Tom Chang: My Life in Karachi. (Part II)

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I wanted a challenge and I had it. It taught me that difficulties and easiness are only two sides of the same coin. 
                                              --Tom Chang

My name is Tom Chang. I am a third year Biology and Nutrition student from UBC taking my first trip to a foreign country by myself. I chose to go to Pakistan because I wanted a challenge. However, I realized that the challenge soon ended after I landed or there was never a kind of challenge that I had in mind because there was no terrorist, or bombs. “Now what?” I thought to myself. What Sam, my Exchange Participant Manager in AIESEC UBC, had engrained into my mind before and during my trip was that, “it is what you make of it.”

There were more challenges ahead of me. For example, hunger, no water, no electricity, dirty apartment, or not knowing what to do if I lost my internship. I think that is the ultimate lesson I learned throughout my internship because there is nothing you can do when you are in a dire situation but only to change your interpretation of the it. Two weeks I spent my time alone in the apartment not having WiFi and without doing any internship. I was quite lost at first but I finally remembered what Sam had said to me that “it is what you make of it.” Therefore, instead of fretting over my loss of internship, I read the books I brought, watched movies I downloaded, and went to nearby cafés at night to use their WiFi and download more stuff. It dawned on me that although I cannot control the situation but I can control my thoughts.

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The other lesson I learned was appreciation. During Ramadan, I have seen the both real poverty and richness co-existing together. Rich people would live in their AC-installed villas connected to an independent generator while the poor lay on the ground right outside the streets without shelter or light. It was even more staggering when I just see how many poor people there are when restaurants and mosques offer free food. Just before the offering people would sit on the pre-laid rugs and just wait. Through these poor people’s eyes I can see that begging is the only way left for them. It made me realized just how privileged and how lucky I am able to live in North America. How grateful I should be that I still have the ability to choose my future. How everything is already set up for me waiting for me to just reach out. On the other hand, these people do not have any other choice but to wait for leftovers.

During my internship I encountered a lot of different situations and people but knowing that it is what I make of it and there’s always someone who’s less fortunate than me, I had a much better experience by not thinking everything is against me and made more friends by being appreciative of what they’ve done for me. I think people in the developed countries often stayed in their bubbles and are unaware of what’s outside of their little world. I know this because I was one of those people before this internship. Now that I’ve seen what’s out there in the world and had a taste of what the world has to offer, I can’t wait for my next trip!

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Tom Chang: My Life in Karachi. (Part I)


So what do you think about Pakistan?
       - Tom Chang, third year student at UBC

My name is Tom Chang. I am a third year Biology major and Nutrition minor student from UBC taking his first trip to a foreign country by himself. I have to say I was surprised when I first arrived in Karachi, I did not encounter any terrorist attacks and I did not have to hide from gun fires. I’m joking just so you know but people do ask these things before and after my trip. Of course there are still a lot of political instability with their government there but if Karachi is as scary as it sounded why would there still be nine million people living in the city? Everyone would have left by now. So with the challenge in mind to debunk the stigmatism against the country. I set out to have one of the best and unforgettable experience of my life. I did so many things I would have never imagined myself to do: crashed a wedding, rode on the top of the bus, rode a camel, roam a foreign city at night in a taxi without knowing the language, admitted myself to a foreign hospital, got three days of diarrhea, and lost weight; however, it was exactly these experiences that shaped who I am now, and I would not trade anything for them.


The real challenge wasn’t hiding from attacks but enduring hunger. I did not even know what Ramadan was before I decided to go to Pakistan. Basically, during this time period one will refrain from smoking, eating and drinking from dawn to dusk to experience what it is like to live in poverty. Since Pakistan is an Islamic country, all the restaurants would be close during the day to uphold the principles. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me was that the restaurants do offer deliveries and there was even an app for that. For the first week or so, my brunch consisted of soy milk with cereal.

Not only that, the city also regularly shut down electricity to conserve power; therefore, we sometimes have to sleep in our own sweat in 35 degree Celsius or above. To make matter worse, our apartment ran out of running water. So for five days, we took showers and flush our toilets by scooping water from the water we burrowed from our neighbor and the Aiesecers.


There was more though, I was told beforehand that it is very normal to get the diarrhea as it happens to 90% of all interns. I was also told that it usually lasts from two days up to a week! Sure enough, after a week of my stay there, while still trying to adjust to my new life in Karachi, I got my ceremonial diarrhea. Thankfully, mine only lasted for three days.

