One Year Later: Reflections on my AIESEC Internship

At this time last year I was jetting across the Atlantic about to begin my AIESEC internship in Kyiv, Ukraine. It being my first time travelling and my first time outside of Canada I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It ended up being an amazing adventure where I ended up meeting great new friends, learning a lot about the world, and learning about myself as well.

Here I am, one year later, hearing about the many people starting their own adventures this summer and I can’t help but reflect on my own experience and how it impacted me after I got back to Canada.

I’m going to condense my advice down to a short list, and then I’ll explain it afterwards:

1. Write about everything, take pictures of everything
2. Don’t buy touristy souvenirs, they won’t matter
3. Grow a beard
4. Reverse culture shock sucks
5.When you meet another intern/AIESECer that you don’t like at first, have a long conversation with them
6. Don’t travel just to say that you’ve been somewhere
7. Use it as an excuse to make a big life change and become the person you want to be.

Writing:  in hindsight, blogging was one of the greatest things I did when I was on my internship. I decided to write blogs, but I think any kind of writing would be helpful. Infact, I wish I would have written more. There are a lot of small details and inside jokes that I forgot about. My advice to anyone on an internship right now would be to write a lot. Write about the meaningless stuff, it’ll be valuable to you down the road. Write about your thoughts, your mindset will change with time.

Pictures: see above. Take A LOT of pictures. Don’t take pictures of the buildings around you and the great tourist sites. Take pictures with friends, take pictures of that weird supermarket down the road, take pictures of the funny public transport, and take pictures of the stray dog that follows you home one night when you get lost coming back from the Statue of the Lady (after all this time, I will admit that I was lost when leading our group home….those who were there will understand this statement). Looking at pictures of my time in Ukraine has been one of my favourite things to do to remember my time and tell stories to others. I didn’t take many pictures of my own, but fortunately all the other interns did and posted them on Facebook.

Souvenirs: the shirts I bought at tourist places, the little trinkets…they don’t really matter at all. The magnet I have from Singapore, the metro token, the free shirt I got from a cultural festival….those are the best souvenirs. They have stories attached to them. They aren’t supposed to remind me of the great sites and the country, they remind me of the small moments and in hindsight those were the greatest moments of all. Oh ya….and remember to take something to give to people you meet. Even if it’s something stupid you bought at the airport before you leave. It’ll mean something to someone one day.

My beard: I miss it.
Ole' beardy
Reverse Culture Shock:  reverse culture shock is real and it sucks hard. I had little to no culture shock when I sent to Ukraine, but when I came back it took me over 2 months to get over it. I lied awake at night on my comfortable bed yearning to go back to chicken feather pillow where spiders crawled on me at night, or to the apartment with 8 people sleeping in each room. I missed all the people I spent amazing time with, and I still do. It will pass….but it sucks.

Staying in touch: It’s tough. Technology makes it as easy to talk to my fellow interns and Ukrainian friends as easy as it is to talk to someone in my own city, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been able to stay in touch. We were the greatest of friends for 2 months but now we’ve all gone our separate ways. I’ll always remember them and I wish I could talk to them more often, but there just seems to be something preventing me from starting a conversation when I see them online. Maybe they’re busy….what is there to talk about?...are they doing more important things in their life now?....if you’re reading this, say hello some time! (for no reason at all!)

Meeting new people: I’m really glad that I made an effort to get to know everyone I met. I didn’t hang out with people who were similar to me, and I didn’t avoid people that I didn’t like at first impression. I got to learn about a lot of different cultures and became good friends with people I thought I never would.
this helps you meet new people
Not leaving Ukraine: Before I left, I really wanted to leave Ukraine and go on a trip to Budapest and Prague and Berlin and everywhere else. I decided not to go, and in hindsight I’m glad. I don’t get to tell people that I went to a lot of different places, but I had a pretty awesome experience right where I was. My advice is to not worry about checking a bunch of cities off your list and building up your travel resume…have the best experience you can where you are. I didn’t go to Prague, but I went to a rainy, miserable, dirty, cold cultural festival on the edge of Kyiv….and you’d have a really hard time convincing me that Prague would have been a better choice.
Better than Prague
Make a resolution: Make a real resolution. Hopefully your experience will change the way you look at the world and the way you see yourself. Unfortunately, when you get back no one is going to know that. Everyone is going to look at you as the same person, even though you’re not…and with time you are going to forget who you were on your internship and forget about the changes that you decided to make. Writing will help this, so can look back on your thoughts….but something better would be to make a huge life change. I decided to stop drinking alcohol and become a vegetarian. I can safely report that it was wildly ineffective. Within 2 months I was drinking and after 6 months I was eating meat. What was left? Not a whole lot. Make a huge life change, do something that is going to make people look at you different. Let people know that the person who came back isn’t the same person who left…because I can guarantee you it’s not. You’ll be hard-pressed to ever again in your life be motivated to truly become the person you want to be instead of the person that you’ve become and who others want you to be. It’s a good excuse too…..use it.


Ana said...

you make me wanna go back in Ukraine :)
Just to say, I decided to start writing blog from this summer on! :)
Cheers from Macedonia! :)


Gurashish Singh said...

man too cool ! :)))) gave me goosebumps

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