A Roaming Soul

‘’What are the stories you haven’t yet lived to tell?’’

That question was written on a wall in one of the busiest streets of Athens that I used to walk to reach my university. I saw it one morning almost five years ago, and it really bothered my train of thought.

I had just entered university, after trying very hard with my school exams, and I was supposed to spend the next five years focusing on my studies, taking my degree and finding a job, like any respectable student in Greece should do.  

One day though, two girls entered the classroom promoting a youth organization called AIESEC and specifically they invited us to participate in their Global Volunteer program this semester, and go work abroad on social projects for 6 weeks.

The question I told you earlier popped in my mind and immediately they had my attention. My friend Stefanos and I, went afterwards in their office, we got the basic info, and just like that, one month from that day, we were in Serbia, working on social business projects and career orientation for students that had just finished university there.

We spent almost two months in a foreign country, living alone at 19, discovering independency, new people, new cultures and most importantly, ourselves, while contributing to a better cause and supporting students in Serbia to go after their dreams and start their own business and career. Definitely a story worth being told, don’t you agree?

Coming back, I was curious about the organization, so I asked those two girls that had just given me the opportunity to live an amazing experience, what else I could do while I was back in Greece?

Well, not to take you now through the entire journey I had in AIESEC, but I started by being a team leader of a team that worked to create those kinds of social projects in Greece, and somehow ended up four years later as a team leader again. But this time, leading the national team of the entire organization in Greece. And in order to close the circle in AIESEC, after finishing that, I went abroad again, in a social project supporting refugee integration in Austria, where I am currently.

I am now 23, and I’ve spent the last five years not being an ordinary, and definitely not an average, student. I travelled the world (literally), created a huge network of people that somehow I know they will be there for me, put into practice what I learned in the university and learned more by doing, equipped myself with soft and hard skills and actively contributed in making the world a better place.

And you know what the best part of it was? I know who I am. I know what I value, what I am passionate about, what makes me get out of bed and work my butt off, what I believe in, and I’ve created a path of discovering what I want to do in my life.

So I will leave you with the same question that sparked thoughts and actions to me that day, only hoping it will do the same for you.

What are the stories you haven’t yet lived to tell?

By Renata Pylarinou

Solution-orientedness is not just for your resume

By now most of us have realized it it is not enough anymore just to make it out of university with above average grades and a warm recommendation from a professor who you kind of seemed to get on well with. The job market wants you to be so much more. Summer internships at prestigious company A, volunteering in some far-off third world country, fluency in a couple of languages, mad IT-skills and on top of that leadership positions in dozens of clubs, societies and organisations.

It’s easy just to write this off as a game of buffing up your resume and for some part also your ego, but there is a lot of value in striving to experience more than just the ivory tower that is your university. This is what we call “practical experience” – “learning by doing”. Something we not only stand for, but value in AIESEC.
In a nutshell AIESEC is an exchange organisation. Our volunteering and internship opportunities abroad are created by students for students. It is a very daunting process – after all sending people abroad is not your typical waiting-tables-student-job. It is an understatement to say that not everything runs amazingly in our organisation. On a normal basis AIESECers are confronted with everything from minor glitches to this-might-get-us-sued scenarios (fishy things happen when you work with legal documents – I’m just saying: visas and contracts).
When you’re in AIESEC you feel like you step into an exam unprepared. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Actually that’s the whole point of it. There is merit to acing exams, but there is really nothing more fulfilling to be confronted with a difficult scenario, rising up to the occasion and giving it your all to solve it. There will be no red pen that will mark out that you were wrong. When you’re confronted with real life situations, you are never wrong, you just haven’t figured out the right way yet. You have all the freedom in the world to get up, brush it off and find a new solution that will get you what you want and where you want to be.
Being in AIESEC has shown me that there is no such thing as “coming prepared”. If anything our future is filled with uncertainty. Will we live in a dystopia run by dubious business tycoons where robots will wipe out the human workforce? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will be able take it in my stride to face problems, challenges and crises that seem unsurmountable. Being solution-oriented in this case doesn’t mean being armed with academic degrees, internships under my belt and mad IT-skills to combat robots who will steal my future job (though I’ve been reassured that robots won’t be replacing lawyers any soon). Solution-orientatedness is not a set of skills you get through “practical experience”. It’s an attitude – an approach – you adapt after time and again being confronted to difficult situations that is more than just trying to remember who battled whom in 202 BC in an exam hall.
When it comes to the debate of why we should stock up our resume with all the experience in the world. It’s not to have a flimsy piece of paper that screams “I’m prepared for the world”. Whether or not you’re “prepared” for all of the world’s challenges boils down to your willingness to take the plunge into cold water, regardless of whether or not you came prepared, and knowing that you only need to make one choice: sink or swim?

By Hoang Anh Nguyen