I did not yet mentioned that two days before my departure, my internship was cancelled because the staff who is supposed to be my translator at the NGO I was supposed to work at backed out. While the Aiesecers were working hard to negotiate with the new NGO, I sat at home most of the time by myself as the other intern was out for work. Stupidly, I forgot to unlock my phone plus the intern apartment’s wifi barely worked. So the first two weeks of my stay was quite chaotic!! Until the highlight of my trip finally came. I unknowingly ingested marijuana. Out of paranoia, I admitted myself to a hospital without telling the Aiesecers. Everyone was searching for me while I lay in the hospital. That was a really crazy adventure to tell but a long story to be told another time.


To be honest, most of these things are out of the ordinary, it just so happens that everything happened at the same time in the beginning of my stay. My point is, this could happen anywhere to anyone but the lesson to be learned is that no matter how dire the situation, only you can change the situation by how you think.

Fortunately, after Ramadan everything went on a turning point as more interns came, we got a brand new intern apartment, and I finally got my internship volunteering at Karachi Vocational Training Centre. KVTC is an NGO which strives to change the stigmatism against mentally challenged people by providing vocational trainings to its students so that after graduation, they will be able to provide for themselves and become valuable contributors to the society. My role at KVTC was to help improve their hostel’s weekly meal plan and gave a presentation on mental-disability-related nutrition to the staff and teachers of the school. I was fortunately enough to apply what I learned in school as I know not a lot of interns get this chance. It greatly reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in health and nutrition. I am really grateful for the Aiesecers for finding me such a suitable internship.


Although out of Ramadan I lost four kilograms but I gained so much more. I made friends from all over the world like Columbia, China, Turkey, Slovenia, Hongkong, Germany, Malaysia and last but not least Pakistan. No matter how messed up my living conditions were, how I arrived without an internship, how hungry I was during Ramadan or how marijuana gave me the worst paranoia, the humorous and heartfelt moments spent with AIESECers and our fellow interns kept me going and kept me. The challenges that we went through together strengthened our bond. In the end, I gained life-long friends whom I can called family.

In conclusion, without this internship, I wouldn’t be able to see the real side of Pakistan, compared to the biased image created by the overseas media; I wouldn’t be able to work with the hardworking people of KVTC or meet the wonderful people of AIESEC in Karachi; and, last but not least, I wouldn’t get to meet with the best people from all over the world in our new and cute little intern apartment. I had a blast and will definitely cherish this internship for the rest of my life. So, if you ask me “What do you think about Pakistan?” My answer to the question would be “I would definitely visit it again!”


Melissa: My Experience at WRC (Western Regional Conference)


" We all experience failure. However, we can take it two ways: being resilient by looking ahead or surrendering to your overwhelming thoughts."  - Melissa Woo, a new member of AIESEC UBC Marketing and Communication Portfolio

Western Regional Conference (WRC) was my very first conference and I was completely terrified. It was the first time that I travelled without my family and going on a trip with an organization I joined just two weeks ago. On top of that, the fear of embarrassment and meeting about a hundred new faces from different regions of Canada made me extremely anxious.

However, I can honestly say that my three days at WRC was one of the best experiences of my life: not only was I introduced to the AIESEC culture but I was also inspired by all the people I spoke with. The fear of meeting new people disappeared because every single person that I talked to was just as welcoming and friendly as the first. Also, the fact that everyone would shamelessly dance at the beginning of every session really brought a welcoming environment because we were able to communicate and bond without words. Personally, I have a very energetic and bubbly personality and it was amazing to see everyone participating and feeding off of each other’s spirit and energy. This enthusiasm created a lively atmosphere that put me at ease with all the unfamiliar faces that surrounded me. It confirmed that each individual chose to come to this conference for their own reason.


Going to the workshops such as Teamwork and Communications was very helpful because I was able to fully understand simple skills that were once hard to comprehend. During these workshops, I wasn’t alone in any given moment; members from every committee were constantly encouraging me and cheering me on.

One thing that I learned during the “Next Level Impact” keynote was having a growth mind set rather than a fixed mind set. A growth mind set is the vulnerability of accepting criticism and being resilient to failure compared to a fixed mind set which is being comfortable and reluctant to what we already know of ourselves. I plan to take what I’ve learned to both my AIESEC local committee and my portfolio.


