“I finished my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering last year and now I’m taking a year to be full-time on the board of AIESEC. That’s an acronym for a really long name in French so I won’t try to say it. We arrange internships and volunteer projects for students at the HBO (university of applied sciences) and university level. We’re in 11 cities in the Netherlands and in more than 110 countries around the world. My role on the board is that I’m responsible for the outgoing global volunteer projects.
I knew about the organisation because my sister worked on the medicine project a few years ago with AIESEC. She volunteered at a hospital in Ghana. After a year of studying in my room during COVID I really wanted to do something else before starting immediately on a master’s. I thought about taking an internship abroad, but it was still very uncertain if that would be possible. So I started looking for volunteer projects on the AIESEC website. A friend of mine had been on the board and she suggested that I try it out.
We’re linked to the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals. We are currently working towards 11 of the targets with our projects. So, if you’re interested in sustainability or life below water or saving turtles then we might have a project for you. For example, right now we have someone doing a wind energy conservation project in Sri Lanka. The volunteer projects are normally for six to eight weeks. All of the projects we support are outside of the Netherlands, so it could be in Europe or further abroad.
‘All of the projects we support are outside of the Netherlands’
What’s special about AIESEC is that we do more than just send people on projects. We also focus on personal development. For example, we help people with setting goals and help people identify their strengths as well as their areas for growth. We guide people through the entire process, including help with getting a visa and preparing them for the place they will go. There may not be running water or things like that so we really prepare you for the opportunity that you are taking so you don’t have to do everything yourself. When you’re 19 or 20 years old you might not have that type of experience. We have a lot of people who have already been abroad and can share information.
We have six full-time board members at the moment and 14 part time supporting members. We’re actually recruiting for four more people right now so we hope the team will grow. I want people to know that if you would like to go outside of your normal student bubble then this is a great opportunity. You have the chance to get to know a lot of new people and it’s a chance to focus on yourself and personal development. I think that’s what makes us different from other groups.”
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