"An exchange journey of raising awareness." - AIESEC in The Netherlands

“An exchange journey of raising awareness.”

Experiencing an international exchange and living abroad always were one of my biggest dreams. However, due to several reasons it never happened during the time that I was a student. When I started working full-time, I noticed that the desire for a longer travel and doing volunteer work kept chasing me. I wanted to live in another environment to challenge myself and discover more about my talents and personal values. I felt like I lived in some kind of ‘Dutch bubble’ and missed a broader perspective to understand and deal with situations and people in a better way. Next to that, I am very interested in other cultures and wanted to become more internationally oriented.

In short, the project was about promoting sustainable tourism in a province in Vietnam named Vung Tau. My exchange project would contribute to SDG 8; Decent growth & Economic Welfare. We had to organize events to inspire and educate the youth about this theme and create online promotional content.

Why Vietnam?

It’s an amazingly beautiful, accessible country and it’s developing very rapidly. But just because of that, sustainability is an important matter to address. The warm-hearted Vietnamese people would love to welcome as many tourists as possible. But with tourism comes pressure on the environment. And in the case of Vietnam a lot of garbage, especially plastic waste. At this moment, there are not many recycling organizations and there is a lack of proper education on this theme. Maybe because the Vietnamese are not yet aware of the serious damage it could cause in the long run. With this exchange project I made a small, but meaningful change in that.

Supported by AIESECers

The AIESEC committee and my buddies where extremely enthusiastic and exited to have us. Their energy, positivity and friendliness was admirable and motivated me at every moment I was sceptical or stressed. Because of course there were challenging moments as well. For example, because of a very tight planning and language barriers. But it’s only a project of six weeks, which is actually over in a blink of an eye. And now it’s done, I am grateful for every moment because it taught me a lot about myself. For example, that I am actually capable of more than I think when I let go of the negative thoughts like ‘what might happen or go wrong’ and just do it, go with the flow!

exchange participant celeste with local AIESECers

As a separate experiment, a fellow project intern and I started the Instagram account ‘wanderswithpurpose’. The interns and local AIESECers supported us greatly, even when it was not officially part of the project. So I am really grateful for all the time and energy they spend to help and empower us to make it a success!

The experience of a lifetime

I am happy that I joined this project and met so many inspiring people and new friends. This is of great value to me and it will definitely help me in choosing the right career path, the kind of people I want to surround myself with and the personal values I want to hold on to. As the AIESECers always said; it’s a life in six weeks!

exchange participant at dinner with colleagues in vietnam

This post was written by Celeste Izelaar. Celeste went on a voluntary project powered by AIESEC in The Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth. 

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