Do you think there were no student exchanges before Erasmus? Well, Think again. AIESEC is 64 years old. Could you believe it? Your grandfather might have gone on a traineeship or on a study tour thanks to AIESEC. Maybe he did.
So, why haven’t you heard about it before? Let’s ask Haris Kušmić, AIESEC Sarajevo Vice President for Communications.
Haris Kušmić: Being the biggest and one of the oldest student-run organisations in the world, it is hard to understand why so many students and other people have never heard about AIESEC before. It is somehow regarded as a public secret. In my opinion, I think it is because the organisation on a global level, as well as on the local ones, has not put so much effort into a positive outreach. For example, department for communications in AIESEC Sarajevo was created two years ago, even though AIESEC Sarajevo is a lot older than that. So, we are shifting our focus now on letting others know about AIESEC and we are increasing our numbers.
Generation Y: The fact that the network is so old is quite amazing, actually. When we think of student exchanges we usually think of Erasmus, which is infinitely more recent. Besides, this one is not just European. What other differences can you find?
I would also say that the content itself is different. For example, in AIESEC we have two types of exchanges – one is called the global community development programme (GCDP) and the other global internship programme (GIP). Taking a GCDP means a lot of things, but it is mostly about having a societal impact on a community you are visiting. You can be a part of an NGO, having presentations about important topics to a variety of audiences, etc. You also have free accommodation and food.
On the other hand, GIP is an internship which focuses more on your professional skills. You get an opportunity to work in a company in one of the 114 countries and territories where AIESEC is present. So, not only do you receive a salary, but you enhance your skills and abilities which will be much needed when you are on the look out for a stable job in the future. And of course, you get valuable experience.
Sounds attractive… How does one apply? And what are the requirements?
Applying for these exchanges is not hard. First thing you need to do is contact a person responsible for outgoing exchanges in your home country, that is your AIESEC Local Committee. After that, detailed pieces of information about you are put in the AIESEC system, and the information usually includes your professional skills, study department, fluency in other languages, etc. When you are done with this, you can officially start looking for an exchange you find most attractive, with the assistance of someone from AIESEC. In the end, after your request has been approved, you can start packing and getting ready for an amazing experience yet to come!
As for the requirements, they are different depending which exchange you choose. For GCDP exchanges, mostly the only requirement is knowing the language of the country you’re going to. In most cases, even that is not needed, simple English would do.
Now, the criteria for GIP exchanges are more strict. GIP is usually aimed at university graduates who are ready to apply their knowledge in a practical manner. So, you are expected to possess certain educational and professional skills needed for the job/exchange you’re applying to. E.g., if you want to work in the marketing department of a certain company, you should have finished marketing as a major during your university studies.
How are these exchanges financed? is there a limited number of them each year?
Same as before, different rules apply to different exchanges. GCDP exchanges get you free food and accommodation, however, you have to cover the travel costs. Usually, the local committee (incoming exchange department, more specifically) you’re visiting is responsible for finding you a place to stay and what you are going to eat.
And for the GIP exchanges, students themselves cover travel, accommodation and food costs, but they get a salary from the company they’re working at.
We also do not try to limit ourselves with numbers. Our aim is to offer more and more exchanges to a lot of students.
So, who pays? The company hosting the student?
If you’re talking about GIP exchanges, then yes, the company in which the student is working.
And for GCDP?
Sometimes accommodation costs are just as low as possible, e.g. one of the AIESEC members in that committee has an extra flat, so there’s no need to pay for a place to stay. And we usually get food for ouR exchange students at the city restaurants. So, I would say a mix of AIESEC resources, as well as company resources.
Do you have partners?
Yes, we have partners as well. Some of them are only partners for specific events we organise, while others have always been there.
For example, our constant partners in AIESEC Bosnia and Herzegovina have been the School of Economics and Business (where we have our main office) and Coca-Cola Hellenic.
I read on the website, ‘It forms a platform for students interested in world issues and leadership’. What do you mean by ‘leadership’in this context?
Leadership in AIESEC is very important, because we think it is what will make a positive impact on society. I myself am on a leadership position, that is the vice-president for communications on a local level, and that is only a hint of what AIESEC offers. You can run an exchange project on relevant social issues, organise a learning activity for your members, manage a budget, develop local/national goals, etc.
All in all – by developing yourself and enriching your personal and professional skills, you are in better position to help the society you’re a part of.
Let’s talk about AIESEC in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I understand you are expanding…
Yes, definitely! We have two official local committees, one in Sarajevo and the other one in Mostar. Apart from this, we also have two official extensions in Zenica and Banja Luka and they are on their way to becoming local commitees.
How did AIESEC Sarajevo survive the war?
In spite of the war keeping its strong presence in the country and the capital, AIESEC Sarajevo still continued with its activities. Meetings were organised, organisation members went to some international conferences and we even sent students on exchanges. It was determined that nothing would defy the students to live their lives as they wanted to, not even constant bombing, shells and sniper shots.
Unfortunately, a lot of written valuable data was lost in that period, data which has been collected for almost 40 years. Regardless, AIESEC Sarajevo prevailed.
And now, everything is in the past. So, what is in the future of AIESEC Sarajevo?
Well, on October 13th in Sarajevo we are recruiting new members…
Tell us more about it.
Each year AIESEC Sarajevo (as well as AIESEC committees around
the world) recruites new members. The central event in Sarajevo is the Big Picture, a meeting where all potential members gather and are provided with information about AIESEC. Following that, two more meetings which deal more with the functional aspect of the organisation (division in departments, projects, etc.) will be organised, after which a Future Leaders Motivation Seminar is held to give our potential members a feeling of an AIESEC perspective. In the end, we have an interview during which new members are chosen.
Now, if you were to give some advice to a student, what would you say?
Engage yourself! Academic success is of utmost importance for every student, but that success can be worth much more if it has practical experience. Diversify your knowledge and understandment of the world, whether that means joining AIESEC, becoming a part of a drama club or getting involved in charity work. You make a life by what you do and by what you give. And now is the time to start.
And for a Bosnian student, do you think there are countries which are better suited to achieve that goal? On the other hand, would you advise a foreign student to go to Bosnia?
Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not as developed as other countries when it comes to achieving these goals. But what gives me hope is that I have seen remarkable progress so far, progress which will continue its growth. And I think that is Bosnia’s main strenght – remarkable potential.
I would definitely advise foreign students to come to Bosnia and Herzegovina! The overwhelming majority of students who come here, either on Erasmus or AIESEC exchange, fall in love with this place instantly, either because of the Bosnians’ well-known hospitality, or because of the country itself with its luring history and promising future.