Impact: A word that everyone wants to achieve. Making a difference in the world, in someone else’s life can have a profound effect on everyone involved. It can lead to self-fulfillment, joy or even just a warm fuzzy feeling inside. But impact can come from anywhere whether it be stepping outside of your comfort zone or working towards a cause you believe in, the ends are limitless. To illustrate this, we caught up with a student who recently went on an AIESEC exchange, Julie Ya, where she talks about her experiences abroad and how she made an impact there. Check out her responses below!
Where did you go on exchange and what did you do?
Hsinchu County, Taiwan. I was an assistant to the two English teachers at the elementary school and taught vocabulary for the time that I was there. The biggest part of my job was encouraging the children to talk in English outside of the classroom.
What was your initial thought when you started the first day of teaching on exchange?
“Why is everybody looking at me like that?” I walked into a room full of wide-eyed smiling kids, and I’m pretty sure that it was their first time seeing a foreigner and a native English speaker. But how I think of it is to the younger kids, I was a “cool older sister from far away”, and to the older kids I was an “older girl that I want to be friends with” because I was different and from somewhere new.
Looking back on your exchange, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?
Definitely when I was first introduced to the school (students, and most of the faculty) at a school assembly. It was mostly the older students that were able to start and continue a conversation with me in English, but that first day I had everyone in the school scream “Hi!” at me, just because it was the only word in English that they knew. I never really felt welcomed in the country until that moment, and they made me feel like I was the most special person that could ever exist by trying to interact with me in the only way that they knew how to.
What impact did you make on a global scale?
I believe that I opened the children’s (and adult’s) eyes to cultural understanding. When I was asked to make a PowerPoint about Canadian culture and the principal wanted me to incorporate some historical elements in. It was hard because there are so many different histories and cultures jam-packed into one country and then the idea hit me – I should teach them about multiculturalism. The concept about having people from literally everywhere in one place and exposing them to what life would be like if you were living with different people. and helping them realize that not every country has a homogeneous society (is that the right phrase), which hopefully would’ve led to them being more open-minded when it comes to learning about the world that we all live in.
What advice would you give to someone looking to make an impact?
Don’t go into a situation dead-set on making an impact in one specific way. Most likely, you’ll make an impact on someone (or a group of people) in a way that you didn’t even think about going into your project. For me, I went into my exchange thinking that I’d inspire the kids to learn about the world around them. And I did, to a certain extent. But other impacts that I believe I’ve made that I hold closer to my heart include encouraging a student to take the initiative to enroll in extracurricular English lessons when he previously couldn’t care less about the subject, and also helping the children in a class become more aware of their actions against a student that they were bullying, and to be a bit more inclusive of him in activities. It doesn’t hurt to go into an opportunity thinking you’ll achieve a distinct goal, but keep an open mind because you might achieve something completely different, yet a lot more rewarding.
Interested in making an impact through AIESEC? Visit here to get started today!