• Ridge Michiels

AIESEC: so much more than an international experience

In 1948, AIESEC was established by students from seven different countries, who met in Belgium to set up a new type of international cooperation. Their aim was to bring young people from all over the world together to promote peace and fight discrimination. They wanted to do this through internships and exchange programmes. The core concept has remained the same for over 40 years. As a result, they now have a presence in more than 120 countries, including Belgium. AIESEC also offers UAntwerp students an opportunity to go on an international experience. Young people under 30 years of age can participate in a volunteer project or do a work placement in one of the countries where AIESEC operates.

The objective of this exchange is to have a local impact in the country where you’re doing the project on the one hand and to develop your leadership qualities on the other. Every volunteer project works towards implementing one of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals. As such, AIESEC contributes to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

What do they mean by leadership qualities? This means honing your communication skills, learning to think in terms of solutions, being a ‘global citizen’ and increasing your assertiveness. Young people can achieve this through an international experience or by joining AIESEC themselves.

When the corona pandemic started to tighten its grip on Europe and countries began to close their borders, there were still three participants in Uganda, Turkey, and Bulgaria. AIESEC had to spring into action to repatriate them before all the borders closed. By keeping in touch with everyone, they succeeded in getting everyone home safely. This is also an aspect of how AIESEC develops leadership in young people in Antwerp, by making a difficult decision in uncertain times about the well-being of the young people that AIESEC sent on an international adventure.

Find out more about the members of AIESEC and what they do in this video:

The AIESEC members at UAntwerp have many, very different tasks: from online marketing, to business meetings and HR.

Like other student clubs, they also participate in Kerst op UA, Calamartes and Students on Stage, in addition to organising a student cantus every semester. They also host an information session every three months to introduce the young people of Antwerp to their projects. You can also run into them at various fairs throughout the year (Talent Forum, KdG Let’s Go Expo, Job fair Socio Economica & PSW…).

So as you can tell, they have a very international outlook but as they say in their club anthem:

Wij zijn AIESEC, wij zijn AIESEC

Onze kleuren zijn wit en blauw

Wij zijn internationaal

Maar het is ’t Stad waar ik van hou!

(We are AIESEC, we are AIESEC

Our colours are white and blue

We are international

But Antwerp is our first love!)

You can follow AIESEC on Instagram, Facebook and their website.

This article was written for fromyourkot.be, an online platform that was created in times of corona at the request of the University of Antwerp.

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