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How Going Abroad Taught Me About Life – Everyday Leadership

Contributed by Janet Ong

Here are the stories from my exchange experience that surprised me in the end. This is my experience with AIESEC NCTU in Hsinchu City, Taiwan as part of the the project Connect the World from September to December 2013.

This cultural exchange program was designed for us exchange participants to make an impact on high school students by sharing things about and from our countries.

Surprisingly, this exchange program taught me a lot about life. I was approached by one of the teachers in one of the high schools I was teaching at. The teacher knew I intended to go to law school because of how I had introduced myself in her class. She wanted to ask me for more details on law school because she was very worried about her daughter, who was on the verge of giving up law school.

I told her that I wanted to specialize in criminal law and in the field of human rights because I wanted to be a court lawyer and be of service to people. She asked me how I already knew which specific field in law I wanted to pursue this early on. I simply told her that I always remind myself of why I wanted to be in this field to begin with. I remind myself that I am doing this not only for the sake of my career but also for the sake of the people who are in need of help and that I think being a court lawyer best fits this interest.

The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is the learning from an experience in life.

She asked me this question so that she could help her daughter who was about to graduate but was attempting to give up. Surprisingly, she really wanted advice from me. I told her to tell her daughter to remind herself why she chose law and to remind herself of the positive things that happened in law school despite the difficulty she was currently having. The teacher said that her daughter was worried about the bar exam. In response, I told her that everyone was scared of the bar exam and even I was afraid of it. I told her that working hard for a dream would achieve good results.

What was the surprise here? After saying those things to the teacher, I  saw myself as the daughter who was worried about law school. Then I reflected on those words I said to the teacher. It made me realize that I can manage as long as I believe in myself. Friends and even former professors have been telling me that I can manage, that I have good academic standing and a keen interest in the classes in my undergraduate course in psychology. I get positive feedback from my classes. What is there to be afraid of? I am afraid of failing, but who isn’t? I am afraid of falling, but who isn’t? Everyone is. It is a matter of facing your fears.

Everyone thinks, I lack the courage to face them; I do not believe in myself; I do not trust myself. If I believed in myself, I would have the capacity to say I can do it. Then I realized, am I not like her daughter too? Afraid? I gave advice that the teacher appreciated and believed that it would be of help to her daughter. I realized, I can do it. I can pursue my dreams despite the struggles; believe despite the hardships.

I got letters and messages from my students, teachers and friends telling me I am a funny and jolly person. They said I have this motivation and energy that influences other people. It has always been a surprise for me to see in the letters or even hear this feedback because I do not see myself like that. I believe that I gained more confidence and courage from this project than anyone could ever imagine. I remember the poster/ad of AIESEC DLSU saying, “Get lost and find yourself”. I am indeed discovering a lot about myself from feedback from other people.

I realized now that we need other people who are courageous enough to tell us about ourselves. Feedback from other people no matter how minor can help us realize what is really happening in our lives. This is why I have to say that I am very glad that I met the people I did, experienced the things I experienced. If not for those, I would not have found myself. I would not have discovered something more about myself. I would not have been the way I am right now. I may have had a tough rocky road along the way but everyone does, right?

I believe that things happen for a reason. Now, I believe that these things had to happen to open my eyes and see the reality. I am grateful for the good and bad. If not for the bad, how could I have appreciated the good so much? Right now, I just do not know the right words to express how much AIESEC, my fellow trainees, teachers, students and friends have helped shape my life for the better. It is quite sad for me to leave because this is the place where I learned a lot, not about academics, but about life itself. It is a place where I found good friends. However, I have to say goodbye, face the things that I have to face back home and continue on with my life. People come and go in our lives but it does not mean that they will be gone from our lives. The people I met will always be treasured dearly. Everyone may be far away from one another but distance is not a barrier to maintain the friendships that we have created.

The world has still a lot to offer. The world still has a lot of surprises. There is still a lot more to learn from. Just smile at the world, and it will surely smile back at you. But this experience is one of the best I have ever had. This is my second home—Taiwan. This has been my Wonderland.

