Curious to see what an exchange experience is actually about? What adventures expect you when you decide to step outside of your comfort zone? If yes, check out the story of Jaycee Chiu, and find out more about her volunteering experience with AIESEC in Ukraine!
My name is Jaycee Chiu, I’m from Hong Kong and last year I went to Kyiv, Ukraine to #LiveTheExperience.
Jaycee, what did you do there?
The project I participated in aimed to showcase the real life in Ukraine, as well as their unique culture by working for the UN SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. The main goal was to create an accurate portrayal of Ukraine as a peaceful and externally relevant state, which values community. At the end of the project, interns from different countries together with local volunteers were to come up with a performance that would best represent their vision for Ukraine.
The most stimulating aspect of our activity was the chance to improve our global outlook by becoming a part of an international team and cooperating with people from different countries, such as Egypt, Georgia or Turkey. From when I first met the other exchange participants, up until I left, our topics of discussion never ended. Since our cultural backgrounds were so different, everything we got to hear would bring an interesting point and refresh our mindset.
The challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone
Living in a place that was so far outside of my comfort zone was not easy. Often times when I couldn’t immediately find solutions to my problems, I would feel insecure and be hesitant.
The biggest difficulty I faced was the language barrier. The official language in Eastern Europe is obviously not English, so I could not communicate naturally with locals, even about the most basic things, like transportation. Because of this, I had to rely on the help of my team leader, who would translate for me.
However, I realized that I couldn’t always count on somebody else. For the sake of being able of getting around, I tried to search all metro stations and bus routes online and memorize the pronunciation of all station names.
At first, I was shy about asking people where I was, but after a while, i even got to the point where I could use some simple phrases and remember destination names.
Wow, this is me!
Through the activities I had to complete, I discovered many hidden aspects of my personality. One of the best examples was the preparation of the event ‘Global Village’. I am usually afraid of any public performances and I try to avoid them whenever I can.
Because of the insufficient number of representatives from Hong Kong, I had to take the responsibility to perform. It took lots of night-time dancing and singing trainings from my Chinese friend, who was a professional freestyler, but I gradually learned to coordinate better and adapt to the rhythm of the music.
I realized that I was only afraid because I was not familiar with those particular situations. I found out I can easily learn new things. Lastly, after performing in front of others, I became more brave and ready face people. I believe now I will do better and better each time.
The cultural difference between Hong Kong and my project country was huge, especially when it comes to people. Back home, everything was about efficiency and productivity. People and vehicles moved fast. We had to meet different kinds of deadlines. Stress was a constant in our lives and one had to constantly choose work over family.
In Ukraine, I only saw people enjoying their life. They knew when it was time to rest. No matter how hard life would get, they still took time just for family and friends. You could see them lying in the grass, chatting with joy. More than profit, they treasured being with each other.
Making things happen
In the end, I can say I reached my goal.
Because of the instability caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine, people would automatically see my project country in a very negative light.
I, on the other hand, did my best to tell the world how much I loved and thoroughly enjoyed my life in Ukraine, through writing blogs about my own experience and publishing them on social media.
It is not easy to overcome stereotypes, but I managed to do it. At the end of the project, we presented our own vision of the project countries in Hong Kong by organizing a ‘Global Carnival’. I shared my stories with the public and spread the word about what an amazing place Ukraine really is.
If you want know more about this and other opportunities to change the world, click here!