(Hanne pictured above, 5th from right, with the US delegation at Iberoamerica Leadership Congress: Vina del Mar, Chile, March 15th to 21st)
By Hanne Ockert-Axelsson, LCP - AIESEC Seattle
Having the opportunity to experience a new culture, not just visit the capitol city of a country, stay in a Western hotel and see the tourist trap attractions, but really experience a new culture is the type or life-event that blows your mind and shocks your understanding of the limited-view reality that you live in. This is what AIESEC gives students and recent graduates every day through our internship program. This is what life-long AIESECer crave when they travel and discover a new side of the everyday so different from what they are accustomed to. This is what I was able to get out of my attendance at Iberoamerica Leadership Congress (ILC) in Vina del Mar, Chile.
Chile, by South American standards, has a relatively stable economy and is considered pretty safe for foreigners. I had traveled to South America once before, on a volunteer trip to Ecuador in which I taught English to street children in the slums of Quito in the summer between my high school graduation and the start of my freshman year of college. Having some basic Spanish from that trip, and a couple years of academic, I felt ready to see the Southern Cone and embark on a new adventure.
However, being an attendee at ILC proved to be different from what I had initially expected. Having attended conferences in the US I thought I knew what the flow would be like, how things would be presented, and generally what I was to anticipate. However, things in South America are done a little differently. I happen to be on the same flight (from Toronto) with another AIESECer that was also going to ILC. We landed in Santiago, collected our things, and went to go wait at the designated AIESEC waiting area. There we found two more delegates from AIESEC US and a few delegates from Mexico. We were told the shuttle would be coming soon (which took about 2 hours) and we were transported to the Youth 2 Business venue. Here we sat through sessions completely led in Spanish by externals. My time in Ecuador did help me, but I was not prepared for Chilean Spanish! From Day 1 I learned that I would need to step it up in order to keep up. That evening all the delegates were put on charter busses and driven almost two hours away to Vina del Mar (the site of the hotel). That night check-in was very slow and everyone was exhausted, but we finally got to our rooms and were able to rest before the real activities started the next day. I quickly learned that in South America things are just done a little slower (no need to rush) but that does not mean that passion in compromised. Because in South America everyone is so passionate; about life and about AIESEC. After the first day, sessions were by majority led in English, and the 10 delegates from AIESEC US bonded a lot (including the incoming MCVPTM for AIESEC US). We were all inspired by many different initiatives done in South America and given new and exciting ideas to bring back to our LCs. One of the most important aspects of attending an international conference was being able to network and collaborate with LCs in South America – especially to push exchange (both ways).
ILC has impacted me in many ways and inspired me to really take advantage of being in AIESEC and being an AIESECer. There is so much that I have been fortunate enough to do, and so much else that I hope to be able to do through the amazing AIESEC network. I hope that even when I am no longer an active AIESECer that I can contribute to our fantastic organization which I truly believe is the best opportunity for a young person to gain leadership skills and an international perspective on the world.
Want to hear more about Hanne's trip - contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org