I admit, when I first handed in my name and money for the registration of my very first AIESEC Conference, I was still hesitating. I mean, what exactly is Coastal? Why is it inside a hotel…that we generally are not allowed to leave? In some ways, I pictured a boot camp, where the supervisors make us do forced exercise routines and shout out propaganda slogans, while telling us what uniform to wear, when to eat, and change how we view and interact each other.
Ho ho ho. Indeed, the whole three-day conference was a recruitment camp…kind of. We got to do all of the above and more. The newbies – including me! – were shown how AIESEC functions. The initial cheers, the subsequent dancing, the introduction, the partying, the food…the wonderful food! To be honest, it was not a totally new experience for me, since I had been to many such “camps” for different organizations over the years. Yet AIESEC was different in the following way: the people I was seeing, hearing, and meeting were going to be my AIESEC team members for the long term. It was not a one-time get-together. It had an important purpose.
For myself, it was an exciting opportunity to assimilate myself into a new culture, as I was so unfamiliar at first with the traditions of getting together members from FOUR universities into one Richmond hotel. The first day, I admit, I was confused and uncertain. The cheers were a clever indoctrination strategy so effective in assimilating new members – although I was lost in the words. This was made up, however, by the dances – perhaps my favourite one being Tunak!
Then came the second day – unfortunately, I made the mistake of sleeping too late the night before, meaning my second day I was half-dead! Huge error. The simulations of the second day, however, was one of the most valuable part of the conference – what you will do in the following 12 months as a professional AIESEC member, you do in the 2.5-hour simulation. Here, I must give a big “thank you” to Josephine , my COMM partner. Both of us being newbies, it was a much needed training.
And thus, came the final day. Our final cheers, final dances – and myself still being awkward and shy in all of them – and our final goodbyes. Coastal and other such conferences are a very good summary of what AIESEC experience means for newbies like myself.
Teamwork, organizational skills, having fun – this was what AIESEC demanded of me, and this was what AIESEC offered me.