Creating world leaders through AIESEC
AIESEC is a student-run organization at UH that specializes in global leadership. It connects interested students with internships and volunteer opportunities abroad and is the world’s largest student-run organization and exists in 124 countries.
The organization was founded after World War II when individuals from seven countries got together to determine the root cause of the war and come up with an idea to prevent it from ever happening again, AIESEC President Anita Kanagalingam said.
“The world was a mess,” Kanagalingam said. “There was so much chaos, and so these people from the seven different countries got together and said, ‘What do we do? Why did this happen?’ They thought of cultural understanding — sending students to other countries and bringing students from other countries here, just to have a better understanding of who people are so there’s no hostility.”
In the past two years Kanagalingam said, the UH chapter of AIESEC has sent about 15 students abroad, a number they hope to increase. The international experience AIESEC brings seemed to be well-liked and well-remembered by AIESEC members past and present.
“One of our alumni — his name is Keon — went to China, and you can’t start a conversation with him without hearing about China for three hours of your life,” Kanagalingam said.
The international experience allows students to gain not only a professional experience in the field but also a humanitarian experience as they teach children. It also helps students become immersed in the culture of the country they are in.
“When you study abroad, you are with other American students studying,” Kanagalingam said. “But when you’re doing these volunteer opportunities, you’re in the culture. You’re in these people’s homes, living life there regularly and getting to see the residence side of things. So it’s a very different aspect.”
Sociology senior Michael Lenmark, who is national project manager at of AIESEC, shared similar experiences.
“In the summer of 2012, I did an education internship at Kita Wolkenburg in Munster, Germany, where I worked as a teacher’s assistant for two months,” Lenmark said. “I sought to do an internship in Germany as I had started my German language studies in 2011. It was an incredible experience, because I was able to gain real-world work experience in an entirely new environment. While working abroad was incredibly challenging, the opportunity gave me a great sense of independence and confidence that I have taken forward with subsequent work experiences.”
Outgoing Global Internship Program Team Leader Maria Huerta said she wishes AIESEC was more well-known.
“AIESEC is an opportunity,” she said, “a challenge and a belief in the potential of every student.”