Maital Kaminer (far right in photo)
Local Committee President AIESEC UGA(Georgia)
Conference Attended: Americas Congress 2017 in Lima, Peru

I’d like to believe my Americas Congress experience began when it took me a grand total of 40 hours to get to Peru (originally supposed to be 9) but it truly began in Fall 2015. For the first 19 years of my life, South America was never on my radar of places to visit. I had never had my interest peaked until I joined AIESEC in Fall 2015 and a huge wave of the diversity of South America hit me like a ton of bricks. I consider myself a pretty worldly and globally minded person but it was during that semester that I realized that I had never taken the time to engage in South American culture. After going on my exchange to China in summer 2016, I decided that one of my goals was to somehow, someway, make it to South America in 2017. The JoAnn Boland Scholarship is the only reason why I was able to continue my AIESEC experience by attending an international conference in South America. When I was awarded the Joann Boland Scholarship at Winter National Conference (WNC) this past December, after the initial shock wore off, my first thought was, I’m going to Americas Congress in Peru.

The week-long conference blew me away in so many ways. The first day of the conference was a blur of colors, roll calls, and food whose name I still don't know. The first day was also spent getting to know the rest of the plenary and learning about the different cultures through America's Village where each of the 24 countries/territories had a table where delegates had brought representations of their country ranging from candy to traditional clothes for delegates to learn about their home culture. Each delegate receives a passport with the objective to go to each booth and try to get their passport stamped by all 24 tables. What blew me away more than anything were the conversations I had with people. As AIESECers we talk about people in and traveling to other countries all day, but actually talking to people in person and getting the perspective of their country from the people who live in these countries was something on another level. No conversation topic was off limits, AIESEC and otherwise. Seeing the people who work and how they work for
the AIESEC mission but live time zones and thousands of miles away from me was incredible and more of an international experience than even traveling to Peru. More than operationally, Americas Congress brought me to the epicenter of the Americas plenary and culture. What I took most out of the sessions was that I realized how much of a global network, each of us in AIESEC has. People I had never met before who lived in tiny cities of tiny countries were having the same problems as I was in our Local Committee President (LCP) terms. Each night the US delegation met with the delegation of another country/territory to talk about how we could work together to form LC partnerships but also to get to know each other and just talk. The true reality of many countries political and international relations came to light in many conversations.

The JoAnn Boland scholarship made my attendance at America's Congress possible, and really opened my eyes to how I could work to be a better AIESECer and leader. It helped me understand the reality of so many of my fellow AIESECers, most of whom I never would have met without this experience. More than anything though, it taught me to never close yourself off to an idea just because you don’t have all the facts. Not knowing something just means there’s all the more chance to get to know a new culture, idea, and place. That’s irreplaceable.

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