AIESEC Life

Monday, March 24, 2008

AIESEC US Update

If you've been waiting for an update on how AIESEC US is doing that is more focused on the LCs, read below!

Hey AIESEC Alumni!

Frequently, when I speak with alumni I get all sorts of questions about what is going on in AIESEC these days. “How many countries are we in now?” “What organizations are we doing the most exchange with?” And most importantly, “how is my LC doing?” So, I figured it would be appreciated to provide some of this information.

To start, if you are not aware, AIESEC is currently present in over 100 countries and territories around the world. Some of the newest AIESEC countries to be added to the network include AIESEC in Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. These three countries are all being started by AIESEC US and are being funded largely by a grant AIESEC US received beginning in 2004 from the US Department of State – Bureau of Near East Affairs.

In addition to the start-up of three AIESEC countries, AIESEC US is, of course, doing a lot of exchange! Some of AIESEC US’s largest customers include:

Delphi –50-75 trainees per year into 3-5 locations in the US since 2002
CH Robinson – 20 trainees from Europe to the US
Deloitte – Between 10 and 30 trainees per year since 2004 into the US, out of the US, and between other countries
The Cornell University College of Engineering – 10-20 students abroad in 2008 to China and Turkey

But now on to the most commonly asked questions that I receive from alumni, “How is my LC doing?” We are working on a way that we can get alumni more information about each LC but here is an overview to start. Below is information about some of the top LCs and exciting activity in AIESEC US right now.

Which LCs are the largest?

Our largest LC is AIESEC at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, with a whopping 115 members.

Following closely in size are Baruch, University of Illinois, The University of Michigan, Ohio State University and Purdue.

Which LCs had the most students go abroad in 2007?

Yale with 46 students who went abroad. Following closely behind are The University of Michigan, George Washington University, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Baruch.

Which country did the most students go to on traineeships in 2007?

A total of 63 students went to China in 2007. Other top destinations included India, Turkey, Colombia, and Egypt

Which LCs have recruited the most students to go on traineeships so far in 2008?

The University of Michigan – 130, Northwestern – 100, The University of Wisconsin – Madison – 60

AIESECly,

Carly Lewis

Executive Director

AIESEC US

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Jeep

Here is a great story written by Ihor Yaskiw, an AIESECer who went on a traineeship to Thailand. We've had some great stories, but nothing quite this literary (so far). Enjoy!
-ed.

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“How long were you in Switzerland for?”

“A year,” Jeep answered, as she took a sip from the bottle and passed it to Eli, who sat in the lotus position staring at the sun-drenched ocean.

Eli took an awkward swig – it was hard to be graceful with a two-liter bottle. “A year?” she reiterated, surprised. “That’s a while… I’ve only been here for three weeks and I already miss Berlin”.

“I was homesick too. I managed, though. My host family was very nice to me – we still keep in touch. I miss it sometimes… I’m supposed to go visit them next year. The first thing I’m doing when I get there is going ice-skating.” She smiled at me with a toothy grin.

“Ice skating! Isn’t that a little too cold for you?” I retorted jokingly – a not-quite-clever quip at the fact that the temperature rarely went below ninety Fahrenheit ever since I arrived in Thailand.

“It’s cold, but nothing I can’t handle.” She never ceased smiling. “I’m probably better at it than you.”

I let out a soft laugh. She was probably right – I’ve only stepped into ice-skates twice before, both times resulting in borderline embarrassment.

There we sat, young idealists from around the globe, thoroughly committed to changing the world for the better in one way or other, drinking cheap whisky and Coke out of an absurdly large bottle at one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Modernization hadn’t completely bypassed the blindingly white beaches of Ko Samet, guaranteeing travelers the necessities of water, shelter, food and fun, but had managed to stay far enough away to keep out various impurities like billboards, asphalt and a Marriott or Hilton at every spot that had sand and a palm tree. The only traffic to be seen here were bikes and mopeds traversing the uneven dirt road that followed the east coast of the island or the occasional pick-up truck with benches mounted in the back, shuttling people between the port up north and the many bungalow hotels that lined the beach. Fresh-caught seafood for pennies, lodging for three dollars a night, and “happy hours” from ten to midnight – backpackers’ paradise.

European tourists populated the sand, trying to absorb as much of the over-abundant sun as possible with their pasty complexions. The locals looked on from the shade as they went about their daily business, fully dressed, struggling to digest the notion that anyone in their right mind would intentionally make their skin darker and probably snickering at the impropriety of exposing that much bare skin. Then again, few Thais appeared to really care about, much less be offended by what the farang did, even though they often became the topic of conversation.

As peaceful and diplomatic as it may have been, the culture clash was, without question, ever-present and hard to overlook, even within the realm of our weekend getaway banter. Jeep, Eli and I, though we’ve only known each other for several weeks, could comfortably discuss any topic, no matter how controversial, and were largely on the same level, so to speak. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to notice that Jeep, while she sat on the beach with us, wore a knee-length skirt and a t-shirt while Eli and I, just as the tourists around us, have been in our bathing suits since morning without as much as giving the issue a second thought. I was an outsider, and while I knew well by now that a woman exposing her shoulders was, by local standards, considered taboo, I had a hard time identifying with that fact directly. And while I listened with utmost interest to Jeep’s stories about the sternness of her relatives and how the drawbacks and restrictions of having blood ties to the royal family outweighed the perks, putting myself in her shoes was nearly impossible.

