In the summer after my first year I have decided to do something I have never done before, travel alone to an unknown country. Was it scary? Yes! Was it rewarding? Yes! Was it something I would do again? Definitely!
Luckily, I didn’t just pack my bags and jump in the first plane I saw in sight (though, as a 3rd year that might seems tempting sometimes) but I left on a 6 weeks volunteering programme in Turkey with AIESEC. When I left UK, I didn’t have a clear goal of what I want to achieve by the end of this experience, just that I wanted to know the world a bit more and learn how to be independent. And I was given the chance to do this plenty of times…
The project itself took place in Denizli, not your typical tourist destination when in Turkey, but a city that very much revolves around the university it hosts, Pamukkale University, where cultural exchanges happen at all times due to the numerous Erasmus students. I was lucky enough to be hosted by the family of one of the members of AIESEC in Denizli, and do I still miss that Turkish breakfast they used to make for me every morning? Oh yes I do! They were one of the reasons I never felt like a stranger, throughout my whole experience. They made sure I felt welcomed and at ease, but most importantly that I learnt what amazing things Turkey has to offer through hosting me, chatting with me, despite our mutual limited knowledge of each other’s language and treating me like part of the family.
The project in itself involved working with 15 other international students (and by that I mean people from Colombia all the way to Indonesia and everything in between) to teach English and also raise awareness about some of the most preeminent social issues Turkey was facing at that moment. With different approaches, levels of facilitating skills and patience our group made the project work, ensuring that the 50 participating students, had their expectations met.
Seems easy and straightforward right? If only.
AIESEC’s mission is not to make life easy for you but to challenge you, to make you go out of your comfort zone and try new things, while always having a support system behind you, a community. And knowing someone’s there for you throughout the whole experience makes a huge difference!
The project in itself, regardless of its success rate was a life lesson for me because it helped me grow, taught me what it means to work on a cause I am passionate about, how to take decisions on my own, how to make long lasting friendships, how to say something more than ‘Thank you’ in Turkish and how to create a presentation that will keep high school students engaged for an hour and a half. All useful skills in life, right? But most importantly, it showed how rewarding it is to go on such an adventure, no matter how scared you are of leaving everything you are comfortable with behind!
Best part of all? Everything I mentioned here happens in every AIESEC exchange, the cultural immersion, the chance to work for a cause you deeply care about, the chance to get lost in your host country (not on the agenda, but if you leave the house without a map or internet access, very probable). Over the last 2 years since I’ve been on my exchange this didn’t change at all and if you started to be just a tiny bit interested in what I am talking about, just pay the website a visit: https://opportunities.aiesec.org/
I did too and look where it got me!
P.s. Pics or it didn’t happen! Here is one that I still have on the wall in my room: