AIESEC, and multiple leadership experiences. A few years later, she reflected on her experiences and realised she learned two very important leadership lessons:

1. Don’t let your fears and self-doubt get in the way of doing amazing work.
2. You can’t lead anyone if you can’t lead yourself first. Listen to yourself and pay attention to your needs first.

If you are interested in hearing more about Christina’s leadership journey, check out her blog here.

She reached out to her network across Canada to hear about her colleagues’ most important leadership lessons they wanted to share with the world. With her permission, we’ve reposted these great lessons here.

“As a student leader who led a chapter of the world’s largest, student-run organisation, what is the single leadership lesson you can share with other student leaders and entrepreneurs?”

 

1. Be adaptable

“A great leader needs to be adaptable.  The biggest mistake you can make is to be unwilling to change course, or start over when something is not going your way.  That willingness to forge past mistakes and turn learnings into progress is what leads to eventual success”

Peter Gallivan, Global Vice President of Marketing of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2012)

 


2. Go beyond the job description

“A great leader is someone who recognizes that a team member’s responsibilities aren’t determined by his job description but by his passion.”

Sam Turner, President of AIESEC Edmonton in the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada (2012)

 

 


3. Learn to accept both failure and success

“Every step you take in life defines who you are as a person. Learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid of failure because each experience teaches you the important lessons to succeed in life.

You should learn to accept both failure and success, and view each obstacle as a stepping stone to the latter. Don’t be disappointed by what you couldn’t accomplish; move on to the next thing you’re passionate about and make the most out of it. Do what you love and challenge yourself.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

Munessa Beehuspoteea, President of AIESEC Ryerson in Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada (2012)


4. Take the first step

“Being a leader can be daunting, but it is because you chose to be a leader that will inspire others to do the same. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and take that first step.”

Alex Shum, President of AIESEC York at York University in Toronto, Canada (2012)

 

 


5. Build a strong team around you

“Amongst the many things I learned during my one-year term as President of AIESEC Windsor, I found that building up a strong core executive team was essential in the positive progression of the chapter as a whole. A hard-working and dedicated executive team resulted in motivated and loyal members who collectively, contributed to the overall development of the local chapter.”

Kristie Luk, President of AIESEC Windsor at Windsor University in Windsor, Canada


6. Stop trying to please everyone

“Authenticity is more important than anything when it comes to leadership. The more you worry about who you are, and about being somebody who pleases everyone, the less you are able to effectively do what is needed.”

Kevin Cornwell, President of AIESEC in Canada (2013)

 

 


7. Believe in your abilities

“If I could share one thing from my experience as a student leader in AIESEC, I would tell other students to believe in their current abilities to do great things.  I work for a fortune 100 company in the US now and many of the practices we had in place as an organization were on par with those my company incorporates into their management practices.  Students can influence other students, businesses, and the community as a whole in great ways simply by taking the initiative and having a purpose behind what they do.”

David Palkovitz, President of AIESEC McGill at McGill University in Montreal, Canada (2012)

8. Learn to accept yourself before leading others

“Leadership is a deeply emotional journey of self discovery and humility. Only when we are ready to accept who we are, will we be ready to inspire and connect those who are around us.  Leadership is not so much about influencing as much as it is of allowing our quest for purpose to transform ourselves and transform others.  Leadership is the constant quest to understand what drives us and what drives others.”

Franklin Morales, Global Sales and Marketing Manager of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2010)


9. Consistently plan and think about your vision

“Leadership is about consistently thinking into the future and guiding activities and people towards this vision. It’s also about seeing what people could become and helping them become their best selves.”

Derek Vollebregt, Global Business Development Manager of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2013)

 


10. Share your vision with others

“Your colleagues need to fully understand your vision if you expect them to give the most of themselves. I firmly believe that a shared vision and deep personal relationships are the strongest incentives to motivate people.”

Samuel Marion, President of AIESEC HEC at HEC Montreal (Université de Montréal) in Montreal, Canada  (2012)

 

11. Pick and choose the innovations that will make most use of your time

“Your most precious resource is time; you will never recover the time you spend nor the time you waste.  When you take on a leadership role, the opportunity cost of that time is critical to your next steps as an individual and your organization as an ongoing entity. I chose to invest 730 days as president of our committee towards intensive personal development, introducing innovation into each project I could take part of, and meaningfully engaging new members into the vision of our organization.  When I finished my terms, I went on to pursue a new venture that demanded the skills I had fostered, and left the organization with a leadership pipeline and a benchmark of success.  As for innovations, many died and some thrived.”

