It’s been more than a month now since I returned to New Zealand from a very wonderful AIESEC exchange experience in Wroclaw, Poland (plus a month of travelling through Europe). Well yeah, you can say that I still have the travel bug. I miss the places, the cultures, the food, and especially the people I met along the way.
A bit of a backgrounder: I went to Poland through AIESEC Global Citizen. The project in Wroclaw was called International Summer Semi Camps, which ran parallel to a similar project called Global Semi Camps. The combined project is a six-week programme where volunteers from all over the globe got to mingle with Polish kids, sharing with them their own cultures while learning a lot about Polish culture. Specific tasks included sports, arts & crafts, and English teaching. There were 24 of us volunteers in the project, and we were divided into eight groups of three. Each team was assigned to a different town per week, so while doing the project we get to travel around the Lower Silesian region of Poland (of which Wroclaw is the capital).
Our team, labeled the “Commonwealth Team” (because I was from New Zealand and I was teamed with a volunteer from Australia and another from Canada, and everyone knows all countries are part of the British Commonwealth lol), were assigned to the towns of Olesnica, Zmigrod, and Popielow, for the first, second, and third weeks, respectively. Then our final three weeks were spent in Klecina, a southern district of Wroclaw. The kids we worked with were from different age ranges, different backgrounds, different experiences. But all of them were eager to learn not only what the NGO’s had in store for them during the course of their summer camps, but also what we volunteers could share to them about our respective countries. In turn, we volunteers learned about Polish culture and the cultures of our co-volunteers’ respective countries. It was probably one of the best and most amazing learning experiences I ever had.
Of course our AIESEC experience wasn’t all work. We all had our weekends off so we took the opportunity to either travel around or explore Wroclaw. And those weekends included arguably the best weekend of my life: I celebrated my 28th birthday in another country and with new friends and while living out my European dream. I really couldn’t have asked for more. Then there’s the usual university life parties, hangouts, chill-outs (Wyspa Slodowa is now my new favourite chillout place in the world!) and dinners (Polish food, yummeh!).
Overall, my AIESEC experience in Poland has been one of the best, if not the best, experiences in my 28 years of existence. Until now I’m still giving myself a pat in the back for eventually deciding to ditch Makimono for Illot Cafe. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known AIESEC. Otherwise, this life-changing experience wouldn’t have happened.
If I get the chance to do it all again, I’ll be willing to jump at it and relive this experience all over again.
P.S. More of my European experiences in subsequent posts…