I think that one moment I will remember for the rest of my life is during the Closing Plenary on the last day of the conference. We were reminded that we often tend to forget to appreciate and thank those around us. So at the end of the session, we were told to get up and express our appreciation for someone in the room who has really impacted our lives or helped us one way or another. I am really thankful for my family, but particularly my brother. Throughout the countless times that I’ve experienced failure in high school and the beginning of my university life, he has always been there. My brother always has a positive attitude and continues to inspire me by giving me encouragement and cheering me up. Whenever I was in doubt, my brother would have full confidence in me, which motivates me to keep going. I can always rely on him to cover for me and I know that he will always believe in me 100% whether I fail or succeed.

On the night of the last day, we were allowed to write sugar cubes, which are small messages you can write to the delegates from the conference. While writing these messages, I realized that I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and make new friends even when I thought I would never have the confidence to do. It was truly heart-warming to read the messages I received because even though I was only there for three days I really felt a part of the AIESEC family.

Overall, my time at WRC was an experience I’ll never forget; if I could, I would relive the whole experience again. I honestly can’t wait for our next conference, National Congress. I encourage all the newbies or members who haven’t gone to a conference before to try attending one. I was able to build friendships, step outside of my comfort zone, and see myself in a new perspective. I’m excited to continue my AIESEC journey and find my true AIESEC why. Moreover, I am thrilled to be working with the Marcom group and am looking forward to getting to know each of the members in the local committee this year!


David Tang: My Six Months in Europe (Part 2)

As I’m writing this blog post, I can’t help but feel a little sentimental and emotional. This is an experience I will never forget and will be one that I will always share with the people I meet in the future.

-David Tang, an exchange participate from AIESEC UBC who has taken a six months internship in Cologne, Germany.

After having completed all of the required paperwork, it was time for me to finally enjoy Europe. AIESEC Cologne made me feel very welcome by inviting me to all of their events. I, of course, took every chance possible to attend the events. From these events, I met new people and created many meaningful friendships that I will forever cherish.


It didn’t take me long for me to start my European travel adventure. This was my first time in Europe and I knew I must take advantage of this opportunity to visit the places that I’ve always dreamed about visiting. In chronological order, below were the cities that I visited:

  • Italy (July 2014) – Rome and Florence
  • Netherland (August 2014) – Amsterdam
  • France (September 2014) – Paris
  • United Kingdom (November 2014) – London
  • Belgium (December 2014) – Brussels and Ghent

As you can tell, I visited many places and am forever grateful for this opportunity. All my friends are envious of me because of this haha! Traveling in Europe and visiting these many different cities was an eye-opening experience. I adore how each country has its own style of architecture and way of doing things, despite their close proximity with each other. I particularly enjoyed feeling the atmosphere of the streets in each and every one these cities, seeing different cultures and hearing different languages. Having visited many cities in Europe, there is no doubt that I have my favorite ones. They are Paris and London. Words cannot fully describe the love I have for these two beautiful cities.


Paris is truly sensational. I would have to declare that, out of all the cities I visited, Paris is the most beautiful and the most romantic city. The city is so eclectic and vibrant. Each of its districts (French: arrondissements) has its unique identity and vibe. The district Le Marais (more commonly referred to as Marais), located in the 3rd and 4th district, is one of my favorite places in Paris. It is one of the popular spots with many great cafes, bars, restaurants, fashion, and certainly where locals hang out. I believe, from my experience, that there is no such thing as bad food in Paris; even the Crêpes from the Crêperies (places that sell Crêpes) on the street are of decent quality. I am completely in love with Paris.


As much as I love Paris, I would have to admit that I love London more, so much to the extent that I am seriously considering of moving there in the future. London is not as romantic as Paris (as I mentioned above, Paris is the most beautiful city of all). However, London is magical in a sense that it’s so captivating. It has a city buzzing with energy and life. It is busy and crowded and extremely cosmopolitan, which I love! It reminded me of Hong Kong, where I’m from originally. As we all know, Hong Kong was under the governance of the UK before 1997. Therefore, Hong Kong bears a great resemblance to London. For example, driving on the left side of the road and the double decker buses. London is extremely vibrant and has so much to offer. There are many things to do in London that one will never be bored in the city. Pray for me that I can successfully find a job in London and move there!

Traveling in Europe was certainly the highlight of my GIP experience. In these 6 months, I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. It was a growing experience and helped me discover the capabilities that I thought I never had. It allowed me to become more independent. For this, I am truly grateful. I am also grateful and feel very blessed to have met so many amazing people and created so many new friendships. On the day that I left Germany to return home to Vancouver, I couldn’t hold back the tears when saying goodbye to my friends in Germany. As I’m writing this blog post, I can’t help but feel a little sentimental and emotional. This is an experience I will never forget and will be one that I will always share with the people I meet in the future. I am truly blessed. Thank you AIESEC UBC and Cologne for making this happen!