Carson Kolberg, President of AIESEC Laurier at Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada (2011-12)


12. Remind yourself of the impact of your work

“One of the greatest fruits of your labour as a leader is seeing the endless hours, stress, frustration, and tears make an impact – even if it’s on one single individual. Developing another person to be a better leader, a better human being, is worth all the trouble.”

Jason Yung, National Vice-President of Business Development at AIESEC in Cambodia  (2013)

 


13. Be vulnerable and honest

“As leaders, we often try and strive to seem perfect and invulnerable. I realized the importance of vulnerability and honesty, and the role it plays in leadership, in order to build team foundations and a healthy environment for a team to foster and work together.”

Seulmi ‘Sue’ Ahn’, National Vice-President of Talent Management at AIESEC in Canada (2013)

 


14. Be open to change

“Don’t try to confine yourself to one idea of what it means to be a leader just because you read it from some ‘Leadership for Dummies’ book or heard about one that worked for someone else. If I’ve learned anything in AIESEC, it’s that your leadership style should develop as you grow, and should adapt to reflect what works best for your team to succeed!”

Kai Wong, President of AIESEC Queens at Queens University in Kingston, Canada (2012)


15. Go outside of your comfort zone

“One of the most important lessons I learned from my time at AIESEC is to always strive to work outside of my comfort zone. Whenever I took on a task that was outside my comfort zone, I always learned immensely more that if it was a task I had a high level of comfort with. Do not be afraid to fail and put yourself out there because outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.”

Rustam Kasimov, President of AIESEC McMaster at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada  (2012)

16. Be humble

“My single most important leadership lesson is that a leader needs to be absolutely selfless and humble. Therefore, as a leader, your single most important goal should be to create opportunities and inspire individuals to be great and unique leaders better than yourself.”

Constance Wong, President of AIESEC Ottawa at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Canada  (2012)

 


17. Lead by example

“The best lesson that I have learned as a leader was to pull you team instead of pushing it to get the work done. If you want your sales representative to go on sales call, don’t just put pressure on him to do it, go on sales call with him. LEAD BY EXAMPLE”

Simon Lemieux, President of AIESEC Sherbrooke at Universite de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Canada (2012)

 

18. You can’t do everything alone.

My biggest lessons from my experience can be resume by that quote:”Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” from Helen Keller.

Imagine that you are the coach of a rowing team and you are trying to assemble the best team. You hire the world’s best paddler which will be a great addition to the team. But if the other team members can’t keep up with his pace, your team won’t be able to perform at his full potential. To adjust the situation you will work on their communication, their rate, position in the boat, you will ask them to help each other. Perhaps the best paddler is not the best communicator, someone else might be best to set the pace.

Different set of skills of each member of the team allows them to complement each other and also allow them to learn new skills. Skills that are not related to the work itself can also benefit the team. For example, a person in charge of the web site and who knows the best restaurants in the city can be responsible for the social event, an important factor in the success of the team.”

Vladmir Vallès, President of AIESEC UQAM at Université du Québec à Montréal in Montreal, Canada (2011-12)


19. Celebrate small success

“Don’t sweat the little things and lose sight of the big picture.  Stay passionate and celebrate even the small successes.”

Julie Park, President of AIESEC Calgary at University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada (2012)

 

 

What do you think about these lessons?

Do you agree?

Do you have your own lesson to share?

Attending International Congress in Egypt – A young leader’s perspective

As we have indicated in our first blog post, this past August AIESEC hosted International Congress – a conference of 800 youth delegates – in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Hosting such a large event in a country going through an intense political situation proved to be challenging but rewarding for the organisation, giving us a renewed sense of purpose.

The Local Committee President of AIESEC Michigan, Domenic Smith, was lucky enough to attend International Congress in Egypt in August. He was able to share his experience on the AIESEC Unites States Alumni Association blog this week. Here are some of his thoughts:

“Flying into Cairo for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress is an experience that I will never forget. I did not go to the pyramids and I did not get to see the cradle of society like many who traveled to Egypt before me. Instead, I witnessed something far more profound.

I saw a country that was truly in chaos, a country that was starving for new leadership. AIESEC’s presence of over 800 delegates from 124 countries at IC, at such a volatile time in Egypt’s history, showed me the true passion and dedication that this organization and its members have toward developing globally minded leaders to try and make the world a better place. AIESEC did not give up on Egypt and cancel the conference, which would have been very easy to do. We did not boycott the conference because it endangered us or because our governments warned against it. Instead, as an international plenary, we demonstrated the support that we have for AIESEC Egypt and the belief that we, the AIESEC community, have that one day the members of AIESEC Egypt will become the leaders that their country needs to restore peace and prosperity.

