The numbers don’t lie: international students have been coming to the University of Georgia in droves of late. On the flip side, University students are also making leaps of their own and exploring the world around them.
AIESEC, an international student organization present in universities worldwide, strives to be a global platform to connect students. Founded in the aftermath of World War II as a way for students to learn about the diverse world around them, AIESEC has grown to be an organization recognized by popes and presidents alike.
Students in AIESEC are focused on one main goal: exchange. Exchanges, or international internships, are the products that AIESECers (student members of AIESEC) market to both businesses and students.
AIESECers at the University of Georgia work to bring international students to Georgia and to send University students abroad. In doing so, they work with businesses in Georgia to create internships for international students to fill. They also promote AIESEC exchanges with students at the University.
One such exchange promoter is Kiandra Brady, a third year at the University. Formerly AIESEC UGA’s vice president of outgoing exchange, Kiandra was responsible for promoting international internships within the University community and helping University students find, and participate in, those internships.
In her opinion, exchange holds great importance as students look to life after college:
“It helps you realize how small the world is. You kind of realize it now with social media and interconnectedness, but when you can literally get on a plane and travel to an entirely different country… it’s really eye opening. It puts you in a situation where you aren’t necessarily going to know what to do all the time, but you learn, because you’re there anyway. And I think that’s really cool. “
That opportunity to learn is also emphasized by Kimmie Champlin, another member of AIESEC UGA. As the current vice president of finance for AIESEC UGA, a certified trainer for AIESEC United States and a member of AIESEC United Kingdom’s national support team, Kimmie works every day to promote and reach AIESEC’s mission of the “peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential.”
“I think as students we get really stuck in our routines of stress and classes and final exams, but when you have an international perspective you go beyond that. You begin to think about new things and learn things that you can’t get in a classroom. It helps take students from everyday pressures of getting a degree to becoming more globally responsible and self-aware leaders.”
The last few years have seen a lot of success for AIESEC UGA. The organization has welcomed interns from countries such as Brazil, Colombia, South Africa and Morocco through the exclusive efforts of University students. The interns have worked for companies such as the Athens Latino Center for Education and Services and Valor Homes, bringing lessons they learned in their home countries to the Georgia community.
AIESEC UGA has also sent numerous students abroad in past years. As noted by Kiandra, many University students are interested in working abroad in Asian countries such as China. “Students want to go on exchanges that they feel will benefit their career,” she says. “[The Asian] market will continue to be strong, so it is a wise economic decision.”
At the moment, a majority of international students at the University come from Asian countries like China, South Korea and India. This trend is reflected in the University’s investment in student exposure to Asian cultures. Since the University has started giving out scholarships specifically to students who are travelling to Asian countries, Kiandra notes, the emphasis on international exposure cannot be understated.
Both Kimmie and Kiandra have experienced the international aspect of AIESEC during their time as University students. This past summer, Kiandra interned for a non-profit in Hungary and Kimmie did an internship in Mexico, working to improve AIESEC processes in that country.
To sum it all up, Kimmie highlights the relationships that can be built through the international exposure provided by AIESEC. “It’s a family. A place where you have roughly 100,000 best friends from 124 countries, and you don’t even have to know their names to know you love these people. If you [approach AIESEC], and you come to us with an open mind ready to learn, you could really, really go far.”