Creating a link across continents

Tearing down cultural boundaries through international student work experiences, AIESEC is a student-run organization based out of 110 countries, offering a unique opportunity for students wishing to travel both out from and, less frequently, into the Wilfrid Laurier University community.

This is made possible through attaining the attention and cooperation of large corporations, and in recent months AIESEC Laurier has been working towards and succeeding in creating more such relationships within the Waterloo Region in order to increase the flow of incoming students from other nations.

In late February, a meeting was held at Kitchener’s Communitech Hub led by AIESEC Canada’s national vice president Mark Zanewick who spoke towards raising, “A general awareness of AIESEC as a program, not only what it does but what we’re trying to achieve and how that can actually be relevant in the Waterloo markets.”

Throughout the presentation, senior vice president of Logikor Craig Maw explained that Waterloo markets could benefit from AIESEC’s international interns by gaining “a different outlook from having someone from the other side of the world” within their businesses.

Maw has been working with AIESEC Laurier’s only current intern Iris Wang since her arrival in Canada from China on Sept. 21. Wang was also present at the meeting and offered to share some of her own experience with the several Waterloo business representatives in attendance.

“The way the business functions [in Canada] is very different so I’m very curious,” reflected Wang, “It probably makes more sense for me not to understand things, so I’m not afraid of asking questions. I actually learn faster.”

AIESEC Laurier signed an agreement later in the day with Waterloo’s ISU Corporation, a local internet technology company, to take on an AIESEC intern and since then, the same arrangement has been made with Contingent Workforce Solutions. But perhaps the most beneficial relation made of recent was that formed between AIESEC and the head of Waterloo herself, Mayor Brenda Halloran.

On Mar. 22, Mayor Halloran met with AIESEC Laurier’s vice president of communications Chungsoon Haw and board of director’s member Mike Simpson to make the acquaintance of Chinese intern Iris Wang and to discuss both AIESEC and Waterloo’s current relationship with her country.

While Waterloo has a friendship agreement within Chongqing, China, it is also part of the four countries associated with AIESEC’s BRIC program taking place over the summer. “AIESEC Laurier is focusing on four countries; Brazil, China, India and Czech Republic. The purpose of all these trips is to go to non-governmental organizations abroad and to try to make a difference,” said Haw.

“Those four countries have identified Canada as wanting to be a source to bring students over,” added Simpson. Expanding the mayor’s knowledge of AIESEC Laurier’s associations with other countries was one of the meeting’s main objectives. But it also served to open up lines of communication for further connections.

“What we’re looking for, other than just developing your exposure, is keeping your ears open,” Simpson said to Mayor Halloran during the meeting.

“We have about ten thousand placements every year in play around the world. Not across Canada unfortunately and not in Waterloo. We’d love to have about ten or twenty or a hundred, because really this area could handle it … and that sort of why we were looking at having this.”

“I think this is a really exceptional program,” Halloran said. “[However] nobody really knows about you… There will be a list of companies I think that I could send your email to.”

AIESEC Laurier came away from the meeting pleased and excited for the future of both the university’s sector of the organization and the impact it could have among local corporations. “Hopefully now that they’ve heard from the Mayor themselves, they’re more willing to listen to what we have to say about AIESEC as a whole,” concluded Haw.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publishing date.

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