Going abroad to volunteer should be definitely one of the ways how to explore a foreign country. You might feel a bit insecure about going abroad now but as you can see below, even going to China might not be such a big pain. Mads Stecher-Andersen stepped out of comfort zone in summer 2017. He went to China to teach children English and about Danish culture. In return, he got the discovered a bit of China and its culture. In his report, Mads described the whole process from ‘getting-to-know’ AIESEC until the end of his experience. Therefore, you have the unique opportunity to go step by step with Mads through his process of volunteering with AIESEC. Enjoy!
I chose to travel with AIESEC because I first heard about the organization during one of my lectures and I thought it sounded really great but I wasn’t sure how the whole thing worked but I soon found out. Then, I contacted the organization and almost immediately a meeting was set up. I was directed and some local organizers here where I live helped me to understand the system, organization and what different opportunities I had. I soon found some really interesting opportunities and all I had to do really was to apply by pressing one button. After that, I was contacted by different project leaders and I had a great talk with one of them about a project in China, which suited me really well. In AIESEC you can choose to focus on one of many different goals, that each project is working with. For me, it was the education of rural children and to develop young people. And that’s how I first had my experience with this organization called AIESEC. The purpose of AIESEC is to develop young people’s leadership skills and it all started after the second world war as a way to improve communication. Today it is the largest non-profit youth-run organization and that is a thing to be proud of.
As stated earlier, I chose China as my destination and where my opportunity was. I chose it for several reasons. One of them is, I’m really interested in the Chinese culture and the Chinese language. I also had the opportunity to speak English, because my main job was to teach English to children in rural China. I started off by meeting one of the other volunteers from Switzerland and together we travelled from Beijing to the city of Qinhuangdao, which is a great coastal city in China with approximately eight million people, which is more than the total population in Denmark. Here I met my host family and my awesome buddy Wang Zhijiao or just Diana as I could call her by. We had a preparation meeting, just like the one, I had before I left Denmark. Here the whole program and everything was explained, and our responsibilities and duties were explained. After a few days, where we had time to get used to the time difference, the weather and everything like that we moved on to the countryside. There, we all lived in a small school in the city of Longwangmiaozhen. We stayed there for 10 days and it was the main part of the whole project. We had different classes and were supposed to teach the kids about our country and then some English classes. It was really surprising at first because for many of the kids it was the first time they saw foreigners and they couldn’t understand why I had blue eyes and why some of us looked different from them. It was really fantastic to be able to teach the kids about Denmark and I really liked talking about my culture and broaden what the kids know about other countries. Then, I also had a class about diving and it was a lot of fun teaching the kids about that and hopefully, I inspired some of them to try it one day. What really touched me the most out there was when we were to say goodbye to the school and the kids. All the time they treated us as stars and wanted lots of pictures with us and wanted us to sign autographs all the time. When we had to leave the school many of the kids started crying and that’s when it really hit me what an impact we had on the kids and how much our visit meant for the school and all the kids there.
During my stay there I learned a lot about teaching and how to work with kids in different ways. I also learned a lot about a different school system than the one I’m used to and also a different way of teaching. It was a really good time there and I also learned a lot about the different cultures all of us volunteers represented. It was really unique and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to live out there and I have learned so much from it. It was really easy to work with the other volunteers and also the Chinese volunteers who helped us. If we had any problems, we solved them together as a team.
After our stay in the countryside, we had different cultural work to do. We learned a whole lot of Chinese culture ranging from traditional tea drinking to calligraphy and tai chi. It helped all of us understand the Chinese culture and look at it in a different way. We learned to be open-minded and try the different activities they presented for us. We had to try everything and always be positive and work hard to achieve all the goals we set up. All together it was a really great experience and I enjoyed every single minute of the whole trip.
The whole opportunity fully lived up to my expectations. I was relieved to experience what I thought was a really great program and it turned out to be so. A really great project with some of the best people I have met. One of my goals, before I went to China, was to learn more about Chinese culture and improve my teaching skills. The project really helped me with those goals and today I think it will help me be a greater leader if I ever end up in that situation.
I would highly recommend any person to be open-minded and grab the opportunity because you develop yourself as a leader and as a person. You also learn about a different culture and become more tolerant of other cultures and difference that may be involved.
Presumably, going volunteering abroad does not look that hard now. If you feel like applying or to ask a few questions, please go on www.aiesec.dk.
We hereby would like to thank Mads for allowing us to publish his experience.