As an international student myself studying at UBC, I believe that a huge part of traveling/going on an exchange is learning more about yourself and the world. This is because you are putting yourself in a completely new environment with new people. Everyone’s experience of the internship will be different, and so my experience is only one of the experiences that you may also discover for yourself if you do plan on going to an exchange with AIESEC.
The number one thing that I’ve learned in the AIESEC exchange is to always be hungry for adventure. There is always something new to learn and see. I’ll be honest that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like change too much (even though I have moved a lot throughout my life). But after this exchange, I am becoming more adventurous and willing to try new things than before. You know that saying of “when one door closes, another door will always open”? Any new doors that open for me now, I’m no longer afraid to go through it anymore because who knows what will happen? That new door will most likely lead me to better things, and I don’t want to keep on letting opportunities to pass by me. Even if things don’t turn out right, I know that I will learn something from it and that most importantly, I’ve tried. No more “what ifs”.
While I was volunteering in the city in the Philippines, I and other EP interns took the opportunity of the weekends to go on trips to explore other places in the Philippines. Since we went on a trip almost every single weekend, I felt myself being able to adapt more to the lifestyle in the Philippines. I also felt more comfortable going to new places and trying new things. If I don’t do it now, when will I ever do it? The new things that I’ve tried and places that I went to were: swimming under the waterfalls, snorkeling/island hoping in El Nido, Palawan, exploring a cave, and hiking on the rice fields in Banaue. I had a lot of fun going on all of the trips with other EPs whom I was able to quickly form relationships with. I learned a lot about where they come from and we all created as many memories as we can since we all don’t know when we would see each other again.
Of course, I would not be able to see much if I didn’t have some sort of stable finance first before I went. Since we’re on the topic of traveling, most of you are probably concerned with the finance side of going on exchange. Keep in mind that this is a student-run organization and all of the expenses (accommodation, food, traveling, etc) will be coming out of your pocket. So I strongly advise you to do research on your own first or ask how much the living expenses are wherever you plan to go. If your finances are a bit of a problem (as it was for me) I have two solutions for you! Either one, talk to your parents about it or two, you can work at a part-time job and save up before you go. For me, I worked a lot at my part-time job during the school year and the first two months of summer to help cover my expenses in the Philippines. I didn’t spend a huge amount in the Philippines of course. I learned to budget and took the time to research with other EPs on the expenses of the trips. Trust me, other EPs are also trying to save money as well so you are definitely not alone on that.
I will also advise you to really be as open minded as you can and really get to know other EPs! You will be living with most of them and will also be hanging out with them going to touristy places or just even hanging out during work days. I guarantee you will learn a lot from them as you guys are from different parts of the world. The time frame is really short so make the most of spending time getting to know the AIESECers, the locals there, and also the EPs. They all are in my opinion, the ones who will make your exchange experience more worthwhile and also make it easy for you to weave into the new culture/country you are in.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!!!