The end.


David Tang: My Six Months in Europe (Part 1)

"At that moment, it finally hit me that I was in a different country with very different culture and language.I felt excited for what my journey there would belike for the next 6 months, yet I also felt a sense of insecurity as I was in such an unfamiliar setting."

-David Tang, an exchange participate from AIESEC UBC who has taken a six months internship in Cologne, Germany.

David Tang

To be frank, the 6 months of my GIP experience in Germany have been extraordinary that I’m not exactly sure where to begin to share my adventures with you. I can confidently say that it is the biggest highlight of my life thus far. What started out as an application to be an AIESEC GIP (Global Internship Program) exchange participant, turned into a phenomenal and unforgettable experience in Europe.

Firstly, I’d like to take this time to express my deepest gratitude to AIESEC UBC and AIESEC Cologne(The AIESEC local committee in Germany) for making this experience possible and enjoyable. I would also like to especially thank Victoria Yeung, Director of Outgoing GIP of AIESEC UBC, for her full support throughout my entire application process. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel around Europe if it was not for her motivation, support, and assistance along the way!


I still remember very vividly the day that I arrived in Cologne main station (Köln Hauptbahnhof), as if it was just last week. AIESEC Cologne was very kind to have one of their members, Laura, receive and welcome me at my train platform. If it wasn’t for Laura, I would’ve been completely lost! She took me to the flat that I would be staying in. We were going from one metro line to another and walking from one street to another. At that time, I had no idea where I was going and couldn’t understand a word on the signs on the streets as they were all in German. At that moment, it finally hit me that I was in a different country with very different culture and language. I began to have mixed emotions. I felt excited for what my journey there would be like for the next 6 months, yet I also felt a sense of insecurity as I was in such an unfamiliar setting.

The first month in Cologne was an adjustment period for me. There were quite a few things that I had to get used to. For example, basically everything is closed on Sundays in Germany, except convenience stores (Kiosks in German), hospitals, and certain pharmacies (Apotheke in German). Grocery stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, and retail stores – you name it – are all closed on Sundays! In where I’m from – Canada and Hong Kong – everything is opened on Sundays; in fact, Sundays are regarded as a shopping day with family and friends. However, I gradually got used to the process of doing things there. There are three very important tips that I must share with future GIP participants to Germany for their transition into Germany to be easier and more enjoyable:

  1. You must first register your residency (German: Anmeldung) at a city office (German: Kundenzentrum) as soon as possible after you have arrived. Note that registration of residence and address is the very first paperwork task to be done after you arrived in Germany. Please ensure that you bring your passport to do so.
  2. Apply for health insurance coverage. There are various health insurance companies – public and private. Please consult with your employer for this matter for further details as the company may provide insurance already. I personally recommend TK Insurance as it is a popular and well-established corporation with great coverage.
  3. Apply for a German residence permit (German: Aufenthaltstitel) at a local Foreigner’s Office (German: Ausländeramt) as soon as possible if you are a non-EU. Individuals who hold a Canadian passport are permitted to stay in Germany, and everywhere else in Europe, for up to 90 days without a residence permit. Should your stay last longer than 3 months, it is mandatory to apply for and obtain a residence permit. Please do not wait till the third month to do so as it may take a few weeks to obtain your permit after you submitted the application. Below are the required documents for this application:
    • Passport
    • Two passport photographs of yourself
    • Employment contract
    • Rental or any residence contract
    • Proof of health insurance

To be continued..


Samy: My “Intensive Life Course” in Germany

“A project manager? This has to be a joke.
And so started probably the best 6 months 
of my life.”

-Samy, an international student from India
and an exchange participant  from AIESEC UBC 
who went for a six-month internship in 
Bamberg, Germany


The process leading up to my internship was both long-winded and rocky. I had little idea of what to expect when I got to the tiny town of Bamberg, Germany for a six-month internship. With rich international travelling experiences, I was used to the life of finding new families and friends in many remote foreign lands. However, Germany was the one captivating place that I haven’t set foot on yet-not until the AIESEC internship opportunity surfaced, and after accepted by the program, I luckily and eventually had a home in Germany to go for a Sunday morning brunch. To be honest, the fact that I am not a German-speaker should have had me petrified about this 6-month internship. Yet, I guess it was the risk taker in me that, for the same reason, found it thoroughly exciting. When I arrived there I was told to be on a project with another fellow exchange participant from India who would too be my roommate. “Another huge challenge!” I thought so because I wasn’t the type of person that made new friends easily. I was soon proved to be wrong. We became good friends and she was a great stabilizing factor for me during the experience. I felt much more confident and less homesick being with someone who had a similar cultural background with me, since there were barely any foreigners in the little town, not to mention the friendly yet overwhelming stops and stares we receivedwhile walking on streets. We went into work the second day after arrival, and, surprisingly, were greeted by people from 15 different countries! That reception was absolutely eye opening and was, without question, an amazing start of my journey.