The world came together at IC for the 65th time to show that we believe in the impact that young people can have on creating a brighter and more accepting future. Experiencing 124 countries, united by a mission, working together to fulfill AIESEC’s 2015 goals was an incredibly powerful experience. When do you ever have the chance to see 124 countries work together towards one common goal?”

To read more about Domenic’s experience, check out the rest of the post here.  

Did you attend International Congress 2013 in Egypt? What was your experience like?

Day 1 Wrap Up: How to make Youth-SWAP more actionable

Hello everyone,

Day One of the IANYD conference proved to be a long and informative one. Learning more about the Youth-SWAP, and how the United Nations wants to move forward with making sure it is implemented is quite an intense discussion.

I spent a large part of the day with one of AIESEC’s New York based representatives Eliane, and she helped bring me up to speed with the youth initiative and what AIESEC’s role could possibly be.

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There was a lot of emphasis on what the role of youth is with the UN. The Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin described it nicely by saying it is now the time that the UN is talking with and not talking to Youth.

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In the afternoon we split into working groups to come up with recommendations for the UN on how to take action on their commitments. I joined the working group on employment and entrepreneurship, because I thought AIESEC had a lot to contribute in that discussion.

The conversations with the people at the table were great, but for some reason they left me wanting to hear more- not necessarily more around SWAP, but more around action. As AIESECers, we are very used to having one year to make an impact; we have to move quickly, and start implementing right away or we risk doing nothing with the one year term we have. Sometimes this leads us to have the “legacy syndrome”, where we do anything to leave our mark, sometimes reinventing the wheel when we don’t have to. But overall, it teaches us that we must move fast to make an impact.

Youth-SWAP was released in 2012, and a year and a half later, it seems it is still not clear on the actions it wants it’s member states to take. If the UN really wants to make an impact in the area of Youth, which I feel it genuinely does, it needs to figure out how to work more swiftly and smart to start taking actions that improve the lives of young people now.

I will be talking a lot more with some of the other youth organisations, but also Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, whom is so passionate around making sure that the Action plan on Youth works! I hope that we can not only identify ways that we can make sure the commitments for employment and entrepreneurship are met, but also the role that AIESEC can play in these plans.

My question to you, and I hope you participate in this discussion:
If the overall goal of the employment and entrepreneurship focus area is to ensure greater opportunities for youth to secure decent work and income, what do you think the first actions need to be? And how can the UN and Youth organisations make this happen?

Being in Egypt through the Crisis: A Lesson in Leadership for a Youth Organisation

Why a youth-led organisation brought 800 young people to Egypt in the midst of its worst political turmoil since the Revolution of 2011.

It started with a dream. The global team of AIESEC had spent weeks discussing the issues the world is facing today, and the type of leadership that the world needs to overcome them. We wanted to make sure our organisation was contributing to changing the world through changing its leadership. The best way to do this was to have the world in one room – young leaders from 124 countries in one place to engage, discuss, connect and create the movement they would lead together.

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Over our 65 years of existence, the mission of our organisation had been tried and tested. But we were not prepared for it to be challenged to its core while we were leading it.

The location for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress had been chosen in early 2012, by our 100,000 members of students and recent graduates from across the world. Our different member countries are able to put forward bids to host the conference, and the bids are then voted upon – very similar to the Olympic Games process. The Congress was to take place in Egypt – the cradle of civilisations – and this was decided months after the Revolution of 2011 that changed the face of the country, the Middle East, and the way the rest of the World would approach change. This would be the first time that AIESEC would hold a conference of this size in the Middle East region, a concept that both inspired and excited the entire network.

The 1400 students managing AIESEC in Egypt saw this as an incredible opportunity to showcase their beautiful country and culture but more importantly to host this important conversation about young people’s role in creating a better world. They immediately got to work on organising the biggest AIESEC conference ever in the best place they could think of, Sharm el-Sheikh – the city of Peace.

Youth Leadership Provider

The demonstrations on the 30th of June in Cairo and the events that followed afterwards changed everything. The country was again in the midst of massive social and political change. Our conversation on the role of youth leadership was more relevant than ever, but our event was on the brink of cancellation. Surrounded by multi-national corporations and countless governments’ advice to enlist a travel ban on Egypt, AIESEC needed to make a decision.

Our organisation was build upon a platform of change. AIESEC came to be after the Second World War, when a group of students decided that the only way to stop history from repeating itself was to ensure cultural understanding in future generations. An internship programme was created so that young people could gain personal and professional experience while discovering a new country and culture. Fast-forward 65 years, and AIESEC is providing over 26,000 young people life changing internship experiences in 124 countries that contribute to their ability to understand the world, their own values and how to take leadership in making change.

