Does going abroad with AIESEC really change you?

Does going abroad with AIESEC really change you?

That’s a question which is hard to answer because not only every exchange but also every person is different. Depending on why you want to go abroad (volunteering, internships…), and your expectations, you will have your very own AIESEC experience.

What to expect?

A lot of people go abroad, among other reasons, to experience a different culture. This, you will definitely do during an AIESEC project, since you will have a lot of contact with the local community. I also had the chance to go abroad for quite some time, and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I studied abroad for a semester at the university in Milan,
Italy, which was very exciting and scary at first, but an incredible learning opportunity. I had to get used to a different culture, met so many people and I had to communicate in a different language.

Expectation and stereotypes

Before I got to Milan, I had some expectations about the city, the people and the country itself. Some of these expectations were true, but others weren’t. I got these expectations because other people told me things about the Italian culture. Also i’ve read some things up front, and then there are the romantic Italian movies that gave me an image. Overall, I had created a big stereotype. Almost everyone has a certain image about other cultures, whether these are negative or positive. Typical examples are: Italian and French people are the best lovers, Dutch people only transport themselves by bike, and all Asians are good at math.

Having stereotypes doesn’t have to be a bad thing: one advantage can be that it enables us to respond rapidly to a situation because we already have a vision in our mind of that situation. However, most of the time, stereotypes are negatively phrased. A huge disadvantage is that it makes us ignore differences between individuals, so we make generalizations.

Get to know your own culture

Exploring a different culture can help you get rid of these stereotypes or find some truth in them. But, most of all, going abroad will help you to acknowledge and appreciate your own culture better. And maybe even find some truth in your own countries-stereotype. During my time in Italy, I definitely found out how Dutch I am, I started missing my bike after one week, and complained about efficiency (yes, it’s a Dutch thing). You could say that I found pride in my own culture, even though I know that it’s not perfect.
So, to answer the question if going abroad will really change you: I personally don’t believe that you will really change, but it can definitely help you change your view on certain things.

if you want to know some experience stories : https://www.aiesec.nl/blog/experience-stories/

This post was written by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.  Read more about our experience stories here.

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