Madison Heginbotham - Latin American Summit, Panama 2015
The LATAM Summit in Panama was absolutely amazing and really gave me a whole new perspective on AIESEC that I would not have otherwise gotten. It was really inspiring to meet AIESEC members from all over the world, discuss issues we are currently facing, as well as get to know Latin America in a way I had never considered before.
The biggest thing I took away from this conference was not actually hard skills, but rather a sense of emotional intelligence about the power of choosing to overcome challenges and to chase after a purpose. We spoke a lot about the purpose of AIESEC, why we are doing what we are doing on a daily basis, and how we are having an impact. We have these conversations often at AIESEC in the US conferences, but nothing helped give me a clarity of the why like talking with members of AIESEC in LATAM. It was truly inspirational to speak with many of these delegates who deliver so many exchange experiences and can immediately see the impact on their communities. Many of the AIESEC members in Latin America have so much passion and drive that they overcome any odds against them. I complained last semester when a snow storm canceled my outgoing exchange information sessions. My roommate’s University had shut down for a year because of education strikes; they had no classes, no place to meet, and yet, they were still delivering exchanges and still finding places to meet as a local committee. So many of the people I met were able to easily identify the problems their community faced, and how AIESEC could contribute towards the solution. I knew then that this kind of drive and real purpose was something I wanted to bring back to my LC. My Vice President of Account Delivery also went to the summit with me, and both she and I worked to talk with many members of LATAM local committees and record video messages to Chapel Hill members. As soon as we got back to our first local committee meeting, we worked to really mobilize the sense of purpose that we found amongst our peers at LATAM and bring it back to our local committee.
Another thing I learned from the conference was that many of the problems I face as an LCP are the same problems that many other LCPs all over the world were facing. It really helped me to realize how similar we are at our core. We all had trouble managing and tracking our teams. Everyone had some point in which they doubted their leadership abilities. Everyone spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to motivate lagging members or instill a sense of urgency among their whole local committee. Seeing how leadership bottlenecks and roadblocks crossed borders and cultures was fascinating to me, but also made me feel proud of my AIESEC experience. If the challenges that I am facing now as an AIESEC Local Committee President are the same across continents, then they will be similar across leadership positions. As I learn to solve them now, I will be even more prepared for any future role that I may hold. That in and of itself was very inspiring and encouraging as well.
Of everything I learned about AIESEC and leadership development, I more than anything loved the personal connections that I made with members of Latin American local committees. I was lucky enough to spend a full day and night in Panama after the conference ended with some newfound friends from Uruguay and Paraguay. The experience was phenomenal. I learned how compassionate and adventurous my peers can be as well as learned how to go even more with the flow. Hopping on a dirty bus and riding to a beach town, then asking fisherman for a ride back from the shore was nothing I would have ever done on my own, but allowing myself to be open-minded and adventurous allowed me to come back from Panama with some amazing stories and bonded friendships.
Even though my presidency term is ending, there are still so many more things that I want to do to further my AIESEC career. Over the past few weeks since my return, I have been working with my LC to deliver sessions, talk with members, and drive down the clarity of the why as well as encourage conversations within my LC over how the AIESEC programs can directly impact the problems we see in our communities. In my AIESEC experience overall, I hope to pursue positions as a facilitator and member of organizing committees. I also plan to apply for the member committee in January, both here in the United States but also at an international MC so that I will have better chances of being able to use my skills and knowledge to make an impact at the national level.
My time in Panama and at the Latin American Summit has been one of my favorite AIESEC memories to date, and only confirmed my aspirations to run for the Member Committee. This opportunity would never have been financially doable for me without the Joann Boland Scholarship, and I am so grateful for the ability to attend without worrying. I am grateful to every donor and AIESECer who put forward the time and effort to make this scholarship a possibility for members like me to really see AIESEC on a whole new scale and experience the organization in a really meaningful and inspiring way.