I am happy that I was here. I am happy that I was able to convince students who did not participate to participate. I was able to convince students who did not smile, to smile. I was able to see how keen and eager the students were whenever I was presenting. I am happy that I was able to see how the students’ eyes brightened. I am happy that I was able to see and hear the students laugh, joke and even be loud for a good cause. These were the actual experiences I had with my last class: the most difficult but the best class I ever had.

My last class was supposed to be the most unresponsive and I was told that the class does not really answer questions. However, it was different when I was there. They were welcoming and happy. My last class is where I can say I was really able to Connect the World and fulfill the goals of the project. This was the class where I can say that I really was able to make a difference. These are irreplaceable moments in my life that can make me say and realize that, “Hey! I did make a change”. It may have just lasted for a day, an hour, a minute or even just a second, but the little things showed me that one person could really make a big difference.

This is the teaching experience.
This is the experience of life.
This is the AIESEC experience.
Thank you very much.

After the exchange experience, where am I now? I had the courage to take up law school and continue my AIESEC journey. I am currently a first year student of law and a member of the Finance and Legal Affairs Department of AIESEC DLSU. What am I grateful for? I am grateful that AIESEC shaped my life and happy that I was able to contribute to AIESEC’s vision of “Peace and Fulfillment of Humankind’s potential”

Here’s a tribute for my AIESEC experience:

“The exchange program is more than the learning you get from the four corners of the classroom, it is a life experience. It is about finding who you are and learning more about yourself throughout the journey. I began to open up locked chests that I didn’t know existed within me. Moreover, I’ve realized how life is so wonderful and it never fails to give you those little things that make you smile.
It’s also about never giving up and never losing hope.

It was also in this exchange program that I found what I am passionate and dedicated about — and AIESEC is one of those things. AIESEC taught me how to stand up for myself and be a leader — a leader who will be able to make a wonderful and positive impact in my country and also in the world.

Lastly, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to be part of AIESEC. I will forever and always be thankful for AIESEC.”

“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.

How One Person Can Change Your Life – Everyday Leadership

 

Written by Ivana Gusic, Head of Public Relations and Marketing at AIESEC in Austria

Did it ever happen to you that one person changed your life?
Did you ever have a wow day without expecting it at all?

I want to tell you a story, which took place almost half a year ago. In March 2014, on the Serbian National Conference, president of AIESEC in Serbia at the time — Aleksa Nikolic held a speech. It was his last speech as the president, since he was leaving very soon to a new position in AIESEC International. For those who don’t know, AIESEC changes its leadership body completely every year to provide opportunity for life-changing experiences to more people.

Anyway, Aleksa grew during the year he was a president, developed a lot personally and professionally and changed the organization. That day, he shared stories with us, laughed, appreciated his team and played one video. I don’t remember exactly the story that led to him playing the video. Our memory is tricky and we remember flashes, feelings and images.

But he played this video.

Have you seen it? If not, take a minute now to see it and then continue reading; you won’t regret it.

Maybe the message of the poem is not something you haven’t heard before or maybe it is. Maybe you heard a completely different message than I did that day. That’s the beauty of poems. Each person finds something in it for himself or herself.

Carpe diem. Live as if you’ll die today. Live every single day to the fullest because time flies. Live for something. Live in peace.

Maybe you see messages as the same or carrying similar meaning. Maybe they’ve lost meaning to you because you’ve heard them so many times.

But sometimes by changing the package, you get to see the same thing in a completely different light. This is what happened to me that day.

“Let now be our advent
Let us live like we meant it
Let us burn like we mean it
Because this world doesn’t give a shit if we end in a train wreck or a car crash
If our story ends with a dot or dash
If we were dust or ash
Because all we were is all we’ll be
And all we are is the in-between of so far, so good
So forget every would, could, or should not
Forget remembering how we forgot
Live like a plot twist exist now and in memory
Because we burn bright Our lights leave SCARS on the sun
Let no one say we will be undone by times passing
The memories we are amassing will stand as testament
That somehow we bent minds behind the concept
That we see others within ourselves
That self-knowledge can be found on bookshelves
So who we are has no bearing on how we appear
Look directly in every mirror
Realize our reflection is the first sentence to a story.
And our story starts; we were here”

We always consider leadership and changing the world as a massive undertaking. But sometimes it’s about changing one life.

