The world seemed to completely open up for me during the months of May and June, when I embarked on my first six week Global Community Development Programme with AIESEC. My reasons for going were pretty simple—I wanted to do something new and challenge myself right after my first year of undergraduate science, during a summer which was relatively free from commitments (summer school can wait). Some members of AIESEC came into my Econ 101 class and gave a mini spiel… I didn’t want to overthink it, so I just said to myself ‘why not’, and went through the application and interview process.
It would be my first time travelling on my own, and so even after I got matched to a program with AIESEC Poznan, the notion of actually going there and teaching Polish students about my culture—it was so far out there to me I still couldn’t believe it.
All my worries melted away during the first few days during the PrepCo, orientation workshops put on by the local committee. The AIESECers in Poznan were warm, caring, and amazingly helpful. Each intern was assigned a “buddy”, who went with us everywhere during the first few days to make sure we understood the transportation system, the language, the culture, etc. And pretty soon, we were each paired off and sent to our respective schools. It was different for every pair, but most schools were out of Poznan, and in nearby towns with smaller populations.
Mostly, my days at school were about giving presentations about our culture and engaging with the students through games and other activities. But after school, there were lots of opportunities to get to know each other. Some schools planned trips, sometimes my host families planned trips as well—they showed me so much more hospitality than I could have ever imagined. It was so rewarding to hear that some students, after having met us, were more motivated to learn English, or to be involved in similar projects themselves in the future. For some, it was the first time that the students have seen people outside their country—an idea that I was not used to. Being born in Canada, I thought very little about its multiculturalism. For that reason, many of the teachers and host families expressed their gratitude for us coming to their schools. I think that reason alone should be enough motivation for anyone to embark on a GCDP. But there’s the other side—if you give a lot of yourself, you will receive a lot in return. I was immersed in Polish language, food, and traditions. At many schools, students had eagerly and proudly given us presentations about their country. This exchange, this cultural sharing, was another “gift” I received from my GCDP.
A lot of us came to think of Poznan as our second home. Us interns had plenty of chances to travel during the weekends (which we had free), so I also travelled to Warsaw, Wrocław, Krakow, Prague, Dresden and Berlin during my internship, not to mention the smaller cities surrounding Poznan that the schools were located in. While all of the travelling was incredible, I remember distinctly how my heart filled with gladness after I heard “dzień dobry” (good morning) for the first time in a week. It was like music to my ears.
And with all that experience, comes change. I became more flexible (you had to be, honestly), more confident, more eager to experience new challenges, and less scared of the unknown. I learned to appreciate all the small moments, because next week, I wouldn’t be with the same host family anymore. I became so close to some of the interns, it felt like we’ve known each other for our whole lives. When it came to the end, it felt surreal. I was in absolute denial about leaving Poland, and only when the wheels of the plane lifted off Polish ground, did the tears come.
Some advice I have for people going on an internship—just go with the flow! That’s all I can really say. Not everything will be what you expect, but that’s all part of the experience, so savour all the moments, both happy and unfortunate.
(Scroll down for photos!)