How Going on Exchange can Contribute to Your Leadership Journey

How Going on Exchange can Contribute to Your Leadership Journey

WRITTEN BY: Gigi Xian, Vice President in AIESEC Toronto
Edited by: Ru Yap

Gigi was the Vice President in AIESEC Toronto’s executive team last year. A vibrant girl who made friends where ever she went. In her term, she helped facilitate and send nearly 30 people abroad on working internships and she won the award of the best Vice President of her function in all of AIESEC Canada which represents 27 local chapters. As a commerce student, she is very involved in her academics and is working for Rotman. Along side, she is the vice president of finance for a national conference that is being held in May. 

Last summer, Gigi completed a six-week AIESEC Global Citizen exchange program and taught kindergarten kids English in Muster, Germany. During her time there she created an English-learning atmosphere in class by playing games with children and telling stories in English. Before going to Germany she was a commerce student who just completed her first year of University. 

Munster is a bicycle-friendly city and biking is the most popular means of transport. Gigi enjoyed biking around the city. However before she begin her exchange journey, Gigi couldn’t bike (to the shock of the people around her). In Munster, kids learn to bike since they were three. But in order to adapt to a new culture, she learned how to bike with the help of other interns, AIESEC members and her host family. Admittedly, she says, that she wasn’t a risky person but after going on exchange, she traveled around Europe by herself for two months and she went on to ride a horse on a road with passing cars, bungee jumping and even sky-diving. Now she is an open-minded girl who keeps meeting new friends who aren’t her age, whose first languages weren’t the same as hers, who have shared different experiences and perspectives about the world.  

When she first arrived in Munster, she didn’t know a drop of German. Without understanding German, she immediately needed to find a way to communicate with the kids and integrate into the culture. It was a difficult and stressful situation for her but she realized that this was the best way for her to improve her communication and interpersonal skills, by being in a situation where she was forced to leave her comfort zone and learn how to communicate with different kinds of people from different cultures. 

As a commerce student, she would have never imagined that she could teach in a different country. She now wants to put together her new love for exploring the world and engaging in new experiences as well as her background as a commerce student. 

“I’ve gained so many new perspectives and even explored my own potential during the exchange. I saw myself as a specialist in terms of finance and investments, sitting in an office, and dealing with different customers after graduating. But now, I would say I really see myself as a part-time traveler, or more accurately, a world explorer. After the exchange, I realized that life is full of hidden treasures and that I should seek adventure and enjoy the wonders of the world. But at the same time, I will trade stocks and do investments, or maybe even some street singing performance to make money for travelling”. 

After Gigi came back from her exchange, she went from being an inactive member in the organization to becoming part of the executive team and excelling in her role whether is was contributing to great results or becoming a role model for her own team and pushing all her members to take on more leadership roles. Once she had experienced what it was like to leave the comfort zone and completely push herself out of what she was used too, she wanted to share that experience with those around her. 

“One thing that I’m pretty sure of now is that I have become a better version of myself. Your 20’s are your selfish years. Be selfish with your time – travel, explore, fall in and out of love, be brave and wild.”

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