The paradox that the crisis in Egypt caused within the organisation was simple – we could either decide to cancel the event due to the leadership crisis the country was facing and the uncertainty it brought managing a large event there or we could to commit to supporting the conversation of how to develop better leaders for Egypt and the World to avoid these situations in the future.

This decision was not an easy one. The entire leadership team of AIESEC International struggled with fully understanding the risks we were undertaking, the true nature of what was happening in Egypt, and the full effects of canceling this conference on the organisation and quite possibly the world. Our first and most important priority was the safety of every single delegate, volunteer and partner that attended our conference. While we may be the executive body of the largest youth-led organisation in the world, we were not experienced enough to make this decision alone.

We invested as much time, energy and money as it took to have the full understanding of the situation. Our President, Rolf Schmachtenberg, even flew to Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh to gain more perspective on the security issues the country was facing. We soon realised that many of the security concerns of the media and different governments were very specific to certain areas within the country, and not affecting Egypt as a whole. In particular, the location of our conference was unaffected by the situation. After gaining insight, reports and perspectives from our own trips and hired professional risk assessment specialists, we decided that with some diligent to our original plans and some extra security measures, the location of our conference was as safe for our delegates.

With all of this information and support, we decided to take a bold stand and move forward with the congress in Egypt.

While we made this decision, it did not necessarily make going to Egypt much easier for the team or our delegates. With every new event in the media came a phone call from our family and friends, worried about our safety and asking us why risk going to Egypt. Some delegates were even asked to not attend by their parents. Every concern expressed to us made us re-evaluate our decision over again in our minds.

But there is a strong reason why 800 young people made the active decision to continue on this journey to Egypt. For some of them, doubt may never have entered their mind at all and they were looking forward to the trip to Egypt all year. For others, they questioned themselves until the moment they made it home safe and sound. But for one moment, in the closing hours of the conference, every delegate knew exactly why he or she were there.

Closing Plenary 1

It was a moment where 100 Egyptian delegates and organisers were asked to stand in the center of the room with 700 of the international delegates circled around them. I was part of the international group, staring inwards at this group of Egyptians who looked exhausted after not sleeping for 10 days because they were working endlessly to organise the conference. This group did not disappoint all week, even when some of the worst events in their country’s history were taking place just a few hours away. Their commitment and purpose in hosting us in their country during this time was unwavering. We all stood in appreciation and support of this inspiring group of Egyptian youth in front of us while joining together as a global community of young people, regardless of which country we were from, political party we support or religion we practice.

As I stood on the outside looking in, I couldn’t help but feel the power that was around me.

Everyone had their own reason for being in that room, but all of our reasons were connected to our belief in AIESEC creating the leaders the world needs for a stronger future together.

Some were there because they had the courage to be bold; often mistaken in young people for naivety. The bold choice to attend International Congress came from the trust in AIESEC in Egypt and an enhanced sense of adventure that is common in AIESEC members.

Some were there because they were informed and engaged in what was happening in Egypt. If you looked beyond what the media was constantly distributing, there were a lack of travel warnings against the Red Sea Resort areas where tourism is a way of life for the citizens who live there.

Some were there because they felt a responsibility to the organisation and to represent their country in the congress.

But all of us were there because of the values we hold and the purpose we carry in bringing young people together from across the world to challenge their mindsets, make meaningful connections across cultural barriers and create smart strategies to develop many more young leaders when we return home.

The power of AIESEC as an organisation is in its ability to provide youth the opportunity to see and experience the world. Because when they are able to experience the world, they can start to understand it; and when they start to understand it, they are able to start changing it.

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Now that all 800 delegates have returned home safely, we want to be able to share our experience in Egypt with the world. International Congress 2013 in Egypt was about more than just the location it was held in. It was and has always been the place where young leaders were born, shaped and influenced. It was the place where AIESEC recommitted to delivering leadership development experiences to one million young people by 2015. International Congress was exactly where it needed to be.

We believe the solution is always better leadership and we will continue to do all we can to make sure the next generation of leaders are ready, across the world, to commit to a better future together. This is why we do what we do. This is how we will change the world. What will your impact be?

Welcome to the AIESEC Blog!

Hello Readers,

We are now live on our first blog!

We are very excited to launch the blog and to share our stories with you.

What can you expect from this blog?

After 65 years of existence, we have learned a thing or two about leadership and we want to share that all with you! Check back here often for stories from our leadership teams across the world, some of our alumni, live from the events we are participating in and some special guest bloggers!

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Thank you, and Happy Reading!

– AIESEC International