There was perhaps a half-hour left before the parching sun would disappear behind the tree line, immersing the beach in cooling shadows and finally letting the mellow breeze have an impact. The tourists would scamper off to dinner to be replaced by locals, who took full advantage of enjoying the twilight hours by engaging in a casual game of beach soccer – which any brave soul was welcome to join – or going for a simple barefoot stroll along the constantly shifting line where the waves hit the shore. The bars would start preparing, lining the sand around them with colorful tatami mats placed around foot-high tables. As torches and festive lanterns came on, a different kind of life would erupt on Ko Samet.

I took the last swig of the bottle and glanced at Jeep, whose onyx eyes stared at the water with peaceful determination. The tips of waves were hypnotically incandescent as the setting sun bounced off them at just the right angle. Suddenly she stood up.

“Screw it. I’m going for a swim”.

She looked around, and with the air of impeccable nonchalance stripped down to her underwear, tossing her clothes onto the sand behind her as she ran toward the water, her beautiful, dark complexion giving off a satiny glow under the golden light. There was little I could do except follow her.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

An Afghan Star

Here is a great story from Mike Guarino, an AIESECer from George Washington University who went on a traineeship in Afghanistan. After you've read the story, check out a YouTube clip here. Enjoy!
-ed.

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As much as American Idol is gripping viewers these days, if you by some strange reason decided to google 'Afghan Idol', you may or may not find a few interesting articles and YouTube videos about a TV station in Afghanistan that has created the popular sensation known as Afghan Star. In 2005-2006, I was fortunate enough to have an AIESEC traineeship with that company--Tolo TV.

By far the most entertaining, challenging and fun work-related experience I had was being a part of the first season of the Afghan Star television program, Afghanistan's version of American Idol. I started out helping one of the young reporters to coordinate the distribution of Afghan Star t-shirts in Kabul and other major cities in Afghanistan. These limited edition t-shirts provided instant street cred amongst the youth of Kabul. Later on, I was serving as 'photographer' during the live shows in which the top 10 candidates were narrowed down to 3 final contestants.

My final project was a true test: to coordinate the afghan star 'celebrity makeover' for the final 3 contestants--Sami the ego-maniac, Seeyar the polite lady's man, and Shekeb the unpredictable star. Having absolutely no experience in the health and beauty makeover industry, I asked around and tried to find a reliable, skilled hair stylist that could work on our precious stars, who were at this point very famous in Afghanistan and extremely fussy about their appearances.

Although there was a lack of mixed-sex hair stylists in Kabul and the surrounding environs, I was referred to an ex-patriot woman from Thailand who ran the beauty parlor at the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel, which is one of the only major hotels in Afghanistan and at the same time manages to do a superb job at making you feel as if you're in a 1970's era James Bond movie, with Soviet decour and sketchy people abound. The hairdresser did not want to be bothered and hadn't even heard of the television station, not to mention the Afghan Star program. When she said she already had appointments with a clients all day during the day we needed to arrive, I begged her to fit us in, and she finally agreed, albeit begrudgingly.

The day of the makeover arrived, I was waiting for the three stars to arrive at our office, and after two hours of waiting for everyone to arrive, we finally departed--extremely late. I was nervous, fully expecting the hairdresser to dismiss us at once. Luckily, after some negotiating/getting yelled at, she accomodated us--camera crew and all--and the madness began.

Sami was meticulous about his hair and insisted that it was perfect and did not need it to be cut. As an unecessary aside, the puffy, combed back look was so similar to mine that he actually pointed it out in through a translator and complimented me on my hair. As he nit-picked at the hairdresser's every move and she began to grow frustrated, the Tolo reporter, Mujeeb, was asking Sami questions and luckily something came up that suddenly inspired Sami and his artistic sense. While sitting in the hairdresser's chair, he broke out into a famous, poetic song in Farsi, clearly eating up the attention and fame he was creating for himself on camera. Later on, Shekeb got into the chair and with his whimsical attitude, began to joke around and flirt with the hairdresser in broken english, as she responded in her own broken English. Fortunately they got along pretty well and there were no mis-translations or accidental insults thrown either way at the fiesty hairdresser or the sensitive stars.

We managed to get through the rest of the makeover session without any serious hitches or botched haircuts. As we drove the van back across Kabul to the Tolo TV office, I remember thinking, "wow, that was great". It ranked as one of the more crazy, stressful, and awesome experiences I can remember from Afghanistan. I knew for certain that I was going to seriously miss the sponteneity of Kabul when I returned back home.

Being the only American working for the first private tv station in Afghanistan was a quintessential AIESEC experience because there were so many new things developing that I was able to see happen first hand, all the while developing friendships with people that still remain strong since 2006. Shekeb Hamdard ended up winning the 1st season of Afghan Star (and went on to produce some stellar music videos now available on youtube) while the program is currently in the final stages of its season #3.