Have you ever been hesitant to try something new because of all the “what if’s” hanging out in your mind? Candan was feeling this way, so she made a choice. She chose to say goodbye to her comfort surrounding her in Turkey, and hello to a new experience with AIESEC in Poland. What happened next was… Well, just read and see for yourself!
One of the nerve wracking aspects of going abroad is having to say goodbye…to your family, friends, home, and find your own way. Countless “what if’s” started running through my head upon landing and picking up my luggage at baggage claim. However, as I stepped foot out of the airport, the race my mind was running was put to ease. From that moment on, I never had to spend another moment alone. Members of AIESEC in Poland kindly greeted me at the airport. They were the first of many people who showed me the admirable hospitality attached to Polish culture.
Since my childhood, being able to introduce my Turkish culture in my own way was one of the dreams that I was always set on chasing.
MY DREAM CAME TRUE WITH AIESEC
… and then some!
I started my journey towards this lifelong goal with my exchange experience to Lubin, Poland where I was a Global Volunteer contributing towards the Sustainable Development Goal for Quality Education. The project I was a part of aimed to develop the language skills of the 1500 students (aged 3-18) we taught, while enabling a cultural exchange between them, myself, and the other volunteers from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, Mexico, New Zealand, Egypt and Colombia.
Every time I entered a class, a mixture of anxiousness and excitement washed over me. These feelings were quickly settled by the curious and well-intentioned children I got to teach. They were always open and eager to learn about Turkish traditions, amongst the other cultures! Their willingness to learn, made the blank picture of my dream, become more colourful day by day.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest parts of the experience. On Fridays, I had to leave the school I was volunteering in, before going to the next. Although challenging, the hard goodbyes reminded me how grateful I should be for this experience. At those moments I felt that I gained so much love and was rewarded in return for all the effort I put in to the project.
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– Winnie the Pooh
Other than working towards my personal goal of being able to introduce my culture to others, I ended up learning a great deal about several different countries too, all thanks to the diversity the projected offered. Over the course of the six weeks I spent volunteering, my social environment expanded more than I could’ve ever fathomed.
The families that hosted me, prepared traditional meals and approached me like a daughter of their own. I found it beautiful how the conversations held tended to go by so quickly, because we were enjoying ourselves so much! Teachers organised trips and activities which allowed us to all spend quality time all together. My experience provided me with unforgettable “firsts”. For the first time in my life, I rode a horse, made a gingerbread house, went bowling, played billiard, and counted down from “dziesięć, dziewięć, osiem…” (ten, nine, eight) all the way to 0, to welcome in the new year!
Before the project, I was of the mindset that when people have different cultural backgrounds, the possibility of forming a close relationship was near to impossible. Thankfully, I was mistaken. I made friends which I can describe as soulmates. We have different cultures, religions, speak different languages. And despite that, we were able to empathise and feel each others feelings. Saying goodbye to them was one of the most challenging parts of the experience.
I learned about the beauty of human connection and about how our differences create the possibility to widen our views of the world.
Coming back home, I took time to think about my experience and my personal development. I realised how I was not the same person that I was when I arrived six weeks prior! I experienced how to work in intercultural environments and how much that differs from working in your own country, where I find, most people have similar perspectives. At the beginning, understanding everyone the way I wished to was challenging. Overtime, however, I learned how to better understand others’ perspectives. Because of that, my tasks became more enjoyable as I learned to harmonised with my co-volunteers, and together, create something meaningful.
As a university student, who aims to work in an international company in the future, this experience was more than needed! The skills, knowledge and memories I made will stay part of me for all my life.
If you have a dream of your own…
GO OUT THERE & CHASE IT.
Live an experience like this yourself by finding an opportunity on aiesec.org.1