When I decided to go on an Global Talent internship through AIESEC, I wanted to do everything possible to challenge myself during my internship abroad. I wanted to pick a country that made me step outside of my comfort zone—one whose language confused me, whose history I knew little about, and whose culture intrigued me. When I made the decision to go abroad through AIESEC San Luis Obispo, I knew it would be difficult to decide what to do and where to go, because I knew that whichever one I chose would be a part of me for the rest of my life. Eventually, I chose China.
Fast forward to the day I left to come back home. I felt incredibly downcast as I remembered all of my moments of frustration, confusion, and difficulty I had experienced that summer. I had fallen in love with a part of the world that gave me a new, positive perspective about humanity every day I was there. I was born and raised a vegetarian yet tried every dish placed in front of me without questioning what it was. I became a solo female traveler within a country of which I could not speak or read the language. I taught students about the adversities and normalcies of my home culture while being a student in theirs.
When I went abroad through AIESEC San Luis Obispo, I worked alongside interns from Europe, Asia, and Africa to prepare our expatriate countries’ youth for international universities abroad. I taught large classrooms of eager teen-aged students about English language composition, basic Spanish language, and dances from around the world. I created lesson plans, activities, and evaluations as I became most of my students’ first contact with someone outside of their nationality. I travelled to neighboring cities, territories, and countries during my experience while never failing to learn something new about the world and my place in it.
When I look back a few months later, I know I will never forget my most experience and learning-filled summer in Guangdong, China. I lived, worked, and travelled in a country that was utterly foreign to me. I learned to let locals take pictures of my blonde hair while strolling through markets, shoving my way through crowds of the most populated country in the world, transferring on confusing subway lines, communicating through hand gesture to have street vendors let me consume foods I had never heard of before.
What started as something to make me step outside of my comfort zone became something now so close to home. I now jump on every opportunity I have to be a champion for the Chinese culture and share my story whenever I can. Yes, I had an influence on the people I met when I was in China but now, I have become a change agent in my country, which will have an impact for the rest of my life. I learned that if I wanted to understand the world, I could no longer want to be challenged—I had to learn how to accept being changed.
Gaining internship experience abroad will change you. You will make friends from all over the world, come back to your home country anew, and have experiences that will forever be cherished. During my internship abroad, I backpacked in China and Southeast Asia and was able to walk in a lake of bathing Thai elephants, huddle underneath a palm tree during a monsoon on Ko Phi Phi, be detained and questioned for hours in the Singapore airport, bear witness to the destitution of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, watch the sun rise over the great wonder of Angkor Wat, lose money from the world’s largest casino in Macao, and spend a day climbing up China’s Great Wall…all thanks to AIESEC.
Rosie Falcon-Shapiro, China