Before taking the exchange, my impressions about an internship were mainly about errand running, something like coffee buying and printing jobs. However, my first meeting with my boss began with “So you are now the project manager and are responsible for contacting senior executives from our branches in India.” The prospect was daunting and I had no idea if I was even capable of a coffee run without causing massive spillage on my way back. A project manager? This has to be a joke.

And so started probably the best 6 months of my life. I gained the professional skills needed for an international project and often managed to tackle unexpected issues. Most importantly, I now realize that I have more to offer than I could ever imagine, and even with those failures on the way there was always something to learn. The exchange was a wonderful experience in terms of travelling too. I made time for travels almost every weekend and, at the last month of my internship, I was able to explore Portugal, Spain and Italy. What’s more, I met some truly fantastic people along the way. They constantly inspired me to keep pushing my limits and almost every encounter would bring me a new life lesson. This internship was a concentration of what I would have learnt typically in 3 years–all condensed into 6 months. It was an “intensive life course”—that is probably the best way I can put it.


I do hope that I will be able to have another exchange experience like this soon, and, if not, I am completely satisfied with the chance of having had even one. It truly was the time of my life so far and I recommend anyone who wants a life-changing experience to step on it and to push their own limits. For me, there’s little out there that works better than an experience like this in an unknown foreign land.


"There are many different ways to live life, 
and one is not neces-sarily better than the 
other. It just depends on what you want
for yourself."

-Ryan Leung, a recently graduated 
Sociology major who was also a member of 
AIESEC UBC and an exchange participant in 
AIESEC Global Citizen program.



I was a recent Sociology graduate from UBC in May of 2014 and I was part of AIESEC for about a year. Although already been on a 6-month Go Global exchange before in Sweden, I still decided to go on an AIESEC exchange myself after graduation, so I ended up having a 6-week internship in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Since I worked in AIESEC as a member, I had a general idea of how it worked and of all the possible positives and negatives throughout the exchange, and one thing I definitely recognize during the process is the importance of keeping an open mind. Things may not work as you wish but you need to learned to take them as they go, because they are all part of the experience.



I worked with two other AIESEC trainees from Colombia and China/Australia in a NGO located in a poor and dangerous area. The program was called “Smarketing” and we were basically doing various marketing duties from fundraising to event organization. To accomplish these activities was logistically difficult because of the limited resources and time we had, so we almost did work from the ground up. We made an overview of what we could improve in the NGO; we changed and translated part of their website/Facebook page into English in order to attract potential foreign audience and possibly receive international donations; we also planned an event for the staff/kids during our last week there. This exchange was a good learning experience but in terms of language barrier, resource limitation and the 6-week time constraint, I found it challenging and improvable as well.



One of the great things about AIESEC exchange, no matter what city and local AIESEC chapter one picks up, is the possibility of meeting people from countries all around the world. Mine in particular had brought me incredible opportunities to meet other trainees from different backgrounds. Also thanks to the regularly scheduled social events such as dinners and weekend trips, I had such an amazing time in Porto Alegre and made great long-lasting friendships which couldn’t have been achieved without these events. It just makes all the difference when you work and live with other like-minded people and bond with them over the new experience.


Brazilian Culture

I was definitely experiencing a major culture shock when first I arrived. Brazilian life was different. The differences ranged from the threat of danger in everyday life (not that much, but more than Canada) to openness of one’s sexuality and to the relaxed mindset that people have. One thing that impressed me the most was the way they expressed their passion for life. They value relationships, dancing, music and socializing much more than I am used to. They often live in the moment rather than having things planned out to the exact minute, or even hour. This experience made me realize that there are many different ways to live life, and one is not necessarily better than the other. It depends on what you want for yourself. After living in Brazil, I hope to take back with me parts of their culture and incorporate it into my own personality and the way I treat others.



I highly suggest anyone reading this article go on an AIESEC exchange. It may not be that organized at times or may not be precisely what you expect, but the experience is undoubtedly worthwhile and possibly life-changing. I made life-long friends and memories from just from a short time abroad. It is what you make of it.

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