That day, with a simple message, Aleksa changed mine. But there were more than 200 people in that room. Maybe he changed a couple more without even realising.

That is everyday leadership.

Sometimes small changes produce big echoes.

So think of things that inspire you and think about giving back and sharing with others selflessly. Because we live in such a world today where it’s easy to become self-centered and easy to forget whom else we are in this world with.

And you never know whom you can inspire by accident. So lets teach each other and inspire each other. Because leadership is about people. And this world is about people.

How many lives you think you changed without even realising it?

Maybe that is how you contributed to building a more peaceful world.

How World Peace Begins With Everyday Leaders

AIESEC World Peace series highlights the stories and lessons from thought and everyday leaders from around the world on how World Peace may just be attainable. Contribute your story.

World Peace.

It has been humanity’s eternal, elusive dream. A dream that has inspired influential leaders like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Wangari Maathai, and Malala Yousafzai, to rise from being an ordinary citizen to becoming a leader to make a significant difference. There is also AIESEC’s very own alumnus Martti Ahtisaari, who was the 10th President of Finland and 2008 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his “for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts.”

Ahtisaari states that AIESEC helped him “discover new passions about diversity and diplomacy.”

Leaders like Ahtisaari are not super heroes, but human beings just like you and I who have strived to achieve extraordinary accomplishments. They are everyday leaderswho care about the world and take action to defend human rights.

Ahtisaari AIESEC

The peaceful freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was once faced at gunpoint, but she did not give in. Instead, she demonstrated absolute courage and clarity by walking without fear to the line of soldiers and with the guns pointed at her, and walked passed it. Nobody was killed.

What would you have done in this moment?

The Lady Gunpoint

In the movie The Lady, Michelle Yeoh portrays Aung San Suu Kyi’s extraordinary life, challenges, road to peace and democracy in Burma, and is a compelling movie that showcases the power of nonviolence. The strength of this iconic woman is outstanding, and is a role model to show that fear cannot conquer our common humanity.We all live our own lives and we often turn down activities by saying “I’m busy.”

Pushing for world peace does not mean we all need to be walking in front of guns, but to take action even in the smallest ways. It is as practical as dedicating even a few hours a month volunteering for a cause that improves the lives of others, and yourself.

Being an everyday leaders means you are actively seeking for ways to improve the well-being of others in your community. An everyday leader can be as simple as:

  • Showing more compassion and empathy to those around you
  • Joining your grandparents for dinner even though you’re busy with work
  • Calling your loved ones to remind them of how thankful you are for their support
  • Volunteering for a social cause because it will make a difference in other peoples lives
  • Leading a peaceful movement of people to actively advocate for positive change in your community

These everyday actions, make a significant difference because you are now actively participating in your community.

Three specific TED Talks that will alter your perspective on the road to peace

In the Road to Peace playlist on TED, “these speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.”

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines advocates for society to have a more realistic vision of world peace. The talk focuses on rethinking world peace to human security, and enabling people to live dignified lives.

Scilia Elworthy a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of Oxford Research Group that seeks to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, talks about how to deal with extreme violence without using force in return. Exploring the themes of how to overcome bullies ranging from countries to individuals without any violence in return

Julia Bacha a filmmaker who produced Budhrus discusses the power of attention, and how we often media and audiences pay attention to the violence, but not the non-violent leaders and peacemakers of the Middle East region that may very well bring peace to the region. Bacha advocates for us to pay attention to nonviolence.

AIESEC Youth Leaders

Progress will come, when all of humanity is awakened, moved to take action and not idly sit by to wait for change.

Young people around the world need to strive to become an everyday leaders and make positive change happen by taking actions that improve the lives of others.

How will you get involved in the global community and create positive change?

Submit and share your everyday leader story with us. Tweet us at @AIESEC or engage with me at @gdondon