Just over a year ago, I volunteered in Patras Greece with AIESEC, an international non-profit organization. Since its initial founding in 1948, this program has stretched across more than 114 countries and connected with more than 7,000 partner organizations. For these reasons, AIESEC offers an abundance of global opportunities for young adults to volunteer, intern, or teach while addressing at least one of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Being a young adult no older than 30 is the most crucial requirement and this age policy even extends to the head managerial positions within the program.
AIESEC’s core belief is that youth is the key to achieving positive global change and the intent of the program is to help individuals maximize their leadership potential so they can make a larger difference in the future.
This run by the youth for the youth program currently has around 90,000 active members, referred to as AIESECers, and more than 1,000,000 alumni including Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger. I was one of the 33,000 AEISECers chosen to be a Global Volunteer last year. As mentioned earlier, there are countless volunteer opportunities to choose from differing in type of work, location, language, skill set, etc. I eventually selected a six-week position addressing the 10th SDG as a volunteer English teacher because it was sufficient to only speak English, was in a new and beautiful country, required me to work with children (my passion y’all), and was wonderfully timed during my winter break!
I could not be happier with my selection because since the plane first landed, I was exploring and having a super time. AIESEC provides a great support system throughout the entire process so I never felt alone. There are different housing options depending on the selected program and I was lucky to be hosted by a fellow AISECer who I got along with straight away. He graciously welcomed me into his home, showed me the lovely city of Patras, recommended his favorite Greek delicacies (mayo on pancakes), and showed the language school where I would be volunteering.
The school was not even five minutes away from the city center and full of some of the nicest students and staff I’ve ever worked with, especially my boss. I solo taught five small classes of children and teenagers between 7 and 15 years old and varying between levels of English proficiency. From the start, I was stoked to teach the younger kids, but the older kids made me really anxious. I had no idea how to talk to them and they honestly scared me because teens can be so quick to judge. I quickly realized that this negativity I was feeling was what the program was truly about. AIESEC will put you in a difficult situation but surround you with support so you can grow and develop through making mistakes and overcoming uncomfortable situations.
I eventually learned how to adapt my teaching methods to suit the older kids which was good, but I also learned so much about Greece in general. I traveled all around based on recommendations made by my students, the best being Meteora; a collection of monasteries built on the tops of massive pillars made from natural rock. I became great friends with one of my co-workers who invited me to her name day celebration and took me to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. She also travelled with me and my lovely host to a Greek island called Hydra which prohibits motorized vehicles and has hundreds of fluffy kitties. Throughout my experience I also became good friends with other fellow AISECers including another global volunteer from India with whom I still stay in touch.
Overall, my AIESEC journey was extremely valuable. I wholeheartedly recommend volunteering through this program while studying at the University of Pécs if you are interested in traveling cheap and long enough to truly experience the country you visit, while also making a